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

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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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