Magnus Carlsen retains title after winning lopsided match

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/10/2021 – Magnus Carlsen picked up a fourth win at the World Championship match in Dubai to secure overall victory with three games to spare. Playing black, the world champion saw Ian Nepomniachtchi all but self-destructing for a third time in the match. This was Carlsen’s fourth consecutive successful defence of the title after becoming world champion in 2013. | Photo: Eric Rosen / FIDE

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A complete meltdown

Full expert analysis of the game will be published shortly on our news site. Game 9 will be annotated by former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov!

Magnus CarlsenAs chess history fans know all too well, the world champion at each point in time is not necessarily the strongest player in the world at that very moment. Nowadays, and for quite a while already, there is no doubt about who is the strongest player in the world, but we still relish on the idea of seeing Magnus Carlsen facing the tough task of defending the title against a worthy opponent every two years or so.

One of the greatest in the history of our game, Carlsen won his fifth World Championship match in a row (two in rapid playoffs) shortly after turning 31 years old. Once and again, the man from Tønsberg has proven that he is the very best, and we can only wait and see how the more mature version of the Norwegian deals with the younger generations — i.e. Alireza Firouzja, Andrey Esipenko and the like.

The world champ was asked about Firouzja in the press conference, and he gave a resounding response regarding the youngster’s recent performances:

I was really impressed with his performance in the Grand Swiss and in the European Team Championship, and I would say that motivated me more than anything else.

Carlsen’s fourth successful defence of the world title was rather strange in comparison to previous matches. The latest challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, handled the first five games in style, showing excellent preparation while keeping the score tied against the world number one — who incidentally had already gained plenty of experience in similar situations. 

Then came game 6, the turning point of the confrontation. In a marathon game, which will be repeatedly analysed in the near future, Carlsen came out on top after a rollercoaster battle. The game lasted almost 8 hours and, in hindsight, had a major impact in Nepo’s psychological shape. What followed was nothing short of a disaster for the Russian, who lost three games after horribly blundering simple tactical tricks — especially for players of the highest level.

It is hard to find an example in recent history to compare such a meltdown. The most similar scenario was seen perhaps at the 1995 World Championship, when Vishy Anand lost four games in five attempts after getting up on the scoreboard against Garry Kasparov in game 9.

Magnus Carlsen

Victorious — Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Eric Rosen

Serious Carlsen gets the job done

It is truly astounding to see the development of Carlsen through the years. During the post-match press conference, the Norwegian repeatedly mentioned the level of seriousness with which he approached the match — a fact that was visible for the spectators throughout the confrontation. A cool-headed defending champion used a more conservative approach with the black pieces in comparison to previous matches, and never seemed to lose focus even when things were clearly favourable for him.

As Judit Polgar mentioned during the commentary webcast, we have yet to see how far the champ can go in terms of his competitive abilities. The Hungarian emphasized Carlsen’s capacity to improve and adapt to new circumstances.

Of course, now that Carlsen has won the World Championship match five times, the discussion regarding who is the best player of all time continues to heat up, as the Norwegian is getting closer to Kasparov’s record of seven wins in similar matches. Carlsen’s response when asked about this discussion was categorical:

I’m not done with my career yet.

A big sports fan, Carlsen shared a picture of the late Kobe Bryant celebrating a fifth NBA title shortly after winning the match

The work needed to win a chess match for the highest title is not done by a single person. Both Carlsen and Nepo thanked their teams of analysts and assistants for the work done during the match, with the world champion’s top aide Peter Heine Nielsen soon after sharing on Twitter the full lineup of seconds that ‘won’ the theoretical side of the combat.

Besides Heine Nielsen, the team included Laurent Fressinet (France), Jan Gustafsson (Germany), Jorden van Foreest (the Netherlands) and Daniil Dubov (Russia).

Heine Nielsen’s wife Viktorija Cmilyte congratulated Carlsen, but also her husband, who is on the winning side of a World Championship match for an astounding eighth time!

“He just wants to lose”

For a third time in about a week, the game was decided by a blunder. Nepo was certainly out of sorts after the painful loss in game 6, and gave away three whole points in the most important event of his career by making mistakes that are unlikely to appear even twice at an elite round-robin event.

Out of an Italian Opening, Carlsen both kept things under control and created enough difficult questions for his opponent to get a victory if things went wrong for the Russian — as had been the case twice before in the match. The approach worked wonders, with Nepo badly blundering on move 23.


