Stopping the Bleeding

Faced with the choice to fight or regroup, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi chose the latter in the tenth game of the 2021 FIDE World Chess Championship. After a bloodless draw the score stands at 6½-3½, leaving World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen just a win (or two draws) away from retaining his title.


Ian Nepomniachtchi
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courtesy FIDE / Niki Riga


Down three games with only five to play, it is a bit of a mystery as to why the challenger chose to defend the Petroff against Carlsen’s 1. e4. Adding additional confusion is the interview with GM Sergey Karjakin, one of Nepo’s seconds and apparently a disciple of Radio Jan, who claimed that Nepomniachtchi was a dynamic player who could not be contained.


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But a Petroff it was, with Carlsen choosing 4. Nd3 as played in his 2018 match against GM Fabiano Caruana. After a mild surprise with 7. ... Nc6, Carlsen had to make a choice: should he play 8. Be3 with some ambition for a complex fight, or simply continue to try to trade queens with 8. c3?

Magnus Carlsen
Image Caption
courtesy FIDE / Niki Riga


With a draw an entirely acceptable result given the match situation, Carlsen was only mildly interested in spicing things up. Starting with the queens, the pieces were traded off with startling rapidity, and the inevitable handshake came as soon as the rules allowed.

2019 U.S. Women's Champion WGM Jennifer Yu has today’s annotations for Chess Life Online.



In the post-game press conference, Nepomniachtchi admitted that his goal was perhaps to hold today and try to win on Friday. He has not given up the belief that he can come back, calling a question from moderator GM Maurice Ashley about his chances “absurd.”


Thursday sees a rest day, followed by three games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30am Eastern. Down three games with just four to go, the odds are long indeed for Nepomniachtchi, but stranger things have happened...

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