World Championship Match 2021
Posted: 23 November 2021 02:27 PM  
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We’re there!
After a year with the Internet making the rules and all the big - and minor - events played from home, the World Championship Match between defending champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi takes place in Dubai, with the two contestants facing each other in person, starting November the 26th.
Ian Nepomniachtchi, from Russia, won the Candidates’ tournament, which had to be suspended for the outbreak of the Sars Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. It took 13 months to know who was going to challenge Magnus’ title in 2021. Eventually, in April 2021, Ian convincingly won the tournament, reclaiming his seat in Dubai.

The socials are boiling these days, with so many different opinions coming from top players to amateurs, and it’s clear that almost everyone thinks Magnus will retain his title for the fourth time. Magnus has been numero uno for 11 straight years and has successfully defended the title he conquered in 2013 - defeating the great Anand - against Anand again, Karjakin, and Caruana. It is hard to find a weakness in Magnus’ play, and his superiority has shown in almost every tournament he’s played in. He’s the stronger player in the world in classical chess, rapid, and blitz. And these are facts.

Now, Ian is a super-strong GM and probably the most dangerous opponent Magnus could find at the moment. And we need to remember that Ian is one of the very few to hold a positive score against the Champion! Without taking into consideration the game they played as kids, Nepo defeated Magnus in classical chess twice: Tata Steel Group A in 2011 and London Chess Classic in 2017, both times with black. Carlsen won, again with black, in the GCT Croatia, in 2019. The last three encounters ended in a draw. Another important fact to keep in mind is that this year the match is two games longer (14 instead of 12). Magnus has shown that he can deal with stressful situations very well. Ian, on the other hand, has had in the past problems keeping himself together when facing crucial moments. But Ian is 31 now, mature, and probably at his peak.

So, let’s say (or hope?) that anything can happen and that it will be a delightful set of games to decide who’s the new world champion!

The ICC will relay the games LIVE.

GM Miguel Illescas will provide ICC members with a daily video, with analysis and considerations about the games.
GM Joel Benjamin will commentate on the games with a series of articles to be published during the rest days.
And in your email, you’ll soon find more!
This thread will be updated daily, with links to videos, articles, and more.
Stay tuned!

Schedule: all the games start at 7:30 AM EST; 13:30 Paris, Rome, Berlin; 12:30 London; 15:30 Moscow; 16:30 Dubai; 18:00 New Delhi; 20:30 Beijing
Game 1 is on Friday, November the 26th.

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Posted: 26 November 2021 07:34 AM   [ # 1 ]  
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where can you see game 1 on ICC. Started 7:30 EDT.

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Posted: 26 November 2021 08:43 AM   [ # 2 ]  
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On ICC, type “observe 1”

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Posted: 27 November 2021 03:58 AM   [ # 3 ]  
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Game 1

Ready, set… Ruy Lopez!
The first game is over, and it’s a draw. Nepo, with White, opened e4, and the players went into a Closed Ruy Lopez. The game has never been “owned” by one of the players, who played (guess how?) very well, without making mistakes. Despite the Covid measures, the players did shake hands.
Magnus sacrificed a pawn in the opening, by playing 8…Na5?!
Of course, all the socials (especially Twitter) explode with comments about the “weird” choice by the Champion. But it was preparation, and in a few moves the engines agreed on seeing the game as equal.

Someone even pushed himself a bit too far, affirming that in and endgame a pawn up, Nepo was going to win. Only to come back a bit later admitting the statement was slightly premature. Both players appeared fit and very focused, and the high level of their play makes us hope that this will be a long and exciting battle.

Don’t miss the video recap by GM Miguel Illescas!

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Posted: 02 December 2021 09:35 AM   [ # 4 ]  
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Game 2

And again, Magnus concedes a pawn for the initiative and a better pawn structure. If it were not the very beginning of the match, one could think it’s a strategy. One thing is sure: Magnus’ preparation is incredibly deep and strong. He deliberately chooses lines that the engines don’t like so much to steal the initiative from his dangerous foe. In the Catalan Magnus chose for Game 2, he had Nepomniachtchi thinking already with the rare 8.Ne5!?
At this level, showing you’re surprised is not an option; on the other hand, replying quickly to a move that takes you out of your comfort zone is extremely dangerous. Posing this kind of problem to your opponent, being sure you can play an “inferior” move and still be able to keep the game balanced, is a tremendous psychological advantage. Even the great Vishy Anand commented his admiration for this attitude of the World Champion:
“You really appreciate Magnus’ preparation. It’s tough to get such an interesting position in a match…”
—Vishy Anand
Now, is this enough to destabilize the strong Russian? Probably not, but in the long run, such a strategy will tire Nepo, a player who likes to get the initiative in every game he plays. On the other hand, Nepo is a super-strong-super-GM, and his adaptability to different play situations is well known.
Today, after the surprise, Nepo spent a lot of time on the position and found himself slightly worse. But then, according to Sesse, Carlsen wasted all of his advantages with 17.Ne5 - and then got slightly worse with 20.Rb1. Fabiano Caruana, during his commentary, said that at that point, Carlsen had minimal chances to win the game, as his compensation is purely defensive, and there are no attacking ideas. At move 24, Carlsen played Be4, which the engines see as a minor blunder.
But it’s all too easy to talk when you have an engine help you evaluate a position, isn’t it?
Nepo didn’t see the right move and gave back all his advantage to Magnus by playing 24…c3. Ian gave Magnus the chance to clear the mess on the Queenside, and the game, at move 27, was equal. After this small tsunami, the game continued in a much more placid way, and the players agreed on a draw at move 58. After the game, Magnus said in an interview that he wasn’t planning to sacrifice all the material he did lose during the game and found himself “hanging in there, trying not to lose,” but also that he had some chances to get a much better position than his opponent.

