World Championship Game 11: Nepo keeps it safe

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/24/2023 – Playing white, Ian Nepomniachtchi simplified the position on move 19 in game 11 of the World Championship match — a decision which led to a quick draw. Nepo still has a 1-point lead over Ding Liren, who will get three more chances to even the score. Tuesday is a rest day in Astana. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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It would have been a “freeroll”

Find expert commentary — video and game annotations — by well-known coach and author IM Robert Ris at the end of the article.

Now that Magnus Carlsen has gone into poker, it makes sense that official commentator Daniil Dubov, in his daily recap for FIDE, used the term “freeroll” while analysing game 11 of the World Championship match.

Dubov was referring to Ian Nepomniachtchi’s decision to capture on c4 on move 19, which led to a liquidation of the position and a quick draw. According to Dubov (and Robert Ris, among other commentators), 19.Qe2 would have allowed Nepo to play freely (as in a poker event in which there is no entry fee), since only White can be better in the ensuing positions.


The draw means Nepo still has a 1-point lead on the scoreboard. Despite the match situation, Nepo mentioned that he was “not completely satisfied” with the draw, although he did describe the result as “acceptable”.

From Ding Liren’s point of view, time is running out, as only three games are left to go in Astana. Luckily for him, he will get the white pieces twice in the final encounters, and both times he will have a rest day prior to those games (i.e. he will get extra time to prepare). When asked about the match situation, Ding noted that he is no stranger to winning on demand in high-profile events:

I think it’s too early to play something like the Sicilian. Still, there are three games ahead. In the Candidates, I won in the last game, so anything can happen in the last three rounds. 

Although Nepo’s status as favourite only solidifies with each draw, he still feels that the toughest challenge is yet to come. The Russian noted:

There are three games ahead. I should give it all to do the job. Of course, it’s not over yet.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren

Draw | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Anish Giri, as ever, shared an ingenious tweet... which GM Alex Colovic replied: “Just like Leko”. Colovic was referring to the 2004 match for the world title, when Peter Leko had a 1-point advantage going into the final game against defending champion Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik won the game and, as per the rules of the match, kept the title. 

Of course, nowadays, a tie in the match leads to playoffs, as was seen in 2016 and 2018, when Magnus Carlsen defeated Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana in rapid tiebreakers to keep the title he is now about to give up voluntarily.

Ding Liren, Richard Rapport

Ding Liren and Richard Rapport will get a few more chances to show what they are capable of mustering up opening-wise | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris - Video and annotated game



FIDE World Chess Championship 2023

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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.