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GM Blog: How to Face a World Champion?

by Denes Boros


It is never easy to face a legend or your personal idol. The most important thing in these situations is to stay true to your own character and to your own play.


At the Tata Steel Chess tournament, Richard Rapport and Adhiban Baskaran faced the current World Champion, Magnus Carlsen. How can a player deal with such a situation?


There are few steps that can be taken.

1. Stay true to your own style

2. Variate between your own choices

3. Surprise your formidable opponent


Adhiban chose the former. The Indian talent originally had a dismal tournament at Tata Steel, but then he started to vary his choices, keeping his opponents guessing. He played the Vienna, the French with Black, and even the King’s Gambit against Wesley So! He approached his game against Carlsen with the same mentality. He was trying to surprise Carlsen and, even though he managed to do so at the end, he drew with the reigning World Champion!

Richard Rapport is known for his creative solutions. Compared to Adhiban, he chose a different approach. He played his pet line against Carlsen and only varied his play with the move-orders. Carlsen wanted to outplay his young rival, as he was trailing Wesley So in the tournament, but he over pushed. Rapport Ricsi, did not hesitate and took his chance, and, with a nice combination, defeated Magnus Carlsen! Surprising your opponent is a double-edged sword, but this time the young Hungarian’s tactic proved to be the most successful!


Photo courtesy of the offical tournament website for Tata Steel