Magnus Carlsen retains title, winning 7.5-3.5!

2021 World Chess Championship
Dubai, UAE (November 24th-December 16th)
NorwayRussiaNorwayRussiaNorwayRussia

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) - 2021 World Chess Championship
 
12
13
14
pts.
Carlsen
½
½
½
½
½
1
½
1
1
½
1
Caruana
½
½
½
½
½
0
½
0
0
½
0
Official Site: https://fideworldchampionship.com/

On Friday, December 10th, Magnus Carlsen successfully defended his title for the fourth time in Dubai, UAE since first winning in Chennai, India in 2013 over Viswanathan Anand. They would have a return match a year later and it would be the first successful defense for Carlsen. This match would be his fourth and he defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in dominant fashion 7½-3½.

Carlsen celebrating his first championship after defeating Viswanathan Anand in 2013. Photo by Magnus Carlsen (Facebook)

This match was highly anticipated because the Russian had a plus score despite losing their last encounter. If there was anything to grasp onto in the match, Game 6 will go down in history as one of the most intriguing games scoring a record of 136 moves. From that point on, Nepo seemed to lose the thread on the match. Something rattled him psychologically or perhaps the eight-hour chess game disoriented him a bit. Nevertheless, he simply collapsed.


After the decisive Game 6, then there was a sense of relief from five years of draws. However, it was famine followed by a feast as dec isive results came quickly. It wasn’t the quantity of decisive results that bothered the chess community, but the quality.


Before the match, there were predictions being made with most of them in favor of Carlsen. However, there were a few people who chose Nepo and others who thought he would be a serious threat. Carlsen gave his opinion that both Fabiano Caruana or Ding Liren would’ve posed a tougher challenge. The reason was that they were a lot more stable. The way it has been put is that Nepo is a consensus 2780-2800 player, but his stability is not the same as the two players mentioned. Carlsen spoke on a Norwegian podcast about this issue.

In Norway Chess he seemed very strong for the first 3-4 rounds, he had a small setback, and then he collapsed. That’s not something he can allow himself in a World Championship match. I am not going to fall even if I am hit in the face once. Perhaps that will be his biggest challenge, to handle the setbacks that will come, regardless of whether it’s a good position he fails to convert, or a game that he should have held to a draw but ends up losing, or opening preparation that goes wrong — that will be a huge challenge for him.

It proved that Carlsen’s thesis was correct. After five draws, there were comments about how chess could not tolerate another championship where the classical portion featured all draws. After the decisive Game 6, then there was a sense of relief from five years of draws. However, it was famine followed by a feast as decisive results came quickly. It wasn’t the quantity of decisive results that bothered the chess community, but the quality. On one hand, draws are not desirable and on the other, decisive results by blunders are not ideal.

Did Nepo check out after the grueling Game 6? He suffered tremendous lapses in attention and frequently got up from the board. Although gracious in defeat, he will have to reboot if he wants to return to the big stage. Photo by Maria Emelianova

For games 8 and 9, the nature of the match shifted sharply. The issue now is whether Nepo could salvage a game from the match. After going down 2-0 Sergey Karjakin was sent to Dubai to assist Nepo. Later there was controversy that Daniil Dubov was working on the Carlsen team, a fact that created a stir among the Russian Federation. Dubov has since responded.


It may very well be that the Game 6 eight-hour marathon exhausted Nepo’s physical and mental resources.


After two disastrous games, Nepo settled down and drew an uneventful game 10 with plans to push in the last four. However, the match result was already a foregone conclusion. Down three games with only four remaining, the hope was to win a couple of games to pull the match into respectability. Even that attempt went awry. In the last game, Nepo prepared well in the opening, but had another blindspot after playing 23.g3?? His house came crashing down and in a flash had a completely losing ending which Carlsen converted with precision.

Magnus Carlsen after winning
the 2021 World Chess Championship.
Photo by Maria Emelianova

In the final press conference, Nepo was again very composed, but one may ask if he was a bit too nonchalant and “happy to be here.” Should he have been more upset? It may very well be that eight-hour the Game 6 marathon exhausted Nepo’s physical and mental resources. Those who have taken eight-hour exams, as this writer has (three in one week), will know that you need several days to recover or risk unraveling mentally.

Yet, what we will remember from this match is Nepo’s gracious posture in the press conferences, a conflicting reality. Nevertheless, Carlsen was clearly the better player and deserved to win. Chants of the “GOAT” or the greatest of all time were made afterward. While I believe those are conversations for a later time, Carlsen has certainly made his mark.

Magnus Carlsen, 2021 World Chess Champion

Magnus Carlsen, 2021 World Chess Champion
Photo by Eric Rosen

Daaim Shabazz

Dr. Daaim Shabazz is the creator and webmaster of The Chess Drum. He serves as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a doctorate in International Affairs & Development. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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