World Chess Championship still deadlocked after three games
‘There’s a lot of time to go. Any game could explode,’ says Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi played to a third successive draw in the third game of their world championship showdown in Dubai as the Russian challenger weathered another atypical position before negotiating a bloodless result after 41 moves in 2hr 42min.
Nepomniachtchi, playing as white, opened with 1 e4 and the action quickly followed the same anti-Marshall branch of the Ruy Lopez opening from Friday’s first encounter. Carlsen broke from familiar territory with the rare 10 … Re8, bypassing four more popular choices from the position, marking the third time in as many games that he was first to mix things up with an unusual move.
“Re8 is a really, really dumb move because usually you would try to go Re8 without d6,” Carlsen said afterwards. “But it turns out even here he was well prepared and he didn’t give me even slight chances to play.”
The tension continued to build until Nepomniachtchi made a thematic central pawn break with 18 d4. After a quickfire exchange of pawns then knights (18 … exd4 19 Nxd4 Nxd4 20. Qxd4), Carlsen pondered the position for a minute and a half before electing for 20 … Be6. Nepomniachtchi then took nearly half an hour before settling on a modest pawn push (21 h3).
Resolution came before very long, after the exchange of knights and queens prompted a rapid simplification. By the time the rooks came off the board after 30 Rxb8 Rxb8 31 Rb1 Rxb1+ 32 Bxb1 Ke5, Carlsen’s advanced king had all but snuffed out Nepomniachtchi’s winning chances.
Carlsen, 30, has been ranked No 1 for more than a decade and was considered the world’s best player even before he defeated Viswanathanhy Anand for the title in 2013. He’s making his fourth defence of the world championship against the 31-year-old Nepomniachtchi, the world No 5.
The match consists of 14 classical games, with each player awarded one point for a win and half a point for a draw. Whoever reaches seven and a half points first will be declared the champion.
The time control for each game is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61.
If the match is tied after 14 games, tiebreaks will be played on the final day (16 December) in the following order:
• Best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
• If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
• If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armageddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
Carlsen’s second and third title defences both came down to tiebreakers. But many believe the increased length of this year’s match (from 12 to 14 games) and the stylistic matchup at hand promises a decisive result in regulation.
The overall score in their €2m showdown at the Dubai Exhibition Centre remains level at 1.5-1.5 ahead of Monday’s rest day. The proceedings will resumeon Tuesday – Carlsen’s 31st birthday – with the Norwegian controlling the white pieces.
“It’s three games in,” Carlsen said. “There’s a lot of time to go and as you saw [on Saturday], it could have easily been a decisive result. Obviously, for each game the most likely result is a draw. Saying otherwise would be quite disingenuous. But any game could explode. Not today.”