Sergey Karjakin, sporting a pair of dark shades and a yellow hoodie, was interviewed at the beginning of the game. The strong Russian GM, second to Ian, said, “It’s not about chess,” and went on explaining that Magnus has an immense experience being this his fifth championship match. In contrast, Nepomniachtchi feels all the pressure that such a match gives the players.
Magnus went again with 1.e4, and most of us expected a Sicilian defense by Ian. Instead, Ian went for the Petrov. Was that an attempt by Ian to get a quick draw and go to the rest day to recover from the last two dramatic days? Well, yes, it clearly was.
Soon in the game, it appeared evident that none of the players would risk anything. Carlsen chose the 4.Nd3 variation, which he played in 2016 against Caruana in the WCC match, drawing the game.
Such a variation implies the Queens getting off the board quickly and then slow maneuvering, usually leading to drawish positions. Ian played Nd8 at move 9, a computer preparation move. It’s Stockfish 14.1’s first choice, and it’s not been seen over the board in previous elite games.
Nothing remarkable happened on the board after the “novelty,” though. Ian and Magnus had a David Copperfield moment: all the pieces almost magically disappeared, in a series of exchanges that left on the board the Kings, two knights, and four pawns, each with an utterly symmetric position.
In the short interview after the game, Magnus said that Ian was probably in a damage-limitation setup and that Magnus himself wasn’t in the mood to try anything risky. During the post-game press conference, both players made It clear all they wanted today was a draw. A short game before the rest day.
Magnus now needs 1 point to win the match, which means two draws or a win. Ian needs to go 3 out of 4 against the most solid player of all time. Not an easy feat, but as the saying goes, hope dies last.