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The Week in Chess

Chess News from throughout the World
  1. Nepomniachtchi blunders horribly to fall two games behind Carlsen - 8

    Magnus Carlsen scored a second win in three games to take full control of the FIDE World Chess Championship match against Ian Nepomniachtchi after 8 games. Carlsen leads 5-3 with just 6 games left after winning two of the three games that took place Friday to Sunday. The record breaking 136 move game on Friday was always likely to have an impact on the two games that followed and I certainly felt Nepomniachtchi couldn't afford to lose another game, but he did.

    The game was another Petroff Defence with Carlsen playing the very rare 7.Nd2 - Nepomniachtchi reacted with 7...Nxd2 8.Bxd2 Bd6 which Carlsen said he believed from his preparation wasn't the best - after 9.0-0 Nepomniachtchi played the surprising 9...h5! Which is a very interesting move that could have led to a lively fight.

    Carlsen fell into a 40 minute think, he revealed he was having trouble calculating the consequences of this move and so replied with the solid 10.Qe1+ which after 10...Qe7 should lead to quite sterile equality. Nepomniachtchi instead played 10...Kf8 which Carlsen was please so see as he then had a tiny advantage to work with. This move was the first indication Nepomniachtchi wasn't really thinking clearly at all today as it really only gave Carlsen chances without giving himself any additional chances.

    Nepomniachtchi admitted that around move 19 (where he suggested 19...Qd6 as an alternative) he started to feel uncomfortable. There was still nothing too much to worry about even after 20.c4 dxc4 but then to the shock of everyone - and after just 4 minutes thought - Nepomniachtchi lashed out with 21....b5? This is a move he must have known was at least very risky if not intuitively bad, yet he didn't spend much time on it and it turned out he had made the most banal of miscalculations - 22.Qa3+ Kg7 23. Qxa7 bxc4 was his intended line "forgetting" that the Bishop on d7 was en prise. This was especially poor as 21...Kg8 sorting out his back rank problems was a perfectly acceptable alternative.

    Nepomniachtchi admitted he had no appetite for the fight after such a serious error - and in truth his position was pretty much beyond repair. 23...Qd8 was clearly just losing and Carlsen summoned every ounce of concentration to make sure he made no mistake in converting this huge advantage into the full point. The technical process was objectively very easy - only the circumstances gave the remaining moves of the game any tension.

    It's hard to see Nepomniachtchi recovering from this and the danger must be that the wheels come off his campaign altogether.

    Rest day Monday 6th December

    Game 9 Tuesday 7th December 12:30GMT Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen.

  2. Quiet draw in game seven of the World Chess Championship - 7

    The seventh game of the FIDE World Chess Championship in Dubai between Ian Nepomniachtchi - today with the white pieces - and Magnus Carlsen finished in a fairly uneventful draw. After the marathon game six it perhaps wasn't such a surprise. This leaves Carlsen leading 4-3 with half the match gone.

    Nepomniachtchi continued to hammer away at Carlsen's solid Ruy Lopez and again he chose 8.a4 in response to which Carlsen repeated the move 8...Rb8 he played in game 5. 11.d3 was Nepomniachtchi's new try but after the game he implied that his team hadn't found much anywhere to test Rb8.

    The game saw two key decisions for Nepomniachtchi:

    Firstly 14.Nxf6+ - played after 13 minutes thought - which eased the tension in the position when 14.Be3 (not the only alternative) would have kept the position more complicated.

    Secondly 18.cxd4 (7 minutes thought) when 18.Nxd4 likely would have kept the game going a bit more, this was the focus of the brief discussion between the players after the game. As it was after 20....c5 the position became not only completely equal but pieces were rapidly exchanged bringing a quick end to the game.

    The players are back again on Sunday for game 8 at 12:30GMT where Carlsen will have the white pieces.

    Score Magnus Carlsen 4 - Ian Nepomniachtchi 3.

  3. Carlsen takes the lead in World Championship following a record breaking game 6 - 6

    Magnus Carlsen has taken the lead in the FIDE World Chess Championship by beating his challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in a record breaking 136 move victory. Both players had winning chances in time trouble on the run up to move 40 but after that it was a master class from Carlsen on how to make the most of your chances. Carlsen deliberately extended the game to put maximum pressure on his opponent when he truly went for victory. Nepomniachtchi played well for long periods but mistakes on moves 31, 36, 38 and a particularly careless one on move 52 contributed to this loss. Nepomniachtchi's fatal error came as late as move 130 by that stage his task was extremely hard - especially with the fatigue that must have set - and if he hadn't blundered at that moment he still had a some way to go to establish a draw.

