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Birthday present for Carlsen

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen successfully defended the world chess championship title in New York after winning Wednesday’s rapid-game playoff with wins in the third and fourth games after draws in the first two.

Birthday present for Carlsen
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Magnus Carlsen

Chennai

The world’s top-ranked player, who turned 26 on Wednesday, saw off the dogged efforts of Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin and fittingly, he won game 4 with a Queen sacrifice
Carlsen used an extra weapon: the clock in the play-offs. Ahead on time in every game, Carlsen was rarely under pressure while Karjakin’s hourglass was constantly running out of sand. The final margin was 3-1. By sheer coincidence, it was in classical games three and four that Carlsen spoiled big advantages. On Wednesday, he won those same two rounds in the rapid. Besides always saving more time, he was also never in significant danger. By winning the rapid, the three-week match in New York came to a close. 
“If anyone thinks it’s easy, it’s time to get back to earth,” Carlsen said at the closing ceremony. The crowd sang “happy birthday” to him as he entered the common area, and Karjakin wished him the same. Carlsen turned 26 today, the same age as his opponent. The double champion didn’t convert every chance, but in a match, only one is needed. After the 6-6 tie in regulation play, Carlsen’s game-three win produced the needed margin and his second successful title defence. Game four’s beauty helped erase any of thoughts of his miss in game two. “I think it was a wonderful fight,” Carlsen said of the month of November. He confirmed in words what his banal play in Monday’s round 12 suggested. 
Carlsen admitted that he played for the tiebreak after holding his last turn as Black. “I pretty much knew this was going to happen when we made the draw in the 11th game,” he said. “My strategy was to go for the tiebreak and try my luck there.” Karjakin took the match much longer than Viswanathan Anand could. In 2013, Carlsen needed 10 games to wrest the title, then in 2014, he needed 11 games to retain it. Both matches were against the former Indian champion. Carlsen necessarily called it his toughest world championship test and compared it to the 2013 Candidates tournament “where I barely got through.” 
After a mostly equal opener in the rapid, round two produced a massive opportunity for Carlsen, who could not convert despite several winning moves. Karjakin was universally lauded for defending a worse position for 84 moves, many of them with less than 10 seconds on his clock. The challenger found a multi-move drawing combination, fantastically sacrificing all three remaining pawns and his rook. For his part, Karjakin said he suffered from the transition to rapid, and perhaps over-preparation.

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