2021 World Chess Championship: Game 10
Wednesday, 8 December 2021
A quiet draw today after three wins in four games. In the last phase of the match, we hope to see attempts by Ian Nepomniachtchi to get on the scoreboard. There is a lot that can be said about this match and much will be written in the coming months. One of the narratives is that the World Champion Magnus Carlsen has played in a very stable manner. In fact, Fabiano Caruana made mention of this in the chess.com broadcast. The ability to maintain a sense of evenness in play seems to be his secret to success. Europe-Echecs gave an astounding stat.
Even if you don’t read French you will understand the graphics. It shows a very erratic Nepo after Game 5 and as the infographic suggests, you have to play with supreme precision. With four games left, Nepomniachtchi is back on track playing a rather insipid draw with the Petroff. Some commentators have been critical that he has not trotted out a more challenging opening with only a few games left in the match. This game would be over in 41 moves, one past the minimum limit.
2021 World Chess Championship: Game 9
Tuesday, 7 December 2021
Nepo blunders piece… Carlsen has a 3-point bulge
Chess can be brutal at times. There is nothing that crushes the soul more than losing a completely winning position. Perhaps the second is making a simple blunder. There were not too many who were not sympathetic to Ian Nepomniachtchi after today’s game that featured a terrible blunder.
This was after he also blundered a pawn yesterday. His blunder will go down as one of the most careless in recent times and harkens back to Bobby’s Fischer famous Bxh2 blunder getting his own bishop trapped. The loss gives defending champion Magnus Carlsen a three-point lead with five games remaining.
Nepo came to the board with a new hairstyle minus the “man-bun” and actually looked very sharp and relaxed. Both players settled into their chairs for the ninth game and GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa made the ceremonial move of 1.c4. Interestingly enough, Nepo kept the move!
After the game, Carlsen didn’t know whether the Indian prodigy had a sense of foreboding that Nepo would try something new or that he was providing inspiration. Either way, Nepo kept the move and the game began.
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa making the first move for Ian Nepomniachtchi. Photo by Maria Emelianova/chess.com
As the game entered the opening phase, Nepo’s 9.e3 gave the appearance of a Reversed Benoni. He ended up getting good play. Fast forward to 23…Ng4! Carlsen figured that he wanted to reroute the knight, but missed 24.Qe1! White threatens f3 and black must trade queens. On 25…h5 Carlsen was looking to place the knight on f5. Then disaster struck Nepo. After five minutes of thought, Nepo banged out 27.c5?? and left the room. Carlsen had an incredulous look of disbelief.
So what gives? Nepo may have had a blindspot thinking that he could simply play Nc5 to protect the bishop, but the square was now occupied by the pawn. After 10 minutes Nepo came back to the board, looked off, looked into the camera, and then came to the realization that he had blundered badly. After the game, he admitted that he missed 27…c6. Carlsen made some interesting comments after a question about the method of winning by FM Mike Klein (chess.com).
In the standings, they look the same, but I think that goes for everybody, that earning a victory through really hard work is more rewarding than getting one handed to you by your opponent.
He then cited Jan Hein Donner who stated that winning a game through a swindle is more gratifying than an attacking game. What is clear is that a win is a win, but a loss is not a loss. Losing a game with an inexplicable blunder two games in a row means something has gone gravely wrong. It is a lot harder to figure out why one is blundering material than “winning ugly.”
Some commentators have noticed how much Nepo gets up from the board after he moves. Is this habit detrimental to his focus? Perhaps not, but he took only five minutes before making the fatal error in the game. The Russian’s post-game demeanor has been impeccable as he has been calm, compliant, and never ruffled with questions even after a tough loss.
There was a debate on how quickly Ian Nepomniachtchi would attempt to strike back after the devastating loss in Game 6. After a rather tranquil draw in Game 7 of the World Chess Championship in Dubai, the next game was a Petroff with a twist. Nepo’s …h5, …Rh6 maneuver seemed like a kamikaze attack brewing, but it turned out to be a “nothing burger.” At the least, the game would end in another quiet draw.
