Not since Bobby Fischer nabbed the title in 1972 has an American been named world chess champion. That could change within a week's time. Italian-American Fabiano Caruana, for a time the youngest grandmaster in US history, is facing off against Norway's top-ranked defending champion Magnus Carlsen in a best-of-12 tournament, with points even after eight games. Game 9 kicks off Wednesday before a final Nov. 28 showdown, if required. Who has the leg up?
- The champ: Carlsen, 27, is certainly intimidating, having carried the world's top rank for eight straight years. He also has a large fan base as a celebrity and model in Norway. As World Chess Federation CEO Ilya Merenzon tells NBC News, "Even his dog is famous."
- The challenger: At No. 2, however, 26-year-old Caruana nearly matches Carlsen in ability and performance, per NBC. "It's 50-50, either of them could win, which makes it really interesting," says Ukrainian chess grandmaster Mikhail Golubev.
- Monday's match: Caruana had "an advantage of more than two pawns at one moment," per Chess.com. But a poor move allowed Carlsen to push out of a tricky spot to secure a draw, reports the Guardian. "Just because you put some pressure on Magnus doesn't mean that he collapses," Caruana said.
- The math: A draw is worth a half point to each player, a win is worth 1 point. With eight draws on the books, the score stands at 4-4. Chess.com notes a score of 6.5 is needed to win, and four tie-break games will follow if an even score remains after 12 games.
- 'Smart is sexy': Already the world's most popular game, played by 600 million people each year, chess has expanded its reaches through mobile gaming apps. "Smart is sexy again," Merenzon tells NBC. "It is cool to be clever."
- Fans turn out: There have been long lines to get inside the 200-capacity venue in London. Tickets start at $60, though "many have paid far more for extras like VIP access to players or expert commentary," per NBC, which adds the virtual audience is expected to top 2016's record of 1.5 billion.
- Winnings: That's good news for the champion, who will nab $1.14 million in cash, plus a share in pay-per-view receipts.
(Read more on the matchup here