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Posted: 02 December 2021 09:42 AM   [ # 5 ]  
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Game 3

Nepo with white again today.
Will it be 1.e4 e5? That’s the question. Everyone on Twitter was asking for a prediction. Some seem to be sure Nepo will face the Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez again. And it was a Ruy Lopez indeed. But this time, the opening is an anti-Marshall with 8.a4. Magnus went with 8…Bb7, a very trendy system.
Magnus played Re8 at move 10, which has not been played in top games for over a decade. Magnus surprised Nepo for the third time in a row. Still, although Ian needed to think longer than usual, the Russian found all the right moves to contrast the “novelty,” equalizing the game with relative ease.
It looked like both players were already out of theory, but the preparation was still there, and the game went on with Magnus and Nepo playing carefully and precisely until the draw at move 41.
In the interview right after the game, Magnus looked a bit tired, somehow somber.
He said he always tries to drive the game out of theory early but admitted that Nepo’s preparation is excellent. The Russian never gave the Norwegian the slightest chance to take advantage over the board. Therefore, Magnus decided to liquidate and enter a drawn endgame with bishops of the same color. The Champion said he’s sufficiently satisfied so far and that he’ll need to create more opportunities in the next games. In the end, Magnus said he welcomes the rest day after two games with black.
It was probably the most uneventful game so far. Still, it’s always thrilling to see the two contestants play chess at this unbelievable level and appreciate the excellent preparation they have.

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Posted: 02 December 2021 09:50 AM   [ # 6 ]  
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Game 4

t’s Magnus’s Birthday. The Champion is 31 today, and most people are expecting (who knows why) him to push hard and get the first win in the match. Sunday, during her live commentary, Judit Polgar said that she happened to play important games on her birthday, and that’s not always been easy.
Game 4 started with a Petrov’s defense, the very mainline.
At move 9, Magnus played Re1, which is not a novelty, but neither a super-common move in the opening.
Ian thought a bit too much on move 9 and then went for Bf5.
By move 14, the game was still in theory. Looking at Ian and Magnus’s moves in the first part of the game, one feels that both players wanted an easy day at the office. By move 17, they were playing an endgame already. But it was not the case. At move 18, Magnus played Nh4. A move that engines don’t like particularly, but which had Ian think a bit. Probably the Russian didn’t expect such a move.
The plan was to bring the Knight to g2. At move 21, Magnus played Bf4, the move engines wanted, showing his flawless preparation. Ian fell into a long deep thinking phase.
Ian took the bishop after a relatively long time, and Magnus replied immediately, coming out of the exchange with a dominating Knight in d5. At move 27, Magnus avoided a repetition that would have led to a draw and played the natural d5. The Champ was trying to win, or at least to make it hard for his opponent.
After Ian’s 27…a4, all of a sudden, the game got sharp. A slight mistake now would have meant defeat. After move 29, Magnus thought for a long time, evaluating the tricky position. The commentators were going through tons of variations without finding anything decisive. It looked like the topic moment of the game. After 35 minutes(!) Magnus went for Nf8+. Carlsen sat still, blinking his eyes at a rapid pace, without changing his facial expression. Not a usual thing to see.
Magnus, in his amazingly long thinking moment, didn’t find anything decisive for white. The players repeated the moves once again. Now Carlsen had the chance to claim a draw with the third repetition, and he spent more time trying to devise an effective plan. There was no way for the Norwegian Champ to find something practical for white, and after another repetition, they agreed to a draw.
In the short interview right after the game, Carlsen said he tried, but he just didn’t find it. And that he is not frustrated at all, as it’s normal to try and OK not to find a win over the board.

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Posted: 02 December 2021 10:04 AM   [ # 7 ]  
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Game 5

Game 5, and the Ruy Lopez is still Ian’s opening in his games with white.
And again, an anti-Marshall system with 8.a4.
At move 8, Magnus played Rb8, deviating from the previous games. When Magnus is playing black, he always tries to do something to shuffle the cards. In contrast, Ian seeks equality and neutralizes whites’ efforts to take the game into dangerous situations. By move 12, the position looked very solid for both players:
In the first part of the game, the players’ body language seemed to indicate a very comfortable Ian, pacing calmly in the fish tank, and an apparently tired and worried Magnus. The match is, of course, a psychological battle, and it’s fascinating to watch the players during the games. At move 17, all the engines were yawning, displaying a melancholic 0.00.
Despite the engines indicating the game be a draw, Nepo played very fast, and by move 21, he had 30 minutes more on the clock. Giri insisted that the Nepo was more or less winning in his frantic and sharp commentary, and he posted his thought on Twitter, too, with his usual hilarious style.
It looked like everyone was desperately trying to find something exciting in a position that all the engines considered totally equal. That’s understandable, having to comment on a match that has never given a real “shocking moment” so far. Unfortunately, reality brought everyone back on earth pretty soon, as, by move 26, there was nothing to say but “OK, the position is completely dry now.”
From “Ian is going to win,” we’re now on: “This is a Magnus-type position: will we witness one of his famous squeezes?”.
But the Champion couldn’t squeeze his Russian foe, and the game ended in a draw. The firth in a row.
In the interview after the game, Magnus said he’s aware that the tension is mounting and that it won’t be easy for either of them to break through. It will be a super-tough match, but isn’t that what everyone expected? Magnus looked a bit tired but calm and cool as usual.

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