Magnus Carlsen talked about his willingness to trade down after 10…Qe7, but the Russian went for 10…Kf8 in order to keep the tension. After 11.Bb4! now white was fighting to keep an edge after 11…Qe7 12.Bxd6 Qxd6. With black’s rooks now disconnected, white seized on the clumsiness of 14…Rh6 with 15.Qg5! Now the rook could not leave the h5-pawn and on 15…f6, the rook’s scope would be limited.
Carlsen continued to probe then finally broke with 20.c4! The exclamation point is for the fact that this was a timely transition of a somewhat closed game into one with immediate tactical possibilities. Almost immediately Nepo failed to make the transition. After 20…dxc4 21.Bxd4, Nepo belted out 21…b5?? Fans and commentators spotted it quickly.
Carlsen continued 22.Qa3+ Kg8 23.Qxa7 white attack the bishop on d7. Black could donate the bishop with 22…Bxh3, but after 23.Qxf7+ the queens come off after 23…Qxf7 24.Re8+ Kh7 25.Bxf7 and black is significantly worse. Black opted for 23…Qd8, but after 25.Re4 the pieces are overloaded.
Nepo was forced to trade down to free his position and it resulted in a queen ending with a wretched pawn structure. The queen would be overloaded in defending the pawns so he looked to harass the white king. Carlsen gobbled a couple of more pawns, centralized the queen and without any drawing tricks, Nepo resigned on move 46. To his credit, Nepo was very gracious in the press conference.
Video by FIDE
Game #8 (Annotations by GM Anish Giri for ChessBase)
2021 World Chess Championship: Game 7
Saturday, 4 December 2021
After epic battle, players settle for quiet draw
The most exciting part about Game 7 came from the above photo by IM Eric Rosen. It’s probably how Nepo saw Carlsen after starting their second game of the day. Last night’s epic battle, finished at 12:17am after nearly eight hours of play.
In the press conference, there were questions about the fatigue factor, but neither player seem to use that as a reason for the quick draw. The game was rather uneventful after another Marshall, the fourth. The game had no complications and was drawn quickly.
This is not going to be the longest or most exciting game of the match but I think the players are excused after yesterday's slugfest. #CarlsenNepo
2021 World Chess Championship: Game 6
Friday, 3 December 2021
Titanic struggle… breaks drought… set records
Today's #CarlsenNepo Game 6 was instructive for so many reasons. I'm not sure sponsors will understand how thrilling this record-breaking game was, but they got their money's worth in viewership. Absolutely fantastic! pic.twitter.com/KPgaBuuFHI
After today’s game, no one will complain about the level of chess being played in this world championship match. It was an absolute thriller as both players walked a tightrope to avoid pitfalls. The onus was essentially on Magnus Carlsen to prove that his offbeat opening could yield dividends. It took a record-breaking 136 moves, but the World Champion reeled in the full point against challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Instead of discussing the game in detail, we will go to the press conference to get the reaction.
Video by FIDE
Other records mentioned were that the game was won over a two-day period. The game ended past midnight for a total of 7 hours and 47 minutes, another time record. There were other championship facts given mentioned such as the previous six world championship matches starting with six draws. This match also started with five draws, but Carlsen broke the streak. There had not been a decisive game in a World Championship match for five years.
This begs the question… would we have gotten such a gift to history in another format? Could such a masterpiece be played in rapid or blitz? It’s highly unlikely. Do we want to see more errors to obtain decisive results? That would be unfortunate. In addition, the fans would not have benefited from an unfolding tale of two wills grappling with the twists and turns of battle. It was like a dramatic play over eight hours.
Carlsen explained the tense moments during the press conference. Photo by Niki Riga/FIDE
After the fifth consecutive draw, Carlsen was asked about the string of draws in championship play. He remarked that while draws can seem to be an annoyance, we have not crossed the rubicon where something drastic must be done. Of course, classical chess should remain a permanent fixture in World Championship and Game 6 is the reason why. Should rapid, blitz, and Chess 960 be part of the match? It is an interesting debate.
The game has many lessons and appeared to be several games into one. There was so much tension, but there is a lesson to be learned here. Even elite players commentating can miss ideas. Notice this moment when Fabiano Caruana and Danny Rensch suggest 80.Rg5+ as an only move just before Carlsen uncorked 80.Rxf7+!
Carlsen plays 80.Rxf7 and dives into an endgame with knight, rook, and three pawns vs. queen and one pawn!
