FIDE World Chess Championship 2021, Game 5: Still resultless after the fifth game, Magnus Carlsen(Black) can’t make inroads against well prepared Ian Nepomniachtchi(White). The score is tied 2.5-2.5 going into their second break.
This time around it was the Russian who won the advantage in the endgame, however, being the endgame maestro Carlsen was pretty solid. It was again an Anti-Marshall as the first game.
Ian Nepomniachtchi for the third time played his usual king’s pawn. Magnus Carlsen although was prepared with his Marshall-based repertoire. The defending champion was the first one to deviate replying to the 8.a4 with 8…Rb8.
Afterward, Nepomniachtchi noted that he was not particularly displeased with seeing 8…Rb8: “Once you see a Spanish game you are already not so pleased,” he quipped with a smile.
Carlsen: “I thought it’s always good to spring the first surprise. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out very well for me. I think he chose a very good line.”
Nepo took it on hand and started moving quickly with taking on b5 followed by pushing h3. The time difference increased as the reigning champion constantly took more time than the challenger who played his moves around 30 seconds.
However, on his 16th move, Ian spent around six minutes playing 16.Qc2. Although he did not play this move quickly, he again gained momentum and started moving fast again. “I think it’s possible that he has checked the line deeply,” said GM Fabiano Caruana in the Chess.com live broadcast.
Caruana was thinking about an outpost on f5 with sacrifices on h6 hanging in the air, and as it turned out, Nepomniachtchi had been looking at similar things.
“Basically, I had some idea of playing Nf5, Qc1, and Bxh6, but unfortunately, it didn’t work,” Nepo said afterward.
The Russian’s opening preparation was on target again putting pressure on the defending champion who was at that point half an hour behind on the clock.
Carlsen did see that key move during the game: “I thought his best chance was to go 21.c4 and try to get c5 because I thought after what he did I should gradually be fine,” he said.
Nepomniachtchi obviously considered it as well. “Somehow the position was that pleasant that it was difficult to choose the type of advantage you want to see at the board,” he said.
Nepo went 20 Red1 instead, spending well over 10 minutes. Despite ignoring this advantage the Russian still managed to activate his pieces placing his rook on a6 and the knights on c4 and f5. The position was passive for the Norweigen but the engine suggested it equal.
Why did the engine think so? It was because Magnus had built a fortress with his army coordination nicely. “This is why Magnus is so strong,” writes our Game Of The Day annotator GM Sam Shankland. “When he has a solid position without immediate weaknesses, it’s almost like watching a magician the way he can coordinate his pieces. Not only did he hold—he made it look easy!
The situation remained the same till the game lasted and it was then a draw all along the way. at the press conference after the game when asked about how he felt about the game Ian Nepomniachtch replied: “Of course, I’m disappointed.”
A bit later in the press conference, he elaborated: “Today, it’s basically not about him defending well but me using all the opportunities I had. But in general, I believe these games are pretty much tense and despite it’s all draws we’re trying to play reasonable chess. I should have tried harder to use the momentum.”
Carlsen was satisfied with the result, but not about how the game went. “I’m not thrilled with the game where, unless you count …Ra2 and …Ra1 at the end, I didn’t make a single active move—so, you know, that’s not ideal. It doesn’t win you many games. But the result obviously is fine.”
Carlsen added: “Actually, I kind of knew it’s hard to completely equalize in this line. I thought there is limited material and it’s fairly symmetrical, so I’ll figure it out if it comes to that, but it was a little more unpleasant than I had hoped.”
About having to defend passively, he wasn’t that negative, though: “I didn’t mind, it was OK. It’s a perverse kind of taste to like defending these positions, but I do enjoy it from time to time. And I had a clear goal of what I wanted to do, which was to reach the fortress that I had in the game. In that sense, it was a job well done and that was definitely satisfying.”
Nepomniachtchi: “It might seem that my style has changed a little bit, but in general, just as previously, I’m trying to play some good moves and pose some problems [so that] perhaps my opponent feels some pressure and makes mistakes. That’s it. In general, that’s how you try to play chess; you try to play well. If you play well, then you have some chances for sure.”