According to the Wall Street Journal, the reigning world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, made a costly mistake during an online tie-breaking game against his American rival, Hikaru Nakamura.
In the final moments of the game, Carlsen’s mouse apparently slipped, causing him to place his queen on the wrong square instead of taking Nakamura’s final pawn. This mistake effectively handed Nakamura the game and cost Carlsen a chance at winning $30,000 in prize money.
Interestingly, this was not the first time Carlsen had made this type of error. The incident was made even more significant because it was his last official game as the reigning world chess champion. Carlsen had held the title for nearly a decade before deciding not to defend his crown the previous year.
“What’s happened there?” David Howell, a British grandmaster who served as a commentator on Chess.com’s live stream of the game, hollered. “Magnus has mouse-slipped!”
American grandmaster and commentator Robert Hess went on to shout that it was “unbelievable” that Carlsen would make such an error.
But as WSJ notes, this wasn’t the first time such an error was made by Carlsen. In fact, during a tournament in Oslo last year, the Norwegian grandmaster who had set a record-breaking winning streak in 2020 repeated the same mistake during a game against Vietnamese champion Quang Liem Le.
The tiebreaking game between Carlsen and Nakamura, which resulted in Carlsen’s mouse slip, was played under the “Armageddon” or “sudden death” rules, as noted by the Dominate Chess blog. This type of chess is used to break ties after several draws.
In this version, the player assigned white by a coin toss gets more time on the clock (usually 5 minutes to black’s 4), but black has to draw odds, which means that if they draw, they win outright. During the game in question, Carlsen was playing white.
The loss was certainly anticlimactic for Carlsen but it serves as a symbol to show how chess which is a highly staked and competitive game, has been digitalized.