The Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen and his Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin started their fight for the chess crown in New York on 11 November 2016. Some commentators were disappointed by the first two games of the world chess championship: they both ended in a draw without any exciting things happening on the board. In both games, the opponents were happy with early swapping of some material, which led to an equal endgame each time.
Obviously, both opponents were not ready to take a lot of risk in this early phase of the 12-game match. The duel between the 25-year-old champion and his 26-year-old challenger appears to be at eye level so far, despite the fact that Carlsen has a much better rating and leads in their personal encounters 4:1.
In the press conference after the 2nd game, Carlsen asked the public for understanding, saying that this is a long match, and there won’t be fireworks in every game. That reminds me of former world champion Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984), whom I quote in my German book on the seven success principles of chess masters as a prime example for prophylaxis and circumspection. When confronted in 1971 by the chess press with the accusation that his match games against Victor Korchnoi were boring, he said that he could play more exciting and lose. Obviously, he was not ready to do this.
All world champions have demonstrated a high level of circumspection in combination with good nerves that gave them the patience to wait for their chance and use it.
Sometimes it is important to patiently wait for opportunities to come, rather than to force matters. Withstanding the pressure of external and internal expectations may sometimes be wise, in order to avoid unpredictable risks and be in a better position, when the opportunity comes.