World Championship Game 7: Black is fine

by Antonio Pereira
11/19/2018 – Another day, another draw. The long-awaited 2018 World Championship has seen the players hold their own with the black pieces, and even get the upper hand — once Caruana and once Carlsen — when having to move second. The seventh game was a Queen's Gambit Declined where Fabiano unleashed the first surprise and ended up getting a rather comfortable half point. DANIEL FERNANDEZ and YANNICK PELLETIER took a closer look at what happened over the board | Photos: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

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No breakthrough

Tension keeps rising in London, as the uncertainty that surrounded this match before it began has been extended until more than half its course. Leading up to the event, we saw how Fabiano Caruana got increasingly closer to Magnus Carlsen's previously insurmountable first place in the ratings list. Nonetheless, the Norwegian somehow held on to his post despite, for example, facing lower-rated opposition at the European Club Cup. It seems like Magnus feels the danger looming and is trying to keep things under control. After all, he stated prior to the match:

On paper this is my absolute worst opponent. That's why I think the match will be different than previously.

We could also speculate that some memories from his previous experience in New York might be playing a role in the champion's mind. Lars Bo Hansen recently posted an article where he analysed what went on in the 2016 match, stating that in game eight — the first decisive encounter, which favoured Karjakin — "Carlsen over-reached in his attempts to finally break through". This time around, Magnus might not want to make the same mistake.

These are only two of the many factors that lead us to think that the psychological component might play an increasingly bigger role in this duel. Certainly, getting a win after seven draws will be a bigger deal than if the win would have come in game two, for example.

Magnus with Shreyas Royal, the 9-year-old prodigy that made the opening move on Sunday

From Caruana's side, on the other hand, losing might actually give him a boost of confidence. At least that is what happened in the last Candidates Tournament, where he pointed out that his loss in round twelve — against Karjakin, curiously — was in fact helpful: 

After I lost that game I felt awful for a few hours, but then the next day I felt much better. It was like a weight was lifted from me. My play was so heavy for a few days and it culminated in that loss, and after I lost that game I started to feel much freer in my play and more confident.

Fabiano Caruana had no trouble with Black

Who will crack under pressure? We will find out in the next week and a half.

Game 7 summary

GM Daniel King is in London and encapsulated Sunday's action in a short video:

A quiet killer

When we think of surprises in the opening, we might recall Kasparov's big theoretical breakthroughs in sharp Najdorfs or Kramnik's extensive analysis of the Berlin Defence, but sometimes a quiet move can also have a large effect on the outcome of a game. Caruana showed precisely that in a Queen's Gambit Declined. After repeating nine moves from game two, Carlsen deviated with 10.Nd2, and a well-prepared Caruana quickly responded with a surprise:


10...Be7 and 10...Bb4 are the most common moves in this position, but the American went for the more conservative 10...Qd8. Carlsen took around 10-15 minutes in each of his next four moves, signalling that this was not what he expected — although, of course, he knew the variation.

Natural developing moves continued and, after 14...Ne5, Carlsen castled, which in his own word is "an admission that the position is equal":


Magnus could have played 15.Nce4 instead of 15.0-0, getting a sharper position. However, he did not think it was worth the try — Caruana (and computers) also thought Black was fine in the ensuing complications.

Eventually, the game petered into a draw by move 40. On Monday's game, Fabiano will have the white pieces again. Will we see another Rossolimo Sicilian? Anish Giri thinks so: 

Game 7 analysed by GM Daniel Fernandez

English GM Daniel Fernandez closely analysed a game that took place in " of the thematic battlegrounds of the world champions".


The Reliable Petroff

The Petroff (or Russian) Defence which is characterised by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 has been popular at the highest levels for many years and enjoys the reputation of being an extremely solid defence.

Match standings


Round-up shows

All games of the match



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


Rules for reader comments


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dumkof dumkof 11/19/2018 07:10
Yes, they are afraid to step out and take risks, because the match is simply too short. In case of a loss, there is little time to recover and this adds needless pressure to the players. Worldclass players are forced to play passively, and can't fully exploit their potential.
Most chess fans here repeatedly offered a longer match, with at least 16 games (up to 24, which has been the standard for decades), but noone seems to care.
Unfortunately, organizers and sponsors have other priorities, than elevating the quality and joy of chess.
ex0 ex0 11/19/2018 05:49
Ajeeb007: we already have Ding Liren who beat Tals record just recently. His games are always interesting and he always plays aggressively and for a win. And IMO he would make a great challenger in terms of entertainment over the board and he's strong enough to win too.
Popvinnik Popvinnik 11/19/2018 02:36
I recall the 1995 WC match starting off with 8 consecutive draws until Anand scored the first win. And I can hardly believe that Kasparov (or Anand for that matter) wasn't trying for wins in most, if not all of them. Sometimes they just cannot be conjured up.
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 11/19/2018 01:16
These guys are afraid to step out and take some risks. The chess world needs another Tal.
dumkof dumkof 11/19/2018 10:41
Some of the games reached positions with evaluation scores up to ±3, which should be easily convertable, especially at this level. Both players play below their strengths.
Lightning McQueen Lightning McQueen 11/19/2018 10:24
I Think Round 8 Will Also Be a Draw By Them!
geraldsky geraldsky 11/19/2018 05:09
If you want to equalize play the Petroff Defense