World Championship Game 5: Even Gurgenidze is not enough to win

by André Schulz
11/16/2018 – In today's 5th game of the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, the two players honoured Georgian champion Bukhtuti Gurgenidze with their opening selection and after a mild-mannered struggle, the game ended in a draw. (The 2017 World Junior Champion GM ARYAN TARI annotates.) The press conference, however, was once again lively. When asked which player Carlsen most admired from the past, he brought down the house with the original reply, "myself from three or four years ago". | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

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"Each an every round is more and more tense"

The first game of the World Championship was exciting, even thrilling, but since then the match has been growing more stolid from game to game. The fourth game on Tuesday was almost boring, and once more we see the first articles appearing about the alleged draw death of chess, with suggestions made and debated about what one could change. But the draw is just part of the game; for the entertainment value, we ought not look so much to the result, but to how it comes about.

There have been longer drawing streaks at world championships provoking the same sort of discussion. Yet on Thursday, a game following a rest day, although the draw was short, it came from an exciting opening.

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Re1 e5 6.b4 the so-called Gurgenidze variation was on the board. 


Now as it happens, two days ago was the 85th birthday of the ingenious Georgian grandmaster, which was celebrated on ChessBase (in German). The story includes some original lines which are named after Gurgenidze, including the position above from the Rossolimo Sicilian. Two days later, Fabiano Caruana plays this variation on the board! A coincidence? Perhaps, although from time to time, Caruana's head coach Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who lives in Germany, may be inclined to read our German news page...The opening will also have pleased Gurgenidze's student Nana Alexandria, who serves as the deputy arbiter in London.

The first move by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales as arbiters Nana Alexandria and Stephane Escafre look on | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

Carlsen was not caught flat-footed today | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

But surprisingly the variation did not appear to come as a surprise for Magnus Carlsen. The World Champion took away the gambited pawn with the his knight and both opponents played the position apace — especially Caruana, but Carlsen was not far behind on the clock.

On the Today in Chess webcast by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Caruana's second, GM Cristian Chirila, who's in London for the match was a guest in a lengthy and interesting segment.

As the game developed, Caruana was briefly up two pawns, but was badly lagging in development and quickly gave the material back with interest.

“I cannot lie to you and say I’m happy with the opening outcome but it is what it is. Fabiano will have to shield some pressure and go through the storm and potentially equalise the game. I don’t think he’s going to have much problems doing so.”

Caruana spent over 30 minutes to play 19.Bc3:


Co-host GM Jesse Kraai asked Chirila, half-joking, “does [Bc3] make you sick to your stomach?”

“It’s a difficult position especially because of those angry bishops, especially the light squared Bishop", replied Chirila. The knight on b1 is not looking great at the moment. He’s going to have to find a way to get him out. Of course, if you play d3 then the bishop on c3 is no longer going to be safe also the pawn on d3 is going to be attacked via Bb3-c2, potentially. It’s a very uncomfortable position but at the same time…what else? If you play Bb2 then Ra2 comes and you're forced to play Bc3 again. If you go Nc3 then you’re most probably going to have some problems with the bishop on a1 but I’m also not sure what you’re to do after Nc4 because I’m threatening Nc2 and if Black manages to get the c7 pawn as well he’s going to have a passed pawn on the b-file and that’s going to be extremely dangerous. So it’s decision time for Fabiano, that’s for sure. Is he going to allow Black to get the pawn on b4 or is he going to accept a passive defence?

In the endgame with a rook and two minor pieces, Caruana was then even a pawn down. But there was little reason to expect that could be enough for Carlsen to make a run at the full point. And indeed, on the 34th move, Caruana offered a draw and Carlsen accepted.

“Each an every round is more and more tense", Chirila confessed, "but at the same time we are taking it one game at a time, and it seems like Fabiano is doing exactly that…He’s extremely confident. He believes that he can take this title away from Magnus.”

Current match score


Posted less than a week before Game 1, Chirila (centre) with GMs Alejandro Ramirez and Rustam Kasimdzhanov

Game 5 summary

GM Daniel King provides a 5-minute look at the main events of the day:

Game 5 press conference

Game 5 annotated by GM Aryan Tari

During Game 5, a technical snafu disrupted the first hour of commentary, and so the staff at World Chess wisely decided to switch to YouTube as a backup, which means that the full 3+ hours of commentary is available for all.

First 40 minutes of Game 5 commentary by GM Judit Polgar and IM Anna Rudolf

The remainder of Game 5 commentary by GM Judit Polgar and IM Anna Rudolf

All games 1-4 (annotated)


All round-up shows

ChessBase commentators break down the day's action in a free live video. The show is available on-demand for replay any time with a ChessBase Premium account

Click a prior game in the video list to switch

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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