Chess is unique among games and sports be cause the most likely result of a master game is a draw. This makes the breaking of ties so difficult that tournament arbiters increasingly rely on a shootout called “Armageddon.”
The latest version occurred last week when two GMs, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi, shared first place after the final round of the Russian Championship. They played two tiebreakers in which each side had 15 minutes for all the moves. But that didn’t break the deadlock.
Enter “Armageddon.” The basic rule is that White gets more time than Black, but Black has “draw odds,” meaning he will be declared the winner if the game results in a draw.
“Armageddon” games have decided several major American events, including the last US Championship, but remain highly controversial because they seem to give Black a huge edge — much greater than winning a coin toss in an NFL overtime game.
Karjakin won the coin toss to choose color but picked White — a surprise — and received six minutes to Nepomniachtchi’s five. There were three Exchange sacrifices in a sharp struggle. In the end, Nepomniachtchi defended K+B-vs.-K+R until a draw was agreed on move 75, and he was named champion.