World Championship Game 3: A ‘dumb’ move, a draw

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/28/2021 – The battle of theoretical preparations continues at the World Championship match, with Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi signing a third consecutive draw on Sunday before the first rest day in Dubai. Once again, the defending champion deviated from mainstream theory only to see his opponent well prepared and ready to discuss the ensuing sidelines. | Photo: Eric Rosen

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Mind tricks

Full expert analysis of the game will be published shortly on our news site. Game 3 will be annotated by fan favourite and Czech star David Navara.

English grandmaster Michael Adams wondered two days ago, in his annotations to the first game of the match, whether Magnus Carlsen would repeat his opening choice in his second game with black within a three-day span — i.e. the Marshall. Of course, after seeing what he had prepared against 1.e4, Ian Nepomniachtchi’s team would pay extra attention to setups similar to the one appearing on the board on Friday. In game 3, Carlsen demonstrated that he has more tricks up his sleeve in this system.

Talking to Tania Sachdev right after the game had finished in a draw, the world champion referred to his 10...Re8 as ‘a dumb move’, noting that playing this move after having pushed his pawn to d6 did not quite make sense.


Of course, that was a tongue-in-cheek comment. In reality, by making that move, Carlsen had managed to once again purposefully take his opponent away from the most often discussed theoretical lines. However, also for a third day in a row, winning the opening psychological battle did not amount to a full point for the Norwegian — Nepo was as ready to face the rook move as he had been to deal with 8...Na5 two days ago.

Notably, a man who knows plenty about World Championship matches had predicted that Nepo was going to play 1.e4 again in his second game with white: Vishy Anand told the energetic crew of ChessBase India that the Russian’s decision probably had to do with the new scheduling put forth by FIDE in the match. Now that there is a rest day only after three games, it made sense for Nepo’s team not to make a drastic change before having a rest — we can expect new surprises to be sprung starting Tuesday, though.

Another critical position was reached on move 21.


Two continuations by Black are correct at this point — 21...d5, which would lead to simplifications, and 21...c6. Carlsen chose the latter, which prompted Anish Giri to share an insight regarding the world champion:

That’s one of the things that separates Magnus from other top players — that when he has equalized with Black and has a choice between the vacuum mode or keeping the tension, he keeps the tension.

Given the nature of the position, though, the players’ decisions on move 21 were the last ones that needed more than a few minutes of thought. After 22.Bc6, Black’s only reasonable response was 22...d5, and the position was soon simplified into a drawn bishop endgame. The players agreed to split the point for a third consecutive day on move 41.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Magnus Carlsen

Ian Nepomniachtchi opening the game with 1.e4 | Photo: Eric Rosen

Both players were visibly relaxed in the post-game press conference. Carlsen had won three opening battles and obtained three draws after getting two blacks at the outset of the match, while Nepo is facing the biggest challenge of his career against one of the greatest in history — three half points are certainly not half bad for the Russian, under these circumstances.

The one thing that did bother the world champion was to find out that he is forced to take an anti-doping test after the press conference.

Carlsen has a full schedule after the test, though. As shared by Anand during the live commentary stream, usually the nights before rest days are the most relaxing for the players. They get to unwind, as it does not make sense to start preparing for the next game yet, and getting some relaxing time is always a good idea. As for the world champion, he plans to watch the Premier League’s Chelsea vs Manchester United, La Liga’s Real Madrid vs Sevilla and the NBA’s LA Clippers vs Golden State!

Connecting to his aforementioned response, journalists asked Carlsen about his views regarding chess as sport or science. The Norwegian has repeatedly emphasized that he prefers the sportive side of the royal game. So how could chess be made more attractive for fans in this sense? Carlsen has a clear answer: to shorten the time controls, or at least present a mix of classical and rapid in the World Championship cycle.

As could not be otherwise, the fact that we have only seen draws in the last two World Championship matches came up. After both players explained that there is little they can do about it, the following exchange put an end to a very enjoyable press conference:

M. Ashley: What will people remember about Magnus Carlsen fifty years from now?

M. Carlsen: I think talking about legacy during a match is a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down. But, hopefully, it will be somebody who won a classical game in a World Championship match after the year 2016 (smiles).

Games 4 and 5 will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday, prior to the second rest day amid the 14-game match.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

In good spirits | 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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genem genem 12/1/2021 06:40
@bbrodinsky , As of 2021/11/30 it is actually 17 consecutive draws in the latest stretch of long time-control games in Match World Chess Championship games (not merely 15). You might be right that the oppresively high draw rate would be reduced if the time-control was reduced.

I feel that the thousands of international or grandmaster games played every year already provide us with enough very high quality chess. So the MWCChamp event could afford to shift emphasis to fan excitement. As Mig Greengaard once said, action must also happen on the score board, not just on the chess board.

However, reducing the time-control would also reduce the prestige of the MWCChamp title, which is unacceptable. On the other hand, the extremely high draw rate in so many MWCChamp events is already reducing the prestige.

For fan excitement, I would welcome more experimentation with so-called 'Lightning' style time-controls, such as a 30 second delay per move throughout the whole game (with each player starting with only 1 minute of initial time). No player would have enough time to solve any complex situation his daring opponent chose to create. That limitation, along with ongoing time pressure, is how we generate the errors necessary to reduce the draw rate.

Sadly, nothing other than errors can reduce the draw rate by a lot.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 11/30/2021 01:58
if you're merely interested in even more "top quality" chess, let's make the time control 40/5 hours, or something like that. You'll get the dream: no errors, all draws, perfect chess.... Better yet, let's abandon the clock altogether! Why let the clock get in the way of "top quality" chess?