23.g3, played after a 9-minute reflection, demonstrates that the challenger horribly miscalculated perhaps the most forcing line in the position. Commentator Anish Giri quickly assessed the situation as a subconscious sabotaging process by Nepo, who simply wanted to get over with the match. Giri stated, noting how unlikely it is for a player of the challenger’s calibre to make such a mistake:

He just wants to lose. 

Carlsen did not need long to show the refutation, starting with 23...dxe3 24.gxf4 Qxg4+ 25.Kf1 Qh3+ 26.Qg1 Nf5


The knight jump to f5 was not the most precise continuation, with 26...exf2+ leading to an easily winning position. Carlsen’s choice was still winning, however. The contenders eventually entered a rook endgame, which was at all times clearly winning for Black, although the champ did not always find the quickest path to victory.

In line with his play during the match, though, Carlsen never lost focus and showed good nerves until getting a 49-move win. The 31-year-old star had cool-headedly secured a fifth World Chess Championship title in his illustrious career!

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Magnus Carlsen

Ian Nepomniachtchi resigns the World Championship match with a smile | Photo: Niki Riga

All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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Peter B Peter B 12/13/2021 05:56
"Kasparov’s record of seven wins in similar matches" -- don't you mean 6? 4 against Karpov (85, 86, 87, 90), 1 against Short and 1 against Anand.
Euxeinos Euxeinos 12/12/2021 09:02
By the way, it's suggested that Magnus Carlsen has Saudi Arab origins and that Alireza Firouzja is a retard. His rivalry with Carlsen would be linked to the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict.
Euxeinos Euxeinos 12/12/2021 08:11

Another athlete who wad found to be radio controlled is K-1 Heavyweight Champion Badr Hari. He once knocked out his opponent with a weak left punch just when the center of his mass was on the right leg and he was about to be knocked out (YouTube — Badr Hari v Domagoj Ostojic)

Former ATP No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is radio controlled too. Tsonga was spotted to have lost conscience during an interview and to have reactivated out of nowehere (YouTube — Interview: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga)

Carlsen might fool the ones in the league office, but he doesn't fool Jesus. This bush league psyche-out stuff.
Euxeinos Euxeinos 12/12/2021 08:09

You may hear this for the first time, but Magnus Carlsen's 5 world championship titles. Allegedly, Carlsen operates by a so called radiohead technology, meaning the remote neural monitoring of his opponents’ brain functions and the remote neural stimulation of Carlsen's nervous system.

The new details emerged only after September 11 2020, which marked the Ethiopian New Year and the astrological transition from the Pieces Age to the Aquarius Age. The lastest buzz came right after the War in Afghanistan (August 30 2021). The spill is that Magnus Carlsen was just like the telepathic boy in the last X-Files episode, about whom Mulder believed that he could read the minds of his opponents and held the secrets to all the mysteries of the X-Files (the X-Files get destroyed in the same episode).

The only other celebrity who’s suspected of using radiohead technology is Dynamo the Magician. Things went bad when an unseen assistant set up a selected card in the mirror just after decoding Samuel L. Jackson's visual cortex activity.

The new buzz explains why Carlsen’s opening game is rather weak for such a great photographic memory, how it was possible to win several World Blitz and Rapid Chess Championships by playing such weak openings, how come he looks like a Norse berserker, how come his interviews are kinda stupid or why he even thought of cheating like a low life during strong chess events (vs. Shavchenko or Kosteniuk)

It also shed light upon the infamous Carlsen - Inarkiev controversy that took place during the 2017 World Blitz Championship. Carlsen would've forgotten that Inarkiev was already in check when Inarkiev checked Carlsen because Carlsen was focused on Inarkiev’s brain activity and reacted to his decision to check.
Krishna Mohan Krishna Mohan 12/12/2021 02:41
Magnus needs to freshen up. As Wanda Sykes said in Evan Almighty - "he looks like a bum in a suit"
Nepo too - the guy lost his hair as well. One can see the toll a match like this takes on the players. We'd like to see great games, but burning out the players in the process is counterproductive. Not sure how we can fix this. As @JackCrabb pointed out maybe its time for teams to add a sports psychologist to its ranks.

That said, we had some gems in this match - like game 6. A heartfelt thank you to the players.
malfa malfa 12/12/2021 11:29
@GabrielCuri: the evaluation scale of Informator (like any other) is if little help when playing a practical game, where giving mate when you have a chance is better than not... Even with all the supreme Carlsen's technique I doubt that when he played ...Nf5 he calculated the outcome of the Q & pawns vs. R & pawns to the end, whereas ...Rd6 would have been simple and immediately decisive.

