A Correct Draw in Round Three

The third game of the 2021 World Chess Championship saw some high-level preparation, and one critical moment that required precision from both GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. But champion and challenger were up to the task, and the game was drawn on the 41st move. (Draw offers are not permissible until after move 40 per match regulations.)

WGM Katerina Nemcova returns to Chess Life Online for her second day of duty. She summarizes the day's events as follows:

Sunday’s game was maybe a little calmer than the previous two, but still quite interesting. Ian's team seems to be excellently prepared for all kinds of sidelines in the Ruy Lopez, while Magnus is willing to select less popular moves to get his opponent out of the preparation.

After the game, Magnus was a bit critical of his play, saying "I was making some fairly ugly moves, but it seems to all work out reasonably well. I think it was a reasonably logical game." On the other hand, the challenger was more sanguine, claiming that “[i]t was a clean game."

For fans who are unhappy with the third in a string of draws, it's fascinating to know that Stockfish 14 assessed this game as the most accurate game ever played in World Championship match history. All we can do is admit that chess is a draw if neither players make mistakes.



Sunday’s game saw Nepomniachtchi shift the Anti-Marshall battlefield from 8. h3, as played in the first game of the match, to 8. a4. Twitter found itself nostalgic for some classic Kasparov games in this system, including the retelling of the tale of how Geller convinced him to try 10. Nbd2 (also used by Nepomniachtchi here) and just play “normal chess.”


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Play continued fairly normally through Carlsen’s 16. ... a5, a move that Nepomniachtchi dubbed “positionally questionable,” and soon a critical position arose after Black’s 20. ... Be6. This may have been on the screens of at least one of the teams before the game, as it appears (per a question in the post-game press conference) that “someone” left the ChessBase Cloud on as they analyzed it two days ago!

Here Nepomniachtchi tried 21. h3, a useful waiting move that anticipates the ... d6-d5 break. He had other options, including 21. Qd3 and 21. Nd2. This latter move was anticipated by Carlsen, who said in the press conference that he felt like the ensuing ending was a dead draw after 21. ... d5 22. exd5 Nxd5 23. Bxd5 Qxd5 24. Qxd5 Bxd5 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Bxa5 Ra8 27. Bxc7 Rxa4 28. Be5 f6 29. Bc3 Kf7.

After 21. ... c6 22. Bc2 d5, Nepomniachtchi played the concrete 23. e5 almost immediately. But this allowed Carlsen to trade queens, and after 25. ... Bb4! White’s best piece was eliminated. Carlsen had to be sure that the opposite-colored bishop ending was actually drawn before allowing the trade of all the rooks, but in the end, his active king and ... f7-f5-f4 manuever put an end to any hopes of a Nepomniachtchi advantage.

Predictably the press conference was filled with questions about another draw and the purported death of classical chess, but the challenger was clear that this game saw an entirely proper result.

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Monday sees the first rest day of the match, with Carlsen taking the white pieces when play resumes on Tuesday. CLO’s coverage will include annotations by FM Robert Shlyakhtenko, who just made his third IM-norm at the New York GM / IM Invitational.

Quick Links:

FIDE match home pageChess.com live coverageChess24.com live coverageLevitov Chess English YouTube page

CLO annotations on lichess.org

CLO Match PreviewCLO Round 1 articleCLO Round 2 article

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