World Championship match 6: Carlsen wins marathon

The longest in history


Repeat full analysis of the game by world number six Anish Giri at the end of the article!


Magnus Carlsen, Ian NepomniachtchiBack in 1978, world champion Anatoly Karpov played his first match to defend the title after receiving the world crown as standard in 1975. He faced Viktor Korchnoi, a fierce fighter, in Baguio City, Philippines. The fifth match, played on July 27, followed in a row of four very short draws. The match also ended in a draw, but it was by no means short – it would be the longest game ever (in terms of moves) in a World Cup match until that time, and it held the record for over 43 several years. Until the sixth match in the 2021 match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi.

After 136 moves, Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi not only broke the aforementioned record, but the game saw Carlsen also achieve the first victory in a classic meeting at a World Cup match in just over five years – the Norwegian had defeated Sergey Karjakin with white in match 10 in 2016- the match on November 24th.

It was a whole match that lasted 7 hours and 45 minutes. Since the matches start at 16:30 local time in Dubai, the first decisive meeting of this year’s match ended fifteen minutes past midnight!

A roller coaster match, the game saw Carlsen use a non-powerful opening setup with the white pieces, and apparently tried to take the match to midfield. Nepo responded in kind when he rejected an opportunity to swap queens in move 17. Uncharacteristically, Carlsen found himself in deep time problems, and a sharp skirmish saw him miss a great chance to play a winning sequence approaching the first time check. . In the playoffs, the pieces set up continued to change, but Carlsen never stopped trying, and he was eventually rewarded with a remarkable victory.

Under the contract signed by the participants, they were required to attend a press conference regardless of the length of the game. Nepo was visibly downcast, but also extremely polite as he gave his answers while a chirping world champion reflected:

It has never been easy, nor should it be. […] You must try for every opportunity, no matter how small it is.

However, going to a press conference must have only felt like a small inconvenience to the players. Especially for Nepo, it’s pretty unfortunate that this marathon took place in the first of a series of three games to be played on consecutive days. The players return to the board on Saturday and Sunday, where the Russian gets one more black over the weekend.

Goes for an intermission

Maybe to avoid either a Petroff or a Berlin, Carlsen played 1.d4, and after 1 … Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.g3, delayed a pawn push to c4, the world champion asked the challenger what kind of setup he would establish on the board. The sneaky wooden order avoided all powerful lines that could give White an advantage from the start, but instead took the fight to the intermission, where the Norwegian intended to demonstrate his superiority.

Nepo was more than ready for the task, rejecting a peasant sacrifice in move 10 and going to activity instead. Moreover, the Russian in row 17 chose not to swap queens, expecting to get good play despite doubling his pawns on the king side.

Instead of 17 … Qxf6 18.Qxf6 gxf6 Nepo immediately went after 17 … gxf6. In his annotations, Anish Giri explained:

An interesting choice, perhaps the result of some ambition. Queen trade would have been fine too. Sometimes in these playoffs, white can claim a good d3 knight against a “bad” bishop, but with black pieces so active and bishop on b6, there is little talk of white fighting for anything.

With so much talk of draws in the World Cup match, this was a clear sign that it did not have much to do with the players’ willingness to fight. As Olimpiu G. Urcan put it:

Black did well, and Carlsen burned quite a lot of time on each move. Nepo’s choice of move 25 only made the matter more complicated.

Black could have played 25 … b4, more or less kept things under control while he was with 25 … Rac8 he agreed to go into an unbalanced position with a queen against a few towers after 26.Qxc8 Rxc8 27.Rxc8. laps:

This is not necessary, but it led to chaos, so fans should be grateful to Ian.

Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Chess is hard! | Photo: Eric Rosen

Time constraints

Unlike in previous World Cup matches, this year FIDE decided to only give the challengers an increase after move 61. Thus, the players in both time controls – on move 40 and move 60 – are forced to make their move clockwise and ticking incessantly. without getting 30 seconds of breathing after each decision. For the first time in the match, this factor played a major role in Game 6.

With Carlsen’s watch dangerously down, the engines suddenly showed that he had a +2 advantage after move 32!

Maurice Ashley asked Carlsen if he had analyzed 33.Rcc2 in this position, where the world champion was pretty amazed at the question. He went after 33.Rd1 instead, which is understandable given how low time he was and how “hard to spot and calculate” the winning variation was (Giri).

The idea is that after 33.Rcc2 Bxa3 has white 34.Nf4, and gives up another pawn on the queen side – 34 … Qxb4 35.Rd7 e5 36.Nxh5 + Kg6

The surprising winning move here is 37.Rc6, as 37 … Kxh5 leaves the black king in a pairing net after 38.Rxf7. As Giri explains:

You have to see what your follow-up is here, otherwise the whole sequence does not make much sense. […] The movement itself is not obvious, giving up both queen side pawns, but the attack is devastating.

In the match, Nepo was so lucky that his opponent did not see this line, but also missed some of his own chances in the time trial – he did not have much more time on his watch than Carlsen in this phase of the game.

Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Over 7 hours of deep focus | Photo: Niki Riga

The playoffs

At the press conference, Mike Klein compared the game to a miniseries, suggesting the existence of episodes and turning points. We can take the comparison further and note that the playoffs themselves were a miniseries with its own subsections and turning points – we will definitely get a more in-depth look at the endings of the ending by our internal specialist Karsten Müller, perhaps in the next part of ‘Endgame The Magic ‘show.

First, Black seemed to have enough counterplay with his handed pawn on the a-file.

Once the pawn left the board, it seemed as if – as long as the black queen remained active – white would not be able to break through.

White then seized both the F-peasants and the bishop in exchange for a tower. Nepo’s task was not enviable, but his previous play seemed to show that he would be able to keep his balance.

Finally, when white’s g-pawn and black’s h-pawn left the board, we were in tablebases territory – the game was drawn with perfect play. But well into the eighth hour of the game and facing the eternally fighting world champion, it would never be easy for Nepo.

The losing move according to the table bases was sort of 130.! Six moves later, the Russian challenger threw the towel in the ring.

It was nothing short of an amazing chess game!

Expert analysis by GM Anish Giri

Magnus Carlsen

Up on the scoreboard – world champion Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Eric Rosen

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