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2021 World Chess Championship - Game 8

 

GM Joel Benjamin reviews games 6, 7 & 8

Should we be afraid now? Five games into the World Championship we have not seen a decisive game, after the two games since the break, games four and five, ended in fairly short draws.

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All the commentators were asking themselves: will Ian take a risk today and try to equalize the match?

Yesterday Ian did the right thing, according to the Russian school of thought: after a loss, draw the next game; do not try to bounce back immediately, when yesterday's defeat still hurts your feelings. Today Ian tried to keep the game alive, even playing again the Petrof Defense, which is notoriously drawish.

Nepomniachtchi took hazardous decisions, with the result of getting Magnus to think 40 minutes on move 13.

Despite some inaccuracies by the Russian, the game seemed to be still playable, even though we all know how strong Magnus is converting small advantages into won games.

At move 21, without any time pressure, Ian blundered, and Magnus didn’t miss the winning combination!

21...b5

Twitter exploded after Nepo's wrong move.

"Game over. A full pawn and a bad position. It's just losing. It's insane, the level of blunder. Totally insane. Very odd."
--Anish Giri

"Magnus is a shark, he smells blood, the game is over! Nepo must feel ashamed. In a World Championship Match, you play a move like b5? Whaaat?"
--Maurice Ashley – in his usual dramatic style.

Magnus went into machine mode, and it appeared clear pretty soon that he had the game in his hands. The Champion didn't rush things, though. He took his time, even getting close to time trouble at move 40 when the players got 60 more minutes on their clock. Ian looked desperate but didn't resign immediately, maybe hoping in an improbable blunder by Magnus.

21...b5

At move 46, with Magnus maneuvering his Queen masterfully to avoid a possible perpetual check, Ian resigned.

21...b5

In the post-game press conference, Ian apologized about his performance today, saying it was below his average level and below that of an average GM. Maybe the Russian was too hard on himself. Even at this level, a blunder can happen. The problem is that blundering against Magnus usually doesn't give you a second chance. Ian was humble, calm, and almost incredibly smiling. Kudos to the Russian for his class.

Tomorrow is a rest day, and on Tuesday, Ian plays white. It's now or never for Ian, and we'll likely see some exciting games in the last part of the match.

Olimpiu Urcan, a historian, author, journalist, and FIDE Candidate Master, very active on Tweet, posted:

The good news is that there are six games to go all out, not just one or two.

— Olimpiu G. Urcan (@olimpiuurcan) December 5, 2021

And that's it, indeed.

 


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