World Championship Game 9: A missed chance for Magnus

by Antonio Pereira
11/22/2018 – After saving a draw in the previous game, Magnus Carlsen recovered by getting a clean advantage with the white pieces for the first time in the 2018 World Championship match. He pushed for a win in a no-risk opposite-coloured bishops position, but a pragmatic Fabiano Caruana found enough resources to salvage the half point. So we have seen nine straight draws and there is almost no room for mistakes now, with only three classical games to go. Star analysis by DAVID NAVARA and ERWIN L'AMI. | Photos: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

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A historic streak

When Sergey Karjakin qualified to be the Challenger in the previous World Championship match, it was rather expected that we would see a high number of draws. After all, the Russian received the moniker of Minister of Defence, and he was facing the ever-positional Magnus Carlsen, a player not used to force an opening advantage á-la-Kasparov. The same cannot be said about this match.

Nonetheless, Magnus and Fabiano Caruana now hold the record for the longest streak of draws seen at the start of a World Championship match. Previously, Kasparov and Anand had drawn the first eight games in their 1995 New York City match. On the other hand, the record for the longest streak of draws will not be broken this year — or in the foreseeable future — as Karpov and Kasparov drew first 17 and then 13 consecutive times in their infamous 1984-85 aborted duel.

But this match will also be remembered for probably being the first time that a player arrived in the board with a black eye — the defending champion was hit while playing soccer on the rest day. The culprit was NRK Reporter Emil Gukild, who talked to Danny King about the incident, mentioning that Carlsen kept playing for half an hour and was mostly worried about getting someone else in the field to substitute him! 

Speaking of streaks, Tarjei Svensen mentioned on Twitter that this is Carlsen's longest streak of draws — he last did not share a point in the second round of the European Club Cup, when he defeated Vladimir Potkin. It remains to be seen whether the 14-game streak will be broken in the coming days, as the tension keeps rising in London.

Apparently, the pressure is now shared by both players, as the Norwegian's advantage of having previous match experience might already have evaporated by this time — at least if we go by Caruana's calm demeanour at the board and during the press conferences. As Carlsen had predicted:

I have an advantage that eventually will be gone, but if I get a few punches in the beginning — not necessarily speaking about winning games — then the pressure on Caruana will become worse.

Only three games remain and giving a forecast has become increasingly difficult.

Caruana does no longer look like the new kid on the block

Game 9 summary

GM Daniel King provides a 7-minute look at the main events of the day:

Magnus' dream scenario

Game nine saw the World Champion getting what could be traditionally expected of him: a clean and safe small advantage with the white pieces. After following the opening line seen in game four, Carlsen deviated with 9.Bg5, which gave him both a comfortable position and a large advantage on the clock. As David Navara mentioned in his great annotations (see below), "Black players have been doing very well in this match. Magnus, therefore, sort of 'switched colours' [with his opening choice]".

On move 17, Caruana took a drastic decision:


The Challenger decided he wanted to clarify the situation and went into an inferior opposite-coloured bishops position with 17...Bxf3?! — it was time for Magnus to show his skills at converting a small advantage.

From then on, however, Fabiano defended tenaciously and was up to the task when a brave decision was called for:


Caruana went for counterplay by playing 25...gxh5, damaging his pawn structure but trusting his calculations. A few moves later, a draw became the most-likely outcome of the struggle. 

And the point was split on move 56.

All tied so far in the much-awaited match

Match standings


Game 9 press conference

Game 9 analysed by David Navara

Top Czech player David Navara took a deeper look at the game and gave some elite perspective to the fact that all the games have been drawn so far: 

We all have probably hoped to see more decisive games, but it is really very hard to beat a 2800-rated player.


Round-up shows

GM Erwin l'Ami reviews the game

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.
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Joe Boronka Joe Boronka 11/23/2018 08:50
Caruana has a place in history now, as he is drawing Magnus who is legendary in squeesing out a win for even positions , Caruana has been able to hold his game together :) so Kudos to both players
Pichy59 Pichy59 11/22/2018 11:31
I agree FIDE should change the rules for the Next match and imposes that in case the match ends up in draw after 12 games the current champions should keep his crown, and that is fair, that should be the advantage of being a champion, plus it will force the challenger to be more aggressive instead of looking for a way to force a draw in every game. It is the responsibility of the challenger to fight with all his will to win and NOT to draw, by implying this new rule we will be able to see a more fighting chess especially from the challenger who really needs to force the battle, since the Champion is already the Champion and does not need to take risks, but the challenger do. Another reason why the challenger does not take any risks is because FIDE has a current rule that if the match gets to end in a draw after 12 games the challenger gets a bigger piece of the pie, more money $$,$$$.00
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/22/2018 09:55
@ turok: Fischer was EXTREMELY strong, but I certainly wouldn't say that he is the tougher player ever: he never even obtained a 50-games unbeaten streak, let alone a 100-games streak, as Ding Liren...
turok turok 11/22/2018 05:02
It is funny and shows how tough Fischer was and how nonsense it is when people do not see how awesome it was in the candidates when he had his winning streak without draws vs top GM players.
Vidmar Vidmar 11/22/2018 04:04
Compare the draws in Fischer/Spassky with these milquetoast affairs.
Look at Game 6, 13; instant Immortals.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/22/2018 03:10
Slight error in the article: the second draws' streak in the 1984 Karpov - Kasparov match was a 14-games' streak, and not a 13-games' streak (games 33 to 46 of the match).
fixpont fixpont 11/22/2018 11:53
IdesofMarch: imagine if this match went for 6 wins....we would be here until the next century.
IdesofMarch IdesofMarch 11/22/2018 10:48
Where is Bobby Fischer when Carlsen needs him?
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 11/22/2018 08:44
After the the weariying nine games,this chamjpionship will be won by player who has stamina, physically asnd mentally. Carlsen has advantage, a veteran on this kind of play. . But Caruana is practicing yoga, could be like Bobby Fischer who reclosed himself during the match. keeping himself undisturbed, refreshed, renewed