@bbrodinsky: never give even the slightest chance to levele the score, even when you are 35-0...
genem genem 12/12/2021 09:27
@oldsalt7 wrote {
We need to pick eight best players and have them play one on one matches ( QF, SF & Finals ) to decide the next challenger to the World Champion. As Fischer did in 1971.

Your 1-on-1 matches approach would cost a lot more money. Unless you are offering to put up the extra money, then...
JackCrabb JackCrabb 12/11/2021 11:03
Maybe Nepo's biggest blunder wasn't made on the board, but stinting the money for a mental coach when building up his team. Any halfway talented psychologist should have detected the crack in Nepo's mental balance after game 6, and could have worked out a suitable cure. The usefulness of sport psychologists in competitions like this is beyond question nowadays, being too mean or ignorant to hire one is just silly.
soon2800 soon2800 12/11/2021 06:42
Nepo: i am the candidates winner

Carlsen: i am Jhonny Sins
soon2800 soon2800 12/11/2021 06:41
Firouja is next to be butchered.
soon2800 soon2800 12/11/2021 06:39
“ oldsalt7 3 hours ago
We need to pick eight best players and have them play one on one matches ( QF, SF & Finals ) to decide the next challenger to the World Champion. As Fischer did in 1971. This way hopefully the most deserving candidate will be found. That said, in present form, Mighty Magnus will defeat all comers.”

Then suddenly Nepo wins in that format and you suggest another better format.
soon2800 soon2800 12/11/2021 06:37
“Mike Magnan 12/10/2021 11:32
I sort of wish it were not so lopsided...“

Like, with less decisive games and rather more draws? 🤔
thenfly thenfly 12/11/2021 06:34
Lopsided ? Wasn't everybody moaning about all the draws ?
oldsalt7 oldsalt7 12/11/2021 03:19
We need to pick eight best players and have them play one on one matches ( QF, SF & Finals ) to decide the next challenger to the World Champion. As Fischer did in 1971. This way hopefully the most deserving candidate will be found. That said, in present form, Mighty Magnus will defeat all comers.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/11/2021 03:05
@Michael Jones I agree. Calling a move a blunder using an engine at great depth is like saying that the cosmologists of the early 20th century, who believed there is a single galaxy were noobs, because we now know they were wrong. It's ridiculous. A chess blunder is a mistaken move that one ought not to make at the chess board. If the move is disproven by deep analysis of an engine, then calling it an inaccuracy is adequate. Calling it a "blunder" implies that the player should have found the precise continuation, expecting the human to be a superhuman.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/11/2021 03:02
Congratulations for Carlsen! He won the match deservedly. I was hoping for Nepo and given the fact of how nicely he has won the candidates, he had his chances. Game 6 was a disaster for him from which he could not recover. But he is still a chess hero as well. He played excellent chess until the turning point and handled his loss in this most important match like a truly noble gentleman.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 12/11/2021 02:50
@rakerchess: I told you before, if it requires an engine to identify that a move is a blunder, then as far as a practical game between two humans is concerned, it isn't. It's only a blunder in practice if the opponent could reasonably be expected to find the refutation - which roughly equates to "if the commentators see it", since Giri is of similar strength to Nepo.
milog milog 12/11/2021 02:26
People obsessively citing the engine‘s evaluation and criticizing ‚obvious blunders‘ of top players are just showing their complete lack of understanding of tournament chess and human chess in general.
As to the match, congrats to Magnus, a truly deserved winner and great world champion. I do feel sorry for Ian, who must be disappointed with how things went down from game 6 on. Nevertheless, he rightfully qualified for the match, which is absolutely not an easy thing to do. Good luck to the next challenger!
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 12/11/2021 01:04
Calling Carlsen’s moves in the last game “blunders” is absurd. It’s like if a (American) football team is up 35-0 in the Super Bowl, wins 35-14, and we talk about how badly they played.
Theochessman Theochessman 12/11/2021 12:14
Is so NOT want a book about this match!
GabrielCuri GabrielCuri 12/11/2021 12:00
Malfa... I offer my idea of what a blunder is. Given the Informator clasification (White is winning, White is clearly better, White is slightly better, equial, Black is slightly better, Black is clearly better, Black is winning), a blunder is a move that "jumps" two degrees in that scale.
In this way of seeing things, Nepo playing g3 is a blunder, because it turns an equal position into a lost one. While Carlsen`s ... Nf5 is not. It is not the most precise move, but the evaluation of the position remains the same: black is winning
Wiles Wiles 12/11/2021 11:31
My feeling is that the transition to more careful, universal player that Nepo made to win the candidates, hindered him in this match, he ended up trying to take Magnus on with white, in slow positional games, where the world champion is most at home. Even if Nepo had saved game 6, I reckon Magnus would have grounded and pounded Nepo into submission over the next few games. Nepo is no Karjakin he needed more active fighting games. Would Nepo have then won, I doubt it, but he might have showed what he is capable of.....
malfa malfa 12/11/2021 10:34
@fixpont: it is true that if game 2 was so eventful it was mainly because Carlsen unusually took too many risks, but about game 6 you are clearly wrong: it was Nepo's choice to unbalance the game by offering the exchange of his rooks for White's queen, and he was in no way forced to do it. It is only from that critical juncture on that the game exploded, since had Nepo played differently he would have most probably secured himself another not so eventful draw like in the previous games. I would even dare to claim that the decision was the real turning point of the match, after which "Nepo A", as Sam Shankland put it, was gradually replaced over the board by "Nepo B", his dark side.

