Carlsen will push for an early lead. “As a reigning champion you have a good chance to strike at the start,” he said. “That’s definitely something I am going to try.” Previous cases of first-time challengers who froze include Tigran Petrosian’s disastrous game one in 1963 against Mikhail Botvinnik and Bobby Fischer’s poisoned pawn capture against Boris Spassky in 1972.
In the 2018 match, Fabiano Caruana was shaky in the marathon first game and should have lost at move 38. Carlsen himself, in his second game against Vishy Anand in 2013, planned the Caro-Kann 1 e4 c6 but nervously knocked over his c7 pawn. However, there are also examples like 1927 and 2000 where the challenger scored early and went on to win the match.
India’s Vishy Anand, who lost two title matches to Carlsen, believes that the challenger’s best chance is finding complex and difficult positions where his months of preparation using the Zhores supercomputer will give him chances. “I feel that Magnus is vulnerable under these circumstances,” he said. “It’s already his fifth title match, so the fire isn’t burning so hard inside.”