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Magnus Breaks The Deadlock In The 2021 WCC, Grabs First Decisive Win against Nepo

Some were already calling for a different time format. Some also did suggest that FIDE should bring variants into the mix. One journalist even suggested a different tournament format for determining the World Champion, and some simply could not stop making jokes about the draws in the World Chess Championships. Now, Magnus Carlsen forced all the critics to put the “draw master” jokes to bed with his decisive win against Russian Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi.

World Champion V Challenger. Image: watson.ch

In this apex matchup, we’ve already seen history made as the most accurate match in the history of the World Chess Championship. Another history has been made as game 6 of the 2021 World Chess Championship lasted 136 moves, a new record. The record was previously held by the Game 5 of the 1978 World Chess Championship between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi. That game lasted for 124 moves, and it ended in a draw by Stalemate.

The preparation with super chess computers has made the competition stiffer for the apex crown. It’s almost like the players are now so accurate that they can barely see a win against each other. Thanks to Magnus, the winless streak in standard classical games that has lasted over 5 years in the World Chess Championship is now over.

It was a game that the chess world has been waiting for and it arrived with a bang. The game lasted for about 7 hours and 40 minutes. Most chess players would cringe at the sound of that duration for a single game but it did happen! You can call it the stamina of World Champions! Ultimately, Magnus Carlsen managed the stress better to seal the win.

The Queen’s Pawn Game

The game opened with 1.d4 by Magnus Carlsen, which transposed to the Pseudo-Catalan Symmetrical Variation of the Queen’s Pawn Game. The game promised to be an interesting one with no pawn occupying either one of the center squares as of move 9. Knight jumps from move 10 to move 15 demonstrated both players’ desire to seize control of important squares.

The knight jumps commence.

The first and eventually significant exchange of the game came at move 17 with 17.Bxf6. Magnus relinquished the Bishop pair to weaken his opponent’s pawn structure; a strategy that would pay off in the long run. By move 21, Carlsen lost his other bishop in a trade for Nepo’s fianchettoed bishop. At this point, it started to look like Ian would take a handy bishop into the end game.

Ian’s 22.Qe4 brought the queen closer into enemy territory. And although it would look, to many, like the position was starting to get messy for White, Stockfish was confident that White was perfectly fine. At move 24, Ian made a prophylactic Kg7 to not lose tempo when he executes his plan to trade both his rooks for Carlsen’s queen.

How the trade happened

Carlsen accepted the trade and still looked fine until an unexpected blunder by the World Champion at move 33.

Magnus Carlsen blunder

It was now a slight advantage for Black, with Stockfish evaluating the position as -0.8. Only a few moves later, 36.Rc2 sent the game further away from Carlsen as Stockfish now evaluated the position as -1.5.

Ian Nepo blunder

A somewhat shy approach from Ian Nepomniachtchi saw his significant lead slip away as he blundered with 36.Qd5??. He could’ve captured the pawn on b4 to maintain his lead but he, perhaps, wanted to be more careful. Another poor move with 38…e4? saw Magnus take a +1.8 lead, but that was short-lived, thanks to Magnus’s second blunder of the game by taking the pawn on e4 with his knight.

Magnus still had a +1 material advantage, and the scale started to tip in his favor from move 72. It was a test of patience and concentration in the previous 20 moves. Magnus was in front again when Ian played 72.Ba7?!, causing the engine to read a +0.9. 80.Rxf7+ was a sacrifice that initiated an exchange that made sure the tables were fully turned, and Ian would now be the one in search of a draw in the game.

Beginning of the end

The loss was all but confirmed here

Both players were now having about 3 minutes each on the clock, and for the first time in the game, Stockfish evaluated the position as +4.0 after 131.Qh6+. Magnus Carlsen had two advancing pawns and used the Knight and rook combination to form both a fortress and an attacking tanker against Black. The last blunder of the game, 131.Qg6, made Stockfish declare mate in 20 for White.

The End

The pressure and fatigue were taking its effect on Ian at this point, and Magnus was simply riding on his experience in the World Chess Championship. +64.8 evaluation marked the point of no return for Nepo as he resigned to the World Champion after making his 136th move.

Resigned position

It was certainly an interesting game, and we hope for more of the same! Did you also feel greatly entertained by this game? Let us know what you think of the game in the comments.

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