However one slices it, there have been 15 draws in a row in the WCC slow games. That is absolutely intolerable as the public face of the game. If a purpose of the WCC is to "grow the game", as it should be, this is an absolutely dismal failure. And the games do not rise to the level of "excitement" as they did in, say, the 1970s. Anybody who calls these matches exciting, probably isn't old enough to have enough experience to even make that determination. I go back to Petrosian-Spassky 1966, and believe me, every match in the 20th century was more exciting than any match in the 21st.

We have no choice but to speed up the games. That, or drop the prize money for winning the match, but pay the players to win (or even lose) a game.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 11/29/2021 09:48
You are completely right. (Yes, we can agree!) However, there is a big problem. Chess has become a professional sport, and that in such a way that not only players earn money from it, but also big companies. These companies look at which people are the biggest group in the chess world. And that is formed by the people with a rating between about 1100 and 1600. So whatever you and me want, is not important for those companies. If it just would stay there, there would not be a problem: give the masses bread and games, and the philosophers a forum. However, our chess federation, gens una sumus, wants to spread The Word and is likely to follow the guys with the greatest power to do so, tending to for instance make online chess just as acceptable as over-the-board chess (if you can digest the latter term without wanting for the poison chalice – the fate of philosophers). And the top players are not going to bite the hand that feeds.
So, we can resist for a while, but I'm afraid to no avail.
Of course chessbase is not targeted here... let's say they are trying to lift the masses above the 1600 level.
AlphaZero1 AlphaZero1 11/29/2021 06:59
Make Random Chess mainstream. Players will still play it at very high level
Derek McGill Derek McGill 11/29/2021 06:10
genem, Watch the Fischer random WC when it's on and Theochessman, If you do not like the fact that there a lot of draws watch the Blitz and Rapid WC.
Glossu Glossu 11/29/2021 03:43
Certainly sleepy
genem genem 11/29/2021 01:03
The annotations for game 3 claim that the first Novel move of the game was 15..Nc6 (from d7). Thus it took 30 moves to generate anything new to analyze. Sticking with long time controls, it might reduce the suffocatingly high draw rate if the match chose one sensible start setup from chess9LX (aka chess960, aka FRC), and stuck with that setup for the entire match. Reuse of a nonclassical start setup would certainly provide something Novel to analyze starting from move 1.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/29/2021 11:55
Draws are natural part of the game. When I watch the World Championship match, I want to see top quality chess and, from my perspective it is unacceptable to drop the quality of the games just to satisfy the appetite of non-players who watch the faces of the players more than the game. I enjoyed all three games tremendously. If one wants to see decisive games, independently of the content, then I recommend amateur chess. For us, who are interested to see the best the players can produce I'm sure that a good game is more interesting than its result. The first two games were very fascinating. This third one was interesting as well, but not as much as the first two according to my humble opinion. If the time controls would be quickened up in order to artificially reduce the quality of the game with the goal of having more decisive games, then I'm not sure I would follow those games.
rakerchess rakerchess 11/29/2021 05:24
Another "perfect" game, my computer program (the "Beast") had no significant comments whatsoever (this is probably the first time I've experienced no comments by the Beast, but then, I don't usually analyze draws).
It looks like Nepo is happy to draw as white, and is counting on beating Carlsen as black, as Carlsen overreaches with the white pieces. For example, Nepo had a winning position twice during the second game (according to the Beast).
Also, Nepo would not be unhappy to decide the match during the rapid and blitz playoffs.
The Beast is: Analysis by Fat Fritz 2 (one minute analysis per move, Syzygy endgame tablebases enabled, & opening book turned off) running on an HP Z8 G4 workstation (3 GHz, two Intel Xeon processors, 48 cores, & 192 GB RAM).
karavamudan karavamudan 11/29/2021 04:32
A spate of draws may irk Carlsen more than Nepo, who is good in rapid and blitz. This might induce Carlsen to take more chances and perhaps err.
Aighearach Aighearach 11/29/2021 03:02
If it was true that faster time controls would make chess more popular, and attract more sponsors, then the World Blitz Championship would be the one that gets the attention *right now*, and people would say "World Chess Champion" to refer to the blitz champion, and they'd say "World Slow-Chess Champion" to refer to the classical champion.

Also the blitz championship would pay more money, because it would have so many more sponsors.

Chess champions are simply armchair pundits of the same quality as you can find in any coffee house, on every subject but chess moves. Including chess promotion, chess doping, even chess training. They're just a bunch of Homers, their opinions on promotion are the opinions of an Everyman.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 11/29/2021 02:42
Now 15 consecutive draws since near the end of 2016.... Something's got to be done. The WCC is the showcase of chess for nonfans or new chess fans. It's not a good image. And don't compare it with 1984, totally different circumstances... Carlsen is right. The basic format must be changed..... If I were a billionaire, I'd add $100,000 per win, let's see if they'll take more chances for 100K!
Alexsander43 Alexsander43 11/29/2021 02:01
Acredito que essas partidas são todas controladas para atrair mais público e admirações até alcançar o público, vendas etc, depois, é xadrez de verdade. atenciosamente: Alexsander, moro em Blumenau, SC Brasil.
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 11/28/2021 11:25
Draws like that in game 2 are exciting to watch. Introducing faster time controls leads to more decisive results and more excitement for the crowd, but it also makes the game appear more trivial.
Theochessman Theochessman 11/28/2021 08:42
Another drawfest!?! Oh dear.......