The sixth game of the match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi was impressive, but the competition is still far from over. It actually got even more interesting since the challenger now is obliged to find a way to shatter the champion’s positions. No more worries about 14 draw in the match.
But should Nepomniachtchi strike right away? After playing such a long game (it started on Friday and ended on Saturday!), he might need some time to recover. It is risky to go all-in when you do not feel well enough. Such thoughts made many people think we would witness a quick draw today. You will see if that was a correct prediction in the game review below.
As for now, let’s look at some interesting moments related to the previous game.
Magnus Carlsen’s father shared how happy his son was to come up on top in such an epic fight:
Magnus himself admitted he couldn’t even sleep!
On the contrary, Ian Nepomniachtchi at the press conference assured he had been too tired not to sleep.
Nepomniachtchi, Ian (2782) – Carlsen, Magnus (2855) [C88]
FIDE World Championship 2021 Dubai (7.1), 04.12.2021
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.a4
White goes for the same Anti-Marshall variation as in the previous two games. At the press conference, Ian admitted, “It was the same strategy as in the previous White games: just to pull something out of the opening.”
Magnus replied with 8…Bb7 in Game 3 and 8…Rb8 in Game 5. This time he fearlessly repeats his last choice.
8…Rb8 9.axb5 axb5 10.h3 d6 11.d3 Despite the fact that Nepomniachtchi emerged out of the opening in the fifth game with an advantage it is him now who deviates first.
In that game, he went for 11.c3. This time he leaves the c3-square vacant for the knight.
11…h6 Magnus, on the contrary, is regrouping exactly the way he did in the previous games. Next, …Re8 and …Bf8 will be played. He seems to be confident in the chosen setup. At the press conference, he commented on White’s chances here, “As long as you can’t see a clear way to increase the advantage, it is usually going to evaporate.” This is exactly what was happening in Nepomniachtchi’s White games so far.
12.Nc3 Re8 13.Nd5
This position was seen in one of the games of the Latvian grandmaster Arturs Neiksans. He gave a funny comment to this on Twitter:
13…Bf8 Now Black’s rook on e8 is not blocked by the bishop; the e7-square is available for the knight.
At this point, White had a choice. Back in 2013, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played 14.c3 in one of his simul games. Also good would be to develop the bishop with 14.Bd2 or 14.Be3.
14.Nxf6+N Ian decided to trade the queens first. This move brings Black’s queen to f6. In some variations, the queen can feel exposed there. But White should play carefully: the queen is also closer to their king now.
14…Qxf6 15.c3 Ne7 The knight is heading to g6. Also, this move opens the road for the c-pawn. 16.Be3 This is a little trap.
Black can’t play 16…Ng6? now due to 17.Ba7! Rb7 18.Rd5, winning an exchange. Alexander Grischuk pointed out a funny move 17…Nf4 here.
It is easy to imagine such an attack working out in a blitz game. But in classical chess, this move would have been very much welcomed by Nepomniachtchi. After 18.Bxb8 Bxh3 19.Ba7 Bxg2 20.Be3, White is in time to defend everything. For example, 20…Bh3 21.Bxf4 Qxf4 22.Kh1, followed by Nh2.
16…Be6 Magnus, of course, avoided the trap. Now the knight is ready to go to g6.
Here White had interesting possibilities to keep the tension on the board. 17.Ra6 or 17.Bc2, keeping more pieces on the board. Instead, Ian went for the immediate pawn break in the center.
17.d4 This move initiates the conflict in the center. Black has to find a proper way to react.
17…exd4! Magnus found the best solution. 18.cxd4 Taking with the knight also deserved attention, but Black had a good reply: 18.Nxd4 Bxb3! 19.Qxb3 d5! Now after, 20.exd5 Rd8, Black gets the pawn back and equalizes the position.
The game continuation was met in a similar way: 18…Bxb3 19.Qxb3 Ng6
The e4-pawn is under attack. If White protects it with 20.Qc2, Black attacks the center with a thematic break 20…c5! Now in the case of 21.d5?!, Black would already seize the initiative with 21…Nh4.
This is why White decided to target Black’s pawn instead of protecting the e-pawn. 20.Rec1 Perhaps, more precise would be to play 20.Rac1. In some lines, it is important to have a rook on the e-file. The game could continue with 20…Rxe4 21.Rxc7 Re7, when Black’s position is too solid.
In the game, Black hit the center immediately with 20…c5! White can now take on c5 twice, but after 21.dxc5 dxc5 22.Bxc5 Nf4,
The position would still be equal, but it is White who should be careful. This is why in the game, Nepomniachtchi decided to avoid the risk and instead, played 21.e5. Magnus reacted in the best possible way with 21…Qf5, which led to massive trades in the center: 22.dxc5 dxc5 23.Bxc5 Bxc5 24.Rxc5 Nxe5 25.Nxe5 Rxe5 26.Rxe5 Qxe5 27.Qc3 Qxc3 28.bxc3
The endgame is completely equal.
The players would have agreed to a draw even earlier but according to the rules of the match, they are not allowed to draw by agreement before move 40. They traded also the pawns on the queenside and started shuffling the pieces around until the needed number of moves was reached:
28…Rc8 29.Ra5 Rxc3 30.Rxb5 Rc1+ 31.Kh2 Rc3 32.h4 g6 33.g3 h5 34.Kg2 Kg7 35.Ra5 Kf6 36.Rb5 Kg7 37.Ra5 Kf6 38.Rb5! Kg7 39.Ra5 Kf6 40.Ra6+ Kg7 41.Ra7 Finally, a draw was agreed.
At the press conference, Nepomniachtchi concluded, “It was a very balanced game and I believe it was just boring. Roughly speaking, White had some slight advantage. But in a symmetrical pawn structure, despite the control over the a-file, it was like very small. I guess it was a nice idea of 18…Bb3 and 20…c5 by Magnus, simplifying the position. Maybe 20.Rac1 was more worth a try, but I guess it would have been more or less the same: close to equality.”
Magnus Carlsen revealed some of his thoughts prior to the game and commented on the result, “It is okay. I obviously remembered my first match against Vishy Anand when I broke through in the 5th game, and then I managed to gradually equalize in the 6th and eventually win. So I was slightly hoping that we could follow a similar scenario, but a draw is obviously a nice result as well.”
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) December 4, 2021
Carlsen also shared his thoughts regarding the match strategy, “I don’t think being 1-0 at this point changes the strategy drastically for either player.” Nepomniachtchi decided not to comment on this and wisely kept his strategy secret.
At the same time, he explained the reason he doesn’t try something other than 1.e4 against Magnus, “I’m getting much more out of the opening than I expected.” This means he will probably keep trying to break through Carlsen’s Marshall Attack.
Someone also tried to specify Ian’s plans on when to strike in the match. He did not give up many details about this either, “When the time comes.”
Okay, let’s wait. Stay tuned!