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2016 World Chess Championships are heading into OT with a chance for ‘Armageddon’

Defending champion Magnus Carlsen aims to fend off a challenge from Russian Sergey Karjakin

World Champion Plays At The London Chess Classic Competition Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

Defending World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin will play a set of tiebreaker games in New York on Wednesday to determine the winner of this year’s World Chess Championship. Carlsen and Karjakin came to a 6-6 draw on Monday after playing 12 games over an 18-day span.

Carlsen, the Norwegian defending champion and No. 1 seed, entered the championship as a heavy favorite, but Karjakin, the relatively unheralded No. 9 seed, has proven a worthy adversary. Karjakin even won one match despite playing on the black pieces, a situation generally regarded as disadvantageous.

The two players reached a draw in 10-of-12 matches, with each one winning only once. Now that they have played all of the allotted regulation games, the two will play games of rapid chess, also known as speed chess, to determine the winner.

Since championship chess plays with a clock, instead of giving the players almost three hours of time to use for their moves as in regulation, they will play four games with only 25 minutes of time each. The clock gains varying increments of time for every move the player makes, but if the player runs out of time, he loses.

If they remain tied after the four games of speed chess, the two will play five two-game matches of “blitz chess,” where both players start with only five minutes of time. During blitz chess, if either player can win one of the five two-game matches, he will become champion.

If they still remain tied, Carlsen and Karjakin may have to play a deciding sudden-death Armageddon game. Unlike any of the previous games or tiebreakers, this game must produce a winner. The player on the black pieces will be deemed the victor in the event of a draw. To compensate, however, the player on the white pieces has more time on the clock.

The tiebreaking circumstances, however, favor defending champion Carlsen. The World Chess Federation’s FIDE rankings list Carlsen as the top speed chess player in the world and the second-best blitz chess player. Karjakin ranks 11th in blitz chess, but is not included in FIDE’s top 100 in speed chess.

Nevertheless, Karjakin has persisted in the championship despite his underdog status. The two may yet continue to match each other move for move. If they continue to do so, it may come down to who can come out of Armageddon on top.

Watching the final itself, which begins at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, requires paying $7 for a live video stream from the official World Chess Championship site, but the same link also features a free move-by-move simulcast illustrated on a virtual chessboard, as do chess speciality sites like chess24. Fivethirtyeight will also be providing analysis as the game goes on.