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East-West World Chess Championship Rivalry

December 2, 2016

This past Monday, two grand master chess players, Sergey Karjakin of Russia, and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the defending World Chess Champion, faced off in downtown Manhattan in a best of twelve games World Chess Championship. Both players went into Monday’s match having won one win each and drawing the other nine games. While this chess match may not be as widely covered as Bobby Fischer’s 1972 “Match of the Century,” where Fischer defeated the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky during the height of the Cold War, becoming the first American to ever win the title; there are similar political undertones of East-West tension and worldly uncertainty.


Karjakin, seen here, has been an outspoken supporter for Russian President Vladimir Putin

Karjakin has publicly supported President Vladimir Putin, particularly in regards to the Russian occupation of Crimea where Karjakin himself is from. Carlsen, fearful of the possibility of Russian hackers giving Karjakin information on his strategy has employed Microsoft Norway to help strengthen his personal cyber security. Furthermore, throughout his campaign, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has openly expressed interest in strengthening relations with Russia and Putin, while simultaneously calling into question current NATO members such as Norway. This has led to wide speculation on security strategies in Europe, and the future of NATO.




Carlsen, pictured here, defeated Karjakin in the overtime match on Wednesday.

After 35 minutes of play and 30 moves, game twelve ended in a draw. Karjakin and Carlsen met again on Wednesday where Carlsen won decisively in a best of four-overtime match. Carlsen’s win was not surprising as he was the heavy favorite to win, however much can be said for the playing style of Karjakin, who consistently forced draws and earned the respect of those watching the match. Carlsen’s defeat over Karjakin, continued the drought of a Russian World Chess Champion, a sport traditionally dominated by Russians,  particularly in the Cold War.

While the world waits to see if the East-West chess rivalry continues on in the future, the world will also have to wait to see how US-Russian relations play out and the future of NATO.




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