FIDE World Chess Championship 2021, Ian Napomniachtchi(Black) vs Magnus Carlsen(White): An interesting encounter as opposed to Game 1. Some out-of-the-box move from the defending champion but the Russian replied accurately to settle for a draw.
Ian Nepomniachtchi playing with black managed to achieve an opening edge. However, the Norweigan soon scrambled with some different moves to put the challenger under pressure. The endgame was played like a computer with both players shuffling the top moves out. Both players were not happy with the results as they felt it would be a decisive game.
Playing with white, Carlsen started with 1.d4, which was replied with 1…Nf6. With Carlsen’s second move 2.c4, the game was transformed into a classical Catalan, an opening Carlsen recently used often in the FIDE World Cup 2021.
The way defending champion was playing and the Russian was replying, commentator Caruana was excited about Carlsen’s opening preparation and said, “If Nepo continues to play into Magnus’ preparation, he will be okay for a while, but soon he’ll be playing into the computer and that surely won’t be good for him.”
On move 11 for Black, Nepomniachtchi’s struggle in the position became more obvious as it took him a while to find his response, 11…Qd7, to 11.Nf3. Now Carlsen decided to force Black to make a decision about its knight on d5 with 12.e4 and, here, the best move according to Caruana is 12…Nb4 “if Ian doesn’t want to get his knight nearly trapped and lose all control of White’s queenside.”
It was what happened as the Russian replied 12…Nb4. Magnus blasted with 13.Qe2 and straight away Ian moves his knight 13…Nd3. Carlsen thought for a while and this showed that he was out of his opening prep and played 14.e5. 14…Bb7 was Nepomniachtchi’s immediate reply, leading to a very sharp position for Black, according to Caruana.
A pawn sacrifice from the champion was disliked by the engine but guest commentator GM Hou Yifan found it very interesting and very acceptable. It took Carlsen a long while to decide on 19.Nd6 which was met by 19…Nb3 and, again, a move by White the engine did not prefer: 20.Rb1.
The game shifted in Ian Nepomniachtchi’s favor but the game was still on for Magnus. From a decision of the game, it looked drawish from move 27 onwards. Both players looked exhausted as there were more than a few inaccuracies.
By move 31, the position was equal, and it was clear that Magnus had been lucky to escape even with his good opening preparation—similarly to Nepomniachtchi yesterday with the white pieces.
The two hours were finished and 60 minutes were added. By move 33, the players had entered the endgame with Magnus down the exchange for a pawn. Both players were left without any real winning chances, but according to Caruana, Black was slightly in danger and had to be careful.
The World Champion was asking some serious questions with less than four minutes to go. However, Ian answered it well but could be better.
Magnus was running out of time and his opponent had four minutes advantage. Both players exchanged a pawn and received their extra time. Both players, visibly relieved, left the playing hall for a few minutes to collect their thoughts and plan their strategy for the next moves; they had an endgame in which White had an extra pawn, but it was a theoretical draw.
exchanging queens on move 42…Qf5+ 43.Qxf5 Rxf5, Carlsen played it fast. Magnus was pushing really hard trying to showcase his strength in endgames, but Caruana commentated: “It won’t work without Ian helping him because this is really a draw.”
Finally, a draw was agreed on move 58 with Caruana mentioning this was still a good outcome for White (referring to Carlsen’s pawn sacrifice for insufficient compensation) and that Nepomniachtchi had clearly missed some winning chances.