Yesterday's game was a real shocker. Of course, it ended with a draw (who could have guessed?), but most of the people got really upset by Magnus Carlsen's inability to cope with pressure and take some risks. He was a little too pragmatic yesterday, and that might cost him the crown tomorrow.
After 11 draws in a row, Caruana played with white pieces in the final classical game. Many people, including me, thought that it was the best chance for Caruana to steal the crown from Carlsen. It seems like Caruana had similar thoughts as he played a sharp opening and showed Carlsen that he is not after the 12th draw.
However, a few moves in, Caruana repeated his move 2nd time and had a chance to get a draw by repetition. Many professional commentators were already packing their stuff and planning what to do with a few extra hours. They also noted that Caruana would lose his face if he actually chose to take a draw by repetition in the final game of the World Chess Championship. And yet, everyone understood that it was not the worst idea ever. I believe even Carlsen was thinking about his rest day already. And that's when Caruana surprised everyone and played a different move, avoiding the draw. He kind of trolled the chess world by repeating his move for two times and choosing to decline the draw. Also, he showed that he was planning to win the championship match without going to the tie-break.
Magnus Carlsen did not like the idea of Caruana being so determined to win. He did not fancy playing with black pieces as well. That is why Carlsen chose to play extremely cautious and avoided any risks even if those risks would have given him a better chance of winning the match. During the mid-game, Carlsen could have played B5 and put a lot of pressure on Caruana's King's side, but he opted for a safe pawn structure, which guaranteed him at least (and most likely) the draw. Computers determined that Carlsen would have had +2 advantage if he played B5. For professional chess players, +2 almost always means a winning position. I doubt that Carlsen did not notice how great B5 move was. I also doubt that he would ever choose to ignore playing that move if the pressure was not so high. What does it show? It shows that Carlsen crumbled under pressure and had a very toxic mindset - he was not after a victory but rather after securing a draw.
I am not judging Carlsen, though. Many other guys would have done the same in his position. After all, why would he risk losing the match in the final game of the classical chess if he could just take it all to the tie-break and prove his superiority over Caruana in rapid and blitz games?
And Carlsen's mindset toward the final classical game did not change all night. At the time when Carlsen had control over the board, and Caruana also had to deal with huge time problems, the Norwegian wunderkind offered a draw. Of course, Caruana agreed without too much hesitation. The chess world was shocked. Everyone started doubting Carlsen's decision to offer a draw in a relatively safe and better position. He would have never done that in a normal tournament. In fact, Carlsen is known for his desire to play every game for the win. And yet, he offered a draw with plenty of pieces still on the board. What happened? Carlsen could not cope with the pressure. He was afraid to play.
The final 12th draw means that we are heading to the tie-break which will take place tomorrow. Caruana and Carlsen will play 4 rapid games (25 minutes + 10 seconds increment) to decide who is the best in the world. If those games won't give us a winner, 5 blitz (5 minutes + 3 seconds increment) mini-matches of best of two will be played. In a rare event of the draw after the blitz round, players would have to decide the winner in the final Armageddon match. That would be neat, right? Of course, the probability is not high, but no one expected all 12 classical matches to end in a draw as well. Actually, it's the first time ever when all the matches in Chess World Championship ended in a draw. So, as much as most of the fans would hate to see some more draws, I wouldn't actually mind that if we get to see the Armageddon.
In football terms, the first 12 matches ended in 0-0 (some were more exciting and ended 1-1). We are now heading to the overtime. Even though the game itself wasn't as exciting as it could be, the tension is there. I enjoy that a lot.
What do I expect from the tie-break? I think that Carlsen is still a clear favorite to win because they will have to make decisions much faster and Carlsen thrives in fast games. However, Caruana will have that psychological edge after the 12th game in which he showed that he was the one after the victory but not Carlsen. I know it's crazy, but I am leaning toward Caruana winning the crown just because Carlsen showed his vulnerability for the first time in his career and that might not help him.