World Championship Game 7: A quiet draw

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/4/2021 – After a gruelling fight on Friday, Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi played a rather uneventful game at the World Championship match in Dubai. The 41-move draw they signed marks the halfway point of the event, as Nepo now has seven games tu surmount the one-point deficit on the scoreboard. Saturday’s encounter was analysed by Dutch star Anish Giri. | Photo: Niki Riga

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Avoiding tilt

Replay full analysis of the game by world number six Anish Giri at the end of the article!

Ian NepomniachtchiIt is common knowledge among long-time chess aficionados that the most experienced members of the ‘Soviet School of Chess’ recommended their pupils to avoid getting overly eager to bounce back after a loss. Instead, they thought it was better to first dominate one’s emotions by keeping things under control in the very next game.

A player known for being well-versed in chess history, Magnus Carlsen referred to the same principle during the press conference, using more up-to-date language. The world champion mentioned that he understood his opponent’s approach, which perhaps had to do with avoiding tilt after a rather painful loss.

Ian Nepomniachtchi had the white pieces and entered similar lines to the ones seen in games 3 and 5, when he got to put a slight pressure on his opponent. So far in the match, both players have mostly been able to keep the upper hand with the white pieces, with one exception. Nepo explained:

I’m getting much more than I expected out of the opening. But, in general, I think so far the side which plays the black pieces doesn’t experience any problems after the opening — maybe game 2 was slightly different.

While more than half the games played so far in Dubai have been hard-fought struggles, and we got to see a historic encounter on Friday, the seventh game was described by the challenger himself as “boring”. Carlsen equalized with the black pieces and massive simplifications resulted in a 41-move draw.

In the game, Nepo was the first one to take a slightly different approach out of the opening, as the contenders were following the general lines seen the two previous times the Russian had the white pieces.


White played 11.d3 here, a theoretical move. Anish Giri commented on Nepo’s decision:

Another twist, keeping the b-pawns on the board for now. In the previous game in this position Ian included 11.c3 b4, got a small plus, but for this game, Magnus (his team) would likely come up with an improvement neutralizing that attempt. 

Nepo eventually got an advantage in the centre, but by then Carlsen seemed to have things sorted out in his head.


After 17.d4, Carlsen correctly ‘gave up the centre’ with 17...exd4 18.cxd4. However, as Giri notes, the world champion knew that after trading the light-squared bishops he would be fully out of trouble:

White gains space in the centre, but with the second pair of light pieces getting traded, the centre alone is not worth too much. The side with the less space is always happy to trade stuff away. [...] Likely an operation prepared by the team of the world champion.

The players traded queens on move 27, leaving a rook and four pawns per side on the board. Carlsen and Nepo went through the motions until move 41, when the draw was finally signed.

Expert analysis by GM Anish Giri


Magnus Carlsen

Up a point going into the second half of the match — Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Eric Rosen

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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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Michael Jones Michael Jones 12/5/2021 07:49
@rakerchess: yesterday you were complaining that there were blunders, today you're complaining that it was a "boring" draw. What would it take for a World Championship match to satisfy you? Do you seriously expect brilliant sacrifices in every game?
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/5/2021 02:48
I think that analyzing with an engine takes away the fun. Even this game was fascinating and interesting when one looks on his/her own. If engines were at hand since 1886 and online commenting, then I'm sure fans would have complained about the game for almost 1.5 centuries. There were a fine share of "GM draws" during the 20th century as well.
milog milog 12/5/2021 10:10
The comments below pretty well sum up why chess will never be a „mainstream“ sport…it takes quite a lot of specific knowledge to understand the basics (and I‘m not talking about how the pieces move, checkmate, stalemate etc.), and even much more effort to get to a decent level, which would enable you to follow and grasp these top level games beyond the mere moves.
Anyone who has played proper tournament chess has a conpletely different experience and surely appreciates these matches. And for the others: try turning off the engine and use your brain instead - your chess strength might even profit from that.
rakerchess rakerchess 12/5/2021 07:26
Nepo is contributing to the boredom. He's making absolutely no efforts in his White games (not just this last one, which was the most boring of all, but in all of them). It seems he's not interested in leveraging the advantage of the first move at all, which is rather puzzling, unless he's been counting on the playoffs. Since he's at minus one now, that's not going to work anymore.

To top it off, he had the gall to comment, see above: "I’m getting much more than I expected out of the opening". What, he expected to lose all his White games, and getting boring draws with White instead is "much more than I expected"??

This has to be most boring, stale, unimaginative, and worst World Championship match I've looked and analyzed with help of the Beast (Fat Fritz 2 running on 48 cores) since Steinitz v Zukertort played in the United States in 1886. Both players are responsible for this: it takes two to tango ..... This whole farce reflects very badly on both of them.

FIDE needs to reform the World Championship, otherwise classical chess as we know it is dead. One idea is to drastically shorten the time limits, for example to two minutes per move, or 1 hour 20 minutes for 40 moves, no increments.

The playoffs are also a very bad idea, since players like Nepo will then just "coast" to the final game, in order to decide the "classical" World Championship with rapid and blitz games. If a challenger can't get off his butt and beat the World Champion fair and square in classical games, the World Champion should keep his title.
karavamudan karavamudan 12/5/2021 04:51
Too much is at stake and the two champions have to tread carefully. We have had long games in the past with many draws (Capablanca-Alekhine, Karpov-Kasparov, Carlsen-Caruana) and so we cannot really blame these guys.
Chess of course is at the perfect level thanks to machine preparations and hence beyond comprehension of ordinary humans.
Attention span for the games from my end
First and second games: nearly 100%
Third game onward: nearly 0%

Chess is saturated and even if players change, it will be more of the same.

Magnus's legacy: Most boring world championship games
Aighearach Aighearach 12/4/2021 08:18
"I’m getting much more than I expected out of the opening. But, in general, I think so far the side which plays the black pieces doesn’t experience any problems after the opening"

I think what he means is that Carlsen is playing into his preparation, but that even in the lines he prepared he's not getting an advantage. Which would really mean he's getting less than he expected "out of" the opening.