FIDE World Chess Championship, Game 6, Dubai: Magnus Carlsen(White) breaks the deadlock against Ian Nepomniachtchi(Black) in Game 6, after five consecutive draws. It was the longest game of all time in the World Chess Championship history with 136 moves.
Along with moves being too high, the players were exhausted by playing for seven hours and 47 minutes of Chess. Opening was changed from before as Carlsen went 1.d4 instead of 1.e4. The game became a novel one on the very third move which was the first time playing in the World Chess Championship match.
A Catalan type of setup was seen and the reigning champion followed it with a pawn-sacrifice with 9.Qc2 and 10.Nbd2!? which was prepared earlier. Chess.com commentator described it as “a fantastically creative idea”.
The Russian was seen in deep thought as he took nearly seven minutes to play 8…dxc4 and again went into his tactic prep for 13 minutes to go 10…Nc6. Further moves seemed logical and straight forward however the Norweigen took almost 13 minutes for his 11th move which came as a surprise to the experts.
Magnus Carlsen explains afterward why he took so long: “I couldn’t remember the lines properly there, so from there on I had to kind of invent things over the board,” he said afterward. “In any case, I think after that it was fairly balanced most of the time.”
Just as it looked like Magnus will get a very slight opening advantage, the Russian replied with an excellent move 11…b5. His confidence was seen with this move and now he has certainly equalized the game once again.
The defending champion offered a queen exchange to which Nepo declined and decided instead to go for more. His 18…Nd4 was “in-between ambition and safety” (Caruana). “Basically, I thought that I should play for more than a draw after the opening,” said Nepo after the game.
The dilemma was haunting Magnus Carlsen on the 25th move of whether to trade his queen for two rooks or not. Eventually, he did trade his queen for two rooks. “Fairly dramatic stuff,” said GM Vishy Anand from the commentary booth in Dubai.
Carlsen on trading his queen for two rooks: “I felt like we were both risking a bit, but I thought Black was maybe risking a bit more. It meant that we would get a serious struggle, which I was happy with.”
It was only the fourth instance when the queen has been traded for two rooks in the World Chess Championship matches and only one had resulted in rooks favor.
Magnus Carlsen was under constant time pressure with only 3 minutes to go and 10 moves to play. But having more time didn’t help Nepo as he with 31.Bb2 made an error. Carlsen initially reacted well with 32.Rc5! when 32…Qd6 led to the diagram position.
All those viewers saw the evaluation bar for Carlsen suddenly dropping fast when he played 33.Rd1?—meanwhile, 33.Rcc2! Bxa3 34.Nf4 was given as winning by the engines.
Caruana: “I’ve never been so disappointed.”
Carlsen, after the game: “That was not on my radar.”
White’s a-pawn was traded for Black’s b-pawn, and a move later Nepomniachtchi, with three minutes and 40 seconds on the clock, could have safely taken White’s b-pawn as well, but didn’t.
Caruana: “I’m puzzled.”
Although Carlsen lost his edge on the 33rd move, Nepo gave that advantage back by playing his e-pawn one square to e4. However, with precisely half a minute left for his 40th move, the world champion missed that one as well.
With only five seconds left, Ian Nepomniachtchi played his last of the first phase, the 40th move, surviving the first time trouble of the match. The board balance was equal and look drawish.
The Russian was playing fast putting pressure on the Norweigen but nothing big of a sort. But on 52…Qe4 by Nepomniachtchi, the game came to life again. He seemingly or not allowed 53.Rxa3 which was good for white. Ian played Qxh4+ and missed Carlsen’s 54.Kg1. And after 56.Ne2 Magnus seriously had chances to grab the game.
However, with the 59.f3 move, Magnus Carlsen’s advantage has faded and experts predicted a draw thereafter. Caruana called Carlsen’s last move “irresponsible.” The Norweigen was putting pressure move by move trying to penetrate Ian’s territory.
A few moves later, he used a small tactic that gave a rook for pawn and a bishop, and the game entered its last act. Carlsen, with a rook, knight, and three pawns vs. a queen and one pawn for Nepomniachtchi, could still play for two results.
On the 100th move, it became Magnus Carlsen’s third World Chess Championship game that went over 100 moves. Eventually, White’s g-pawn was traded for Black’s h-pawn and we entered seven-man tablebase territory. It was a theoretical draw, but of course, Carlsen kept on trying.
On the 130th move, The Russian GM, Ian Nepomniachtchi gave away the game with a decisive mistake. From then on, the defending champion managed to push his pawns up the board while guarding his king against Checks.
What an encounter we have witnessed here. Leading the World Chess Championship 2021, 3.5-2.5, Magnus Carlsen certainly now has the upper hand. However, don’t count out the Russian yet. The first five games justify his potential to challenge Carlsen with eight games still to go.
Magnus Carlsen: “Obviously I’m elated to get this result,” said Carlsen. “It was never easy nor, frankly, it shouldn’t be, and there was a lot of the same emotions as the game that I won against [Sergey] Karjakin where it was just a marathon there as well so… obviously, that was huge!”
Known for always being quite fit, the Norwegian GM admitted this was a tiring affair: “Sure, but I think that’s the way it is. As I said, it shouldn’t be easy in a world championship match. You have to try for every chance no matter how small it is. Part of it was by design at some point that I thought I should make the game as long as possible so that we would both be as tired as possible when the critical moment came. That turned out to be a good strategy.”
Ian Nepomniachtchi: “I would say that Magnus managed to capitalize on the very few chances he got in the game, so that’s very nice of him, but in general I believe even this queen against knight and rook and two pawns should be a draw, but once you play it’s basically blitz. If you don’t know the correct setup as Black and if you maybe misplace your queen a little bit, it becomes tricky already.”
Asked whether winning such a long game gives extra pleasure, Carlsen replied: “Yes!”
Nepomniachtchi, on how he plans to bounce back: “Hopefully, in style.”