FIDE World Chess Championship 2021, Game 11: Needing just a win from the remaining four games, Magnus Carlsen delivers the dagger over the challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, to claim his fifth World Championship title.
The championship finished in the 11th game with 3 games to spare, with the final score being 7.5-3.5 in the Norwegian’s favor. The 2021 champion takes home 1.2 million euros while the challenger gets 800,000 euros.
Let’s talk about the challenger a bit. So he basically lost his way after the sixth game. Up until the fifth game he gained a lot of momentum and confidence, however, the defending champion was experienced in this situation. “It’s sad; we know what he’s capable of and he didn’t get to show the world in this match,” said GM Robert Hess.
This statement is correct for a single game and if there is enough break between the two-game. However, the dynamics and situation changed in the World Chess Championship 2021. There are back-to-back games that run long which is really exhausting. That is what is happened to Ian Nepomniachtchi here after the opening phase.
Magnus Carlsen on Ian Nepomniachtchi: “Obviously he couldn’t, at some point, show his best chess which is a pity for the excitement in the match but I think that’s what happens sometimes when you get in a difficult situation,” said Carlsen himself. “All of that preparation, everything doesn’t necessarily help if you can’t cope at the moment.”
The Russian played the Italian which was much more useful in a must-win situation. There is so much diverse chess after opening as Ian can avoid forcing lines.
However, Magnus Carlsen was prepared and played logical moves right from the start. The Chess.com commentators felt that Nepomniachtchi wasn’t playing the critical moves in order to fight for an advantage. They said 13.Bb5 was advantageous than 13.Bxe6 which was played in the game.
It was all going well but when Ian played 20.d4 it simplified the game a lot. Fabiano Caruana: “Why is he playing so quickly, I don’t get it. This indicates that Nepo has lost interest.” Apart from some tactical blunders, playing too fast was also a weakness Ian wasn’t able to work on before the match.
Carlsen’s total thinking time in this match was 21 hours and 38 minutes vs. 19 hours and 47 minutes for Nepo. On average, Carlsen spent two minutes and 17 seconds on a move; Nepomniachtchi two minutes and five seconds, over a total of 568 moves.
However, it was shocking that Ian Nepomniachtchi thought for nine and a half minutes before his blunder 23.g3. The Russian was thinking based on 23…fxe3 24.gxf4 exf2+ 25.Qxf2 and White is OK, however, 24…Qxg4+ came as a surprise. And at that moment Magnus Carlsen was winning thanks to an exchange sacrifice.
Hess: “It just feels like it was gift-wrapped to Magnus and that’s not how I ever want to remember any sort of chess event.”
Ian Nepomnichtchi on his blunder: “It’s hard to score more points when you make such a little bit weird moves which you probably wouldn’t even consider in blitz.”
Sam Shankland: “It really felt like two matches were played. Nepo A played match one, and in my opinion, Nepo A is the second-best player in the world. Nepo B showed up for match two, and that was a farce. I really think if he can manage to consistently bring Nepo A to the board, he can be very ambitious about playing in another world championship match and giving Magnus a better fight someday.”
Magnus Carlsen on the win: “I’m very happy of course, I didn’t expect it to go quite like this. I think it was just a very good professional performance overall and I have just no regret at all. Just very satisfied.”
Magnus Carlsen on this match: “After five games there were five draws and I had very few chances to play for anything more, Then, everything kind of clicked and then I think after that it all went my way. You don’t expect to necessarily run away with it in a world championship.”
Ian Nepomniachtchi on this match: “It was a big experience and almost nothing to do with chess. The match, of course, consists of many aspects, I mean, it’s not only chess preparation [but also] physical, psychological. Of course, it’s extremely tense, a little tenser than I expected but anyway the tension is not [an excuse] to overlook some simple things you would never overlook in a blitz game. Well, what can I say, I should find out why did it happen and improve.”
The key game was the sixth, a heroic and historic fight that could have gone either way but in the end, Carlsen won the longest-ever game in world championship history and took the lead in the match, after which Nepomniachtchi wasn’t a shadow of himself.
Carlsen: “I think game six was excellent and regardless of the quality of all the moves it was a great fight and yeah, I guess it just decided everything. So, that’s mainly what I’m taking away from an exciting perspective.”