@rakerchess: of course Carlsen made mistakes too and to tell the truth I do not understand all this hype about his "computer-like" play, were it not for the plain fact that the winner is always right... And I am the only one to think that he made a comparable blunder to Nepo's 23.g3 when he replied with 26...Nf5 instead of the very simple and killing 26...exf2+ followed by ...Rd6?
fixpont fixpont 12/11/2021 09:06
this just shows how different playing a match against MC than playing a tournament against 7-9 opponents

there were real fights in only 2 games, game 2 and game 6 both of them thx to MC, Ian did not do anything meaningful except blundering 3 times

weakest challenger and weakest WC match in recent history
rakerchess rakerchess 12/11/2021 08:28
A very simple game.

The Beast (Fat Fritz 2 running on 48 cores) shows equality all the way, until Nepo blundered with 23 g3??-+. Nepo could have retained equality with 23 Rd4 Rd4 24 cd4 Nd5 25 Nd5 Qd5 26 Qc7 Qd4 27 b3 Qf6=.

Carlsen then mopped up in his usual efficient and pragmatic way, and kept a winning advantage until Nepo finally resigned on move 49.

Nepo showed himself to be one of the most inept and lazy (he spent so little time at the board that he could hardly be said to be concentrating on the goal of trying to defeat Carlsen) challengers in recent history. He will never recover from this disaster.

Giri commented yesterday that, during the entire match, although Carlsen had made some small mistakes, he never blundered (Judith Polgar chose to be diplomatic, and did not comment, but her body language spoke volumes).

Really? Either he's not using analysis tools at the Beast's level, or he's being more than slightly disingenuous (to put it mildly). In the sixth game, Carlsen's 33 Rd1?? and 40 Ne4??= were both clearly blunders, according to the Beast.
karavamudan karavamudan 12/11/2021 05:12
Boring precise draws or collapses? Take your pick.

Nepo is a great player no doubt and he will have to rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.
To beat Carlsen, perhaps it is wise to remember Gligoric's book title "I play against the pieces"

Do that and practice like crazy in rapids, blitz and Armageddon
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 12/11/2021 02:00
To be fair, Anish's comment "he just wants to lose" should be put in context. That was a comment on the channel with Judith Polgar during the last game. Anish was referring precisely to that last game, and said that once Ian saw the the game would likely finish in a draw, with no chance for him to win, despite counscious efforts, there could be a subconsious part which did not want to take any of this anymore, did not want to play another game in a situation where there is no hope. The subconsicous part would have said "I'm getting out of here" to kind of quote Anish.
Masquer Masquer 12/11/2021 12:09
Careful what one wishes for - not too long ago everyone was afraid of 14 straight draws.
oxygenes oxygenes 12/11/2021 12:01
Funny thing, that in noticed game Saric - Yankelevich both players miscalculated 16.- Bxf2 17.Kxf2 Dxh2 and white has problem.
elmaestro1967 elmaestro1967 12/10/2021 11:55
Carlsen is the best!! He will beat Kasparov's world championship record... go Carlsen!!!
Mike Magnan Mike Magnan 12/10/2021 11:32
I sort of wish it were not so lopsided...
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 12/10/2021 10:51
Ominous picture. Is Heine Nielsen his second or his bodyguard? And the guy with the sunglasses, the assasin of choice for the moment?
Theochessman Theochessman 12/10/2021 09:40
Lopsided to say the least.
After game 6, Nepo just collapsed ans lost one game after the other.