2016 World Chess Championship: Game #10

Game 10: We have a match!!
Carlsen gets the equalizer after Karjakin breaks!

Anticipation was high before the 10th game of the World Chess Championship. There were many questions being asked before today’s game. What would be the strategy for Magnus Carlsen? What opening would he play? Would he be under pressure to win with white? For Sergey Karjakin, would he try for a close-out? Would he be under pressure to hold the slim match lead? Sam Shankland was prescient.

Carlsen has lots to be thankful for on America’s so-called Thanksgiving Day. The game started with yet another Ruy Lopez, but this time it was an anti-Berlin system with 4.d3. Perhaps Carlsen simply wanted to play chess and get a game he could settle into. This time it was Karjakin who played black’s Bc5 motif. There were mixed views on whether Carlsen chose the right opening for a win, but the game got tense very quickly.

The pressure was ratcheting up and it showed in the number of errors traded. Karjakin played an unassuming 18…Be6. Instead of keeping the tension, Carlsen played 19.Bxe6? giving Karjakin and easy draw for the taking after 19…fxe6. Naturally, black would be content after 20.Nd2 (20.Kg2?? Ngf4+) Nxf2+ 21.Kg2 Nh4+ drawing, but something happened. Battling early zeitnot, Karjakin quickly played 20…d5 (which still draws) 21.Qh5 Ng5? (21…Nxf2+ again draws)

Kaja Marie Snare asked Maurice Ashley about the number of errors present in the game and he borrowed and adage stating, “when you’re 95% there, you’re only halfway.” Karjakin may be feeling the weight of pressure as he climbs the proverbial mountain. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Judit Polgar were aghast at the sequence of events. “What just happened?” said Nepo. Well, 26…h5 happened and the Russian slowly lost the thread. Carlsen had also missed 26…Raf8!

Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

GM Maurice Ashley giving an assessment of the position.
Photo from World Chess broadcast.

Fast forwarding to 40.b4 will show just how much progress Carlsen had made. Zambian GM Amon Simutowe had come to the match but was turned away when he could not pay at the door. “There were five people wanting to pay and they were turned away.” Nevertheless, he told The Chess Drum that Carlsen was going to win. However, Karjakin was holding steady until 56…Rhh7? 57.b5! Black’s spine at e6 would be broken and Carlsen was relentless after that simplifying into a won rook ending.

Carlsen graciously submitted to interviews today given the change in fortune. The world champion’s smile beamed brightly as his fans cheered loudly as he entered. “It’s a huge relief obviously. I haven’t won in ten games and that’s something basically that’s not happened to me before.” Perhaps and it may well be one of the most important wins of his career.

The players are reaching a point of exhaustion although not quite the 48-game match of Karpov-Kasparov, but the quality of the game makes it rather obvious. On cue, the players have a rest day before resuming play on Saturday. Hold on to your hats! This will be an epic finish regardless of what happens in Game 11.

Press Conference (Game #10)

Video by ChessBase

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


  1. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!” – Henry V, Act 3 Scene 1. This has been an exciting match all things considered. “Blitzkrieg” in the next two games!

    1. You’re very optimistic, but Carlsen’s form is troubling. Perhaps it is fatigue (which he said could be a factor) or another issue, but if this goes to tiebreaks, it will favor Karjakin. The pressure on Carlsen will be immense.

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