The World Champion had White, but was unable to crack the defense of the challenger

The World Chess Championship in New York City got off to a relatively quiet start on Friday with a draw in Game 1 that was tense at times, but lacked pyrotechnics.

Magnus Carlsen, the defending champion, had White. After a ceremonial first move by the actor Woody Harrelson, Carlsen surprised Sergey Karjakin, the challenger from Russia, and also many of the grandmasters watching the game in the venue in the Fulton Market building in the South Street Seaport, by essaying the Trompowsky Attack. Though the opening sounds dangerous, it is slightly off-beat and is not thought to pose great difficulties for Black.

Carlsen played quickly during the opening, indicating that he had prepared the Trompowsky for the match, while Karjakin took more time, clearly proceeding cautiously in his first World Championship game. With a couple of precise maneuvers, Karjakin avoided any problems and, after only 19 moves, most of the major pieces for both sides had already been exchanged.

Carlsen, who had a slightly better pawn structure, continued to press on – something that he is noted for and that has brought him success in the past. He may have also continued to play because he wanted to test Karjakin and try to put some psychological pressure on him. But Karjakin is noted for his defensive ability and he had no trouble.

The game lasted four hours and was drawn after 42 moves.

In the press conference afterward, both Carlsen and Karjakin agreed that if Carlsen had any chances to win, they ended when he played 27 f4, allowing Karjakin to shut down any opportunities for Carlsen to penetrate on the kingside.

The entire broadcast of the game can be replayed below.

Game 2 is on Saturday and begins at 2 PM EST. Karjakin will have White.

The best-of-12 match has a prize fund of about $1.1 million. It is being organized by World Chess by Agon Limited. 


Dylan Loeb McClain is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He was a staff editor for The New York Times for 18 years and wrote the paper’s chess column from 2006 to 2014. He is now editor-in-chief of He is a FIDE master as well.