    Carlsen with the white pieces switched openings to a Catalan with a delayed c4 and Nepomniachtchi handled the problems set brilliantly - Carlsen admitted he couldn't remember his prep after the excellent 11...b5 and black had at least equality.

    By move 30 Carlsen was down to about six and a half minutes to reach move 40, Nepomniachtchi around twenty seven and a half. Carlsen used more on his next move (down to 3 minutes 5 seconds). Then Nepomniachtchi started using his time - pretty soon both players were in bad time trouble in a very difficult position. Added to which both players had definite ambitions to try and win which led them to take combative decisions.

    31...Bb2? from Nepomniachtchi was definitely an error, but its refutation was hard to see and really not in Carlsen's "go to" style - 33.Rd1 turned a "winning" position into one that's probably losing - Carlsen never considered 33.Rcc2 with the idea of sacrificing the entire queen side for a decisive attack on black's king - and in the press conference looked unconvinced when he was asked about it, the other alternative 33.Rxb2 would almost certainly have led to a draw. 33.Rd1? overlooking 34...Qd7 left Carlsen in bad shape but 36...Qd5? (36..Bxb4! and Nepomniachtchi might easily have been the player to go on to win) led to equality again, 38....e4? was a bad error that gave Carlsen a winning position but 40.Nxe4 should have allowed Nepomniachtchi to hold.

    52.Kh2 from Carlsen allowed Qe4 threatening Qxh4 but it turned out 52...Qe4 was an error. This was perhaps a final trap from Carlsen in a position that looked likely to finish in a quick draw. After 53.Rxa3 the game entered its longest and eventually decisive phase. Although computers had the position near equal it was Carlsen who was setting the problems throughout and he did this very slowly with the idea that extending the game would be the approach most likely to end in a win for him. His 80.Rxf7+ transforming the material balance yet again was very smart and led to a position where he could torture Nepomniachtchi forever. After move 115 Qxh4 the game entered positions in table bases - that is where the exact proper result of every position is known. Move 130...Qe6? was the decisive mistake (130...Qb1 or 130...Qc2 are drawn with best play) and indeed Carlsen didn't have any problem at all demonstrating he was indeed winning forcing resignation on move 136 after 7 hours and 44 minutes of play.

    With games both on Saturday and Sunday Nepomniachtchi will have to be careful he doesn't go on tilt and lose all his chances in a few days.

    On 18th July 1978 Korchnoi-Karpov started game 5 which ended in a draw in 124 moves, this was the previous longest game in World Championship history in terms of moves and may still have the record in terms of time it took (there may have been other games longer in time I don't know of). The last decisive game outside of tie-breaks in a World Championship match took place on 24th November 2016 which was Game 10 of that title match where Carlsen beat Sergey Karjakin. In the intervening match all 12 of the standard time control games between Fabiano Caruana and Carlsen in 2018 were drawn.

    Game 7 Saturday 12:30 GMT Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen

  4. Nepomniachtchi doesn't make the most of his chances in World Chess Championship game 5 - 5

    The fifth game of the FIDE World Chess Championship in Dubai was drawn in 41 moves. Ian Nepomniachtchi with the white pieces again played the Anti-Marshall with 8.a4. Carlsen deviated from game three with 8...Rb8. While it would be too strong to say Carlsen was in big trouble he was definitely the one under pressure and it was clear that Nepomniachtchi was very well prepared for Rb8. The key moment of the game seemed to be when Nepomniachtchi played 20.Red1 rather than the critical 20.c4 - Carlsen said that he felt after this "the worst was over". Nepomniachtchi seemed disappointed after the game but it does seem that he's getting chances with white so that's something to be happy about. There is a rest day on Thursday followed by three games in a row Friday to Sunday.

    Score 2.5-2.5 (five draws). Game 6 Friday 12:30GMT Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi.

  5. Nepomniachtchi gets an easy draw using the Petroff Defence in World Championship Game 4 - 4

    The FIDE World Chess Championship in Dubai resumed today after its first rest day. Game four took place on Magnus Carlsen's birthday - he has reasonable memories of playing on this day - winning as he did the tie-break match against Sergey Karjakin in 2016.

    Today Carlsen had the white pieces said that he expected the Petroff - Nepomniachtchi had used it in a game in the Candidates and that he was ready for it. "I tried something concrete - it didn't work. That's a normal result. I didn't expect him to have missed the line I played completely but in some other iterations there can be a lot of difficult decisions to make for black. But I think the way that he played there was just - there are some different tries - nothing. The state of modern chess - not much else to say."

