2016 World Chess Championship: Game #8

Game 8: Karjakin shocks Carlsen… goes up +1!

The Trump analogies will start flying again if Sergey Karjakin wins the ongoing championship match. Karjakin stormed to victory today in a tense, yet error-filled game. Magnus Carlsen pressed with white in an unbalanced position, had an edge, misjudged the position and later blundered. Karjakin got confident and also blundered. Carlsen had a draw, went for more and fell to a deflection and mating attack. It was a game of twists and turns. Absolutely thrilling. It appears that only now, viewers believe that Karjakin is a worthy opponent.


It’s much better to play well than to play White.
~Sergey Karjakin


Everyone was anticipating a decisive result after seven consecutive draws. Carlsen had white and would certainly seize opportunities, but it appears he pressed too hard in attempting a decisive result. Well… there was a decisive result, but not the one he wanted! The World Champion was visibly shaken after the loss and stormed out of the press conference after Karjakin was slightly delayed in joining. The reaction was shocking to many, but those who have paid attention to Carlsen when he loses will understand that he sometimes becomes rattled. He is fortunate that there is a rest day so he can collect himself.

After Carlsen’s unorthodox Zukertort Opening, he got the fight he wanted, but Karjakin was up to the challenge and bolted forward with 18…Ng4! However, the Russian dawdled when it came time to press forward. Fabiano Caruana annotating for ChessBase mentioned 19…Qg5! instead of the tepid 19…Bc6. We fast forward into the middlegame after Carlsen essayed 24.bxc4. It’s an interesting choice and show that the champion is still looking for imbalances in the position when there was an inherent risk to do so. Caruana stated,

This move reminds me of Magnus’ play in the fifth game of the match. The position is equal, but he refuses to accept the fact and starts playing risky, anti-positional moves to try to keep the game going. Why does he need to play this way? The match is equal and there’s no need to overpress for a win. In this game his stubborn refusal to accept a draw finally backfired.

Carlsen persistence seemed to pay off as Nxe6+ was a shocker.

Nevertheless, Carlsen had control of the d-file, but Karjakin was hunkering down with two powerful black stallions. In fact, the knights would play a critical role in deciding the game… even until the last moves. With an unbalanced but roughly equal position, Carlsen started to take unprovoked risks. In a fit of time pressure, he banged out 35.c5? which basically loses, but has some poison. However, with both players short of time, the position demanded more attention than time would allow, so Karjakin played 35…Rxd8 (35…bxc5?? loses to 36.Qd6 targeting f7) 36.Nxd8 Nxc5 39.Qxe6 Qd3? 40.Nxe6+! (diagram) Wow. Did Karjakin blow this?

Final Position

For some reason Carlsen kept trying to find ways to scare up a win. After black’s powerful 48…Nd3! many (myself included) felt that donating a pawn with 49.e5 had to be played to keep lines open for the bishop. After 50…Ne5, black shut the door on all white counterplay and ended the game with a picturesque mate after Carlsen’s 52.Qe6?? with 52…a2! On 53.Qxa2 Ng4+ 54.Kh3 Qg1 when Carlsen has to donate his queen to avert mate. Shock reverberated around the chess world, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

Carlsen storming off from the press conference earned him a warning and potential US$60,000 fine. He was upset because the press conference started late, but the what actually occurred was that he nixed post-game interview and went directly to the press conference. Thus, he came to the press conference early while Karjakin was still conducting interviews with Russian press. This was the same pattern as previous rounds. Here is video from the press conference.

Video by World Chess.

FIDE released the following statement:

Magnus Carlsen failed to attend the Round 8 post game press conference. FIDE regulations state that every player must attend the post game press conference, otherwise he will be penalised by a deduction of 10% of his prize money.

Following the conclusion of the Round 8 game, Karjakin appeared in the Mixed Zone to give brief interviews with the three official media partners to the Championship.

The procedure for players granting interviews in the Mixed Zone was agreed with the players and their management teams at the Technical Meeting prior to the start of the Championship. Both players have granted brief interviews with the three media partners in each of the preceding 7 rounds and several times one player was waiting on the stage until the other one finished his obligations.

After round 8, Magnus Carlsen arrived at the Mixed Zone one minute later than Sergey Karjakin and declined to give any interview. He was then offered to wait for a while in the Mixed Zone or on the press conference stage and Magnus decided to wait on the stage. The World Champion decided to leave the Stage 95 seconds later, even though he was informed by the FIDE Press Officer, Anastasiya Karlovich, that Karjakin was about to come to the press conference. The FIDE Press Officer tried to persuade him and his manager to come back to the press conference room, but Magnus Carlsen declined to do so.

FIDE official statement

A story at this website mentioned Carlsen’s psychological readiness after falling behind may be a deciding factor. He had never been behind in a match and has been able to make up for slow starts with winning steaks. However, matches are far different. The game tomorrow will be very important to see how Carlsen reacts to being behind. Will he try to even the score immediately with only four games left? Will he load up for his white game on Thursday? Extremely tense moments ahead!

Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

Video by Daniel King.

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