The third game of the match finished in a seemingly uneventful draw, but actually, the day brought a lot of interesting things to discuss.
First of all, both of Nepomniachtchi’s central pawns happened to move forward on the first move. The guest of honor probably wanted Ian to start with 1.d4, but he brought the pawn back and started with 1.e4 instead.
The same thing happened to Magnus’s pawns yesterday, so we can claim the challenger evened out the score at this component. Usually, the players point out which move the guest should make, but in this match, something goes differently.
There were also doping control procedures planned for today’s evening. The World Champion’s reaction to that was quite expressive.
Magnus Carlsen when told by the chief arbiter that he has to go for an anti-doping test today. It hurts more than losing a piece. 😂 pic.twitter.com/ZXY2rrru60
— Olimpiu G. Urcan (@olimpiuurcan) November 28, 2021
At the press conference, he revealed that he had planned to watch the matches between Chelsea and Manchester United, Real Madrid and Sevilla, and LA Clippers and Gold State Warriors, but the doping test would probably ruin his schedule. Nepomniachtchi admitted he might stick to the same activities. The players will have a rest day tomorrow, so it could be a great way to recharge the batteries indeed.
Today’s game itself was of very high quality. Lichess.org even claimed that according to the engines, this is now the most precisely played game in the history of the World Championship matches!
The website’s staff member asked the players about their feelings regarding that. Nepomniachtchi wittily remarked it was “a murky question before the doping test.”
Magnus was also joking quite often. When asked about doping in chess, he said, “If my level of chess drops drastically, I might start using drugs. But for now, there is no need.”
Regarding the opening of the third game, it was interesting to see if the line from the first game would be repeated. The Dutch grandmaster Erwin L’Ami has predicted the challenger would deviate on the eighth move and turned out to be right.
Indeed, so far there has been no need for Carlsen to change his opening choice as Black and try the sharper Sicilian. In both games, he equalized fairly comfortably. We will see what Nepomniachtchi’s team will come up with for the next White game. For now, let’s look at what happened on the board today.
Nepomniachtchi, Ian (2782) – Carlsen, Magnus (2855) [C88]
FIDE World Championship 2021 Dubai (3.1), 28.11.2021
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0
Magnus goes for the same line and is intending to sacrifice a central pawn again. In the first game, the challenger used the move 8.h3. This time he is the first to deviate with another Anti-Marshall system: 8.a4 This move is one of the most popular ones in the position Both players have had much experience with it. 8…Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.Nbd2
This move was suggested by the legendary grandmaster Efim Geller to Garry Kasparov before his match against Nigel Short back in 1993. Garry followed the recommendation and won the game in a great style. Now Nepomniachtchi tries to upset Carlsen with it, but the current World Champion held his own well.
The other popular move is 10.Nc3.
10…Re8!? Usually, Black plays 10…Na5 or 10…Nd7 in this position. Magnus decided to get off the main theory road and prepares the retreat of his bishop to f8. In the after-game interview, he confessed this move was made mainly to avoid Nepomniachtchi’s preparation and get a game.
Both players kept improving their pieces: 11.Nf1 h6 12.Bd2 Bf8 13.Ne3 Ne7
At this point, White had a very interesting and brave move 14.g4!?
This move is one of the top engine recommendations, and it would have spiced the game up considerably. The game could continue 14…Nh7 15.h4! c5 16.g5, with unclear consequences. Instead, the challenger spent only 20 seconds for the next move and went for a more positional approach. 14.c4 bxc4 15.Nxc4
White emerged out of the opening with a little bit better position. At this point, Black has to be careful. In the game Arakhamia Grant – Yildiz Kadioglu, Rijeka 2010, Black played 15…Rb8?! and missed White’s tactical idea. The game followed 16.Ncxe5! dxe5 17.Nxe5 Kh7? 18.Bxf7 Qd6 19.Bc3 Red8 20.Bc4 Nc6 21.Nf7, and later White won.
That is why Magnus retreats his knight back and takes the important e5 and d4 squares under control. 15…Nc6 This move is new to the chess theory. 16.Rc1 a5!? At the press conference, Ian Nepomniachtchi admitted this move looked questionable from the positional point of view, but it seemed like after a few very precise moves Black got close to equality.
A strong idea! Carlsen reroutes his bishop to e6. In different variations, the confrontation of the light-squared bishops limits White’s possibilities.
Here Ian decided to breakthrough in the center. At the press conference, he assumed it could be better to wait with this and keep improving the position. Because in the game, after 18.d4 exd4 19.Nxd4 Nxd4 20.Qxd4 Be6, it turned out that any reasonable move now would be met by …d6-d5.
This pawn break would equalize the game completely. Magnus even used the expression “dead draw” regarding some of the arising positions. This is why Nepomniachtchi thought for 30 minutes at this moment, trying to find a way to avoid that scenario.
21.h3 Eventually he did not find any reasonable ways to stop the break and decided to make a tad improvement of the position. Seeing that, Magnus decided to improve his position too with 21…c6, although the immediate 21…d5 was strong as well. 22.Bc2 d5! This move enables massive trades, and the game starts rolling towards the draw. Magnus said he saw this would drain the position. He could try something else instead of …d5 but did not see any ways to play for a win.
23.e5 dxc4 24.Qxd8 Rexd8 25.exf6 Bb4 26.fxg7 Bxc3 27.bxc3 Kxg7
The endgame is completely equal.
28.Kf1 Rab8 29.Rb1 Kf6 30.Rxb8 Rxb8 31.Rb1 Rxb1+ 32.Bxb1Ke5
White has a pawn majority on the kingside, but there are no ways to capitalize on that. Black’s king is too active and later Magnus grabbed even more space by moving his pawn from f7 to f4. Another important thing is that the a4 pawn is fixed on the light square. Once Black’s bishop targets it, White’s bishop will be compelled to defend it passively.
33.Ke2 f5 34.Bc2 f4 35.Bb1 c5 36.Bc2 Bd7 37.f3 Kf6 38.h4 Ke5 39.Kf2 Kf6 40.Ke2 Ke5 41.Kf2 The draw was agreed.
This game was less excited than the previous games but cleaner.
At the press conference, Magnus said, “I was making some fairly ugly moves, but it seems all to work out well. It was a reasonably logical game.” He also revealed his strategy with the Black pieces, “I’ve been trying to equalize in both games without getting too much chance, but it is okay. It is a fairly normal procedure in these matches.”
The players were also asked about the reasons world championship matches have had so many draws. Taking into account that the classical portion of the previous match had no decisive results at all, there is some concern this match will end with 14 draws as well. But Magnus raised the public’s hopes up, “With each draw, it gets more intense. Any game could explode, but not today. We try!”
Tomorrow the players will enjoy a rest day. On Tuesday, Magnus will start with White pieces. He probably will try to avoid such a chaotic scenario as in the second game and even change the opening. But as he mentioned himself, his strategy as Black was to equalize the game, therefore he will have to push for a win as White. This promises another exciting battle in the following game. Stay tuned!
Lennart Ootes, FIDE World FR Chess Championship 2019 – Magnus Carlsen, CC BY-SA 4.0
Etery Kublashvili, Ian Nepomniachtchi at Superfinal of the Russian Chess Championship, Satka, 2018, CC BY-SA 3.0