    Nepomniachtchi confirmed he knew Carlsen's try - the novelty 18.Nh4 and he supposed many other Petroff experts knew of it. He said he might have liked to try the move himself with the white pieces. His task today was not to mix up his lines and get in trouble in a line that he knew to be safe for black with correct play.

    There was rapid simplification and Carlsen, after a long think on move 30 about the only real try for an advantage 30.d6 decided there was no mileage in it and forced a draw by repetition with 30.Ne8+.

    Score 2-2 after four games. Game five on December 1st 12:30 GMT.

  6. Comfortable hold for Carlsen with black in game 3 of the World Chess Championship - 3

    The FIDE World Chess Championship reached it's first rest day on Monday all square at 1.5 points each after three games. Magnus Carlsen looked very comfortable in defending the Ruy Lopez Anti-Marshall. It's been assumed in commentary that he's prepared the Marshall but it hasn't been allowed yet so we don't know for certain. Carlsen admitted to playing some "ugly" moves but at no point did he seem under pressure. Ian Nepomniachtchi chose 8.a4 rather than the 8.h3 in game one but he didn't achieve very much. Nepomniachtchi thought he might be getting somewhere but his long think after Carlsen's 20...Be6 produced only the move 21.h3 which after 21...c6 22.Bc2 d5 led to complete equality. Carlsen also made the rest of the game look ridiculously easy as he raced to a setup with his King on e5 and pawn on f4 that killed any prospects of a decisive result.

    There is now a rest day on Monday and we'll see if Carlsen can find an advantage with white on Tuesday.

  7. World Chess Championship game 2 - a fighting draw - 2

    The FIDE World Chess Championship Match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi is tied at 1-1 after the first two games were drawn. In spite of these draws the early games promise a very interesting match which will be settled over the board not by the huge amount of opening preparation both sides have clearly done.

    Carlsen had white in game two and a Catalan appeared on the board. It seemed at first that Carlsen had won the opening battle. Nepomniachtchi's 7... b5 was met by 8. Ne5 - a move that's been played at a high level this year but none the less he didn't seem ready for. Carlsen continued to play quickly for the next few moves and after 16...Na6 had some advantage in a wild position. Then however Carlsen miscalculated - 17.Ne5 was a mistake as after 17...Bxe5 18. dxe5 Nac5 (the move missed by Carlsen) black was suddenly better, after 20.Rb1? Carlsen was much worse (20.Be3 had to be played) perhaps close to losing. Nepomniachtchi was impressed - perhaps a bit too impressed - by 24.Be4 and he became a bit nervous about Carlsen's attacking chances, his 24...c3 let Carlsen right back in the game and then after 26...bxa4 (26...Qg7) the game was back to being balanced. After that there were no big swings in fortune, Carlsen had enough for the exchange and Nepomniachtchi returned it with 37...Rxd6 after which they liquidated to a drawn endgame.

    Nepomniachtchi said that at first he had the impression neither of them had played well but later he thought the game "Very interesting - very chaotic". The truth is somewhere in between no doubt.

    Game 3 Sunday 28th November 2021.

  8. Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen draw the first game of their World Chess Championship match - 1

    The FIDE World Chess Championship got under way in Dubai on Friday 26th November. The match between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi will be over 14 classical games followed by a day of rapid and blitz tie-breaks if required.

    The first game of the match was a reasonably tense affair with both players surely glad to get started. The pandemic has drastically reduced the amount of face to face chess in the last 18 months and that will surely affect both players but there has also been a revolution in chess preparation using AI and computers. This is generating masses of new ideas - in the recent past it's been hard to remember everything - we may now have gone past that point. This match will no doubt advance our knowledge as to where opening theory is right now. Daniil Dubov is working for Nepomniachtchi and he has been one of the players at the forefront of the new preparation ideas.

    Today's game was a Closed Ruy Lopez - not a Berlin - most likely Carlsen was headed for a Marshall Defence if he'd been allowed, instead Nepomniachtchi avoided this with 8.h3 which was met by 8...Na5. This has been a rare move which has been played recently in correspondence chess it also seems to have been known by at least a few top players as a valid line for black. Carlsen finished his preparation a pawn down but with the two bishops as compensation - he admitted to being slightly concerned, most likely he hoped his opponent didn't find everything to the end. As it was Nepomniachtchi was a little better for the next few moves. 22.Bf4 was a misjudgment after which black equalised and perhaps was the one pressing. 27...Kf8?! was the next turning point (27...g6 is liked by computers much more although it still isn't much for black) then 30.Ne1?! (30.Ke2) and again black has a little edge - not more. It seems 40...Rd7?! (40...Nf4) was the final minor mistake leading to an almost immediate draw by repetition.

    Games two and three will take place on Saturday and Sunday with the first rest day on Monday.

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