After 80.Rxf7+! Kxf7 81.Rb7+ Kg6 82.Rxa7, the masterclass had begun… two pieces and two pawns versus a queen. The engines kept saying the game was 0.00 equal, but as the pawns started to march forward, it became more difficult to maintain accuracy. Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri gives commentary on this game that will go down in the ages as a masterpiece.
In Dubai, Hudson took in the festivities for a week and is scheduled to return on the 8th until the end of the match. He told The Chess Drum he wanted people to know he was still forging ahead with his mission.
It is obviously more impactful to be present during such an event and with the Dubai EXPO and 192 countries showcasing their countries, it is a big opportunity. Hudson states that he desires to “look, listen and learn.” He leaves an adage that has been said so many times and in so many different ways.
“Surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want want to feel… people whose positive energies are contagious. Remember, success leaves clues. Capture them. Use them.”
~ Orrin Checkmate Hudson
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Orrin “Checkmate” Hudson is an award-winning author and master motivational speaker who has inspired many to “make the right move” and solve problems peacefully. He has taught many groups at churches, schools, organizations, and corporations. For more details, visit www.besomeone.org or call (770) 465-6445.
2021 World Chess Championship: Game 5
Wednesday, 1 December 2021
A fifth draw… the jokes and memes start to roll in
When Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri went on a run of draws in elite chess, some people started to call him an artist because artists “like to draw.” It was another Dutch Grandmaster Peter Leko before him. After five years the draw joke is becoming more prevalent in world chess championship play. Yesterday, fans hurled jokes at the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi for their fifth consecutive draw.
Magnus Carlsen after a 5th draw to start the match: "I think there is some magical cut-off point where draws instead of just being normal become a problem, but I don’t think we’ve crossed the Rubicon yet!"
These games are not without content as Nepo proved that his team has prepared him well. In another Anti-Marshall system, Carlsen played d5 anyway. Throughout the game, commentators were critical of Carlsen’s play including his bishop on d6, and a jumbled mess of pieces. White maintained a solid edge throughout, but black hunkered down waiting.
The mood of Magnus Carlsen in Game 5. Photo by Niki Riga/FIDE
Nepo was playing his moves very quickly while fans noted how uncomfortable Carlsen appeared in his body posture. The Russian had a vice grip on the position, but some question his 20.Red1 instead of the more energetic 20.c4. The idea is simple… push the pawn to constrict black even further. Black would be obligated to play 20…c5 in order to present the onslaught. Sagar Shah of ChessBase India weighs in…
In the above position Ian played Red1 after which Magnus responded with Be6, Black had very nearly equalized the game. Red1?! was just too soft. Ian should have played c4. The idea is clear. You want to play c5. And the most natural move to stop it, ..Be6 is met with Ba4 attacking the queen and c5 coming up anyway. It seems very difficult to understand how Magnus Carlsen would have continued in the position after 20.c4. Playing …c5 definitely looks like a concession, especially because the bishop can pop out on a4, move to c6 and then stand on d5 like a powerhouse. But it might well be that 20…c5 is the least of evils for Black in the position. Another option after 20.c4 is to play Bb4. But after Reb1, once again the threat is to trap the bishop with c5. So if Black himself goes …c5, the ideas are similar with Ba4! and then getting the bishop to c6 and eventually to d5. After some deep digging, it feels to me that Magnus might have chosen 20…Qe6 after 20.c4. Now 21.c5 is not possible, but White can go Ba4, threatening c5 and if Black goes c5 himself then Bc6 to d5 is once again very strong. All in all this idea of c4-c5, and if Black goes …c5 then Ba4-c6-d5 gives White a very tangible plus.
OK… so that was a mouthful, but it turns out that it may have been the key moment for a lasting advantage. Nepo was very despondent in the press conference while Carlsen admitted that he had dodged a bullet. He stated that he was a bit worse, but after 20.Red1 he thought “the worst was over.” He also stated that he lacked activity throughout. Game six will be played after the second rest day.
Before today’s game, everyone was getting their last posts about Magnus Carlsen’s 31st birthday. It seemed like a few years ago that we saw a 13-year old Carlsen taking on an amazed Garry Kasparov. Now almost two decades later, Carlsen is the sitting World Champion defending his title for the fourth time. This time his opponent is Ian Nepomniachtchi who is also 31. Time has flown!
