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

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register