Today’s game was the shortest thus far. A 33-move Petroff may appear to be a dull affair if you didn’t watch the broadcast. There were some interesting patterns shown by the commentating teams as each tried to breathe some life into the position with creative attempts.
Interestingly enough, each commentary team was coming up with similar lines, but it was Viswanathan Anand who was the best calculator. Yesterday, ChessBase India interviewed Anand and he gave his opinion on the downsides of using an engine when analyzing a game. Here is what he had to say. Wait for it…
Video by Sagar Shah/ChessBase India
What was so instructive was the tactical possibilities with so few pieces on the board. White had a menacing threat on the black king with possible mating patterns that were beautiful but highly unlikely with such a strong player. Nevertheless, the analysis showed the incredible attacking power of the rook and knight.
There was even a line where black would queen the a-pawn and white would get a perpetual check with the rook on the d7 and the knight checking on f6 and h7. During the chess24 broadcast, IM Danny Rensch was asking for a term to describe the checking maneuver and a fan came up with “pendulum”!
Unfortunately, or fortunately, there were no missteps and the two players sued for peace on move 33. What will be the next opening in Game 5? Will it be a Sicilian? A Petroff? Another Ruy Lopez? One thing for sure… if there is another draw, FIDE will most likely come up with an alternative format for the future that may include rapid and blitz. In what other way can we determine the best player overall? That may be an ongoing discussion for this match.
2021 World Chess Championship: Game 3
Sunday, 28 November 2021
“Perfect Game”… but for both players. Draw streak continues!
Magnus Carlsen Photo Eric Rosen/FIDE
The press conference of the World Chess Championships addressed a comment about the World Championships going five years without a decisive result. Magnus Carlsen hinted that future matches should feature various formats. Ian Nepomniachtchi explained that the games were of higher quality and thus, fewer errors. Matches are still the gold standard for chess, but how does one explain draw to the public? Even for those who are well-information about chess, they may take a string of draws as boring.
Game 3 wasn’t exactly a snooze fest, but it was a battle of preparation and both teams showed they were working hard in trying to glide on a razor’s edge. Black’s 10…Re8 has not fared well at the elite level, but perhaps Carlsen had a wrinkle.
Carlsen again sprung the first (small) surprise with 10…Re8. Both 10…Na5 and 10…Nd7 are far more popular options. Players now follow a 2001 rapid game of Kasparov after 12.Bd2. #CarlsenNepo
There was no wrinkle and Carlsen was actually dismissive. He was far more insightful in the press conference when talking about activities for the rest, doping, NBA basketball and his last answer during Q&A. If you didn’t see, check out the broadcast.
2021 World Chess Championship: Game 2
Saturday, 27 November 2021
Game almost a Knightmare… but another draw!
The 2021 World Chess Championship match has gotten off to an exciting start with neither player “feeling out” the other. Yesterday saw tremendous preparation and a game treading on a razor’s edge. Today’s encounter was interesting and a unique theme saw both players getting knights entrenched in the opponent’s camp. Both knights had to be eliminated with an exchange sacrifice showing how delicate the position was throughout. Nevertheless, another draw was reached.
That brings us to the most amazing tweet…
It has been 5 years since a classical game was won at the World Chess Championship
The game started as a Catalan with a few wrinkles. Carlsen played 8.Ne5 when only 15 games are found in the database. Generally, 8.a4 is the common move. After 13…Nd3 black’s steed takes up residence. Hou Yifan was a guest on chess24 and stopped in midstream to assess the position after 17.Ne5!
Nepo stated that 24.Be4! took him by surprise, so he wanted to offer a surprise of his own. If the idea of 24…c3 was to get a passed pawn, then it may have been a bit ambitious. Meanwhile, white switched operations to the kingside and started making threats, the knight still dominant on d6.
After relentless pressure by Carlsen, Nepo decided he had enough of the intrusive knight and sacrificed back the exchange with 37…Rxd6. It resulted in a completely drawn 3+2 rook ending. Both players were clearly exhausted. Yesterday, Nepo was asked by FM Mike Klein about his workout regimen. It is clear that after two games, both will need to be in excellent physical form. Tomorrow is the last game before a rest day.