Dubai: Today`s game supplied a bit more information about the general match strategy of the players. So far, we have seen a slightly unexpected solid, cautious approach from challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi when having the advantage of the first move and one risky, full-blooded charge from champion Magnus Carlsen when he played white.
It remains to be seen whether the challenger will adopt the frustrate and provoke strategy that nearly allowed Sergey Karjakin to unseat Carlsen in 2016 – Karjakin is a member of Team Nepomniachtchi here in Dubai – or whether both players are doing what they feel best suits the early phase of the duel. Carlsen switched to Nepomniachtchi`s favoured 1.e4 and was quickly informed by Ian`s second move that the safety-first tactics are still in force from the challenger.
Already here, experts could mull over a variety of topics: Carlsen`s switch of the first move could mean that he wants to play on a wide number of fronts; Nepomniachtchi looks intent, at least in the early phase of the match, on following the match strategy of another predecessor, his assistant Karjakin; and the choice of an atypically quiet and purely defensive system raises the constant talking point of how drawish title matches can be.
Other topics of debate included whether adopting a defence that Carlsen and his team have worked on for years is a good idea, even if the Petroff held up well for Caruana; and if a match strategy of neutralization is suited to the challenger`s perceived style and temperament, or even wise in general against a champion who has been devastating in faster-paced tie-breaks.
The advantage of the first move in a modern title match returns: In the three decisive classical games between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi in their adult careers, Nepo has a 2-1 edge.
One final observation – Nepomniachtchi adopted the Petroff Defence when trying to safeguard his lead at the Candidates tournament which earned him this title challenge – and defeated Chinese GM Wang Hao. Carlsen referred to this after the game, saying this encounter had made the opening a natural target of his pre-match preparation.
A new idea
The game featured a flurry of early material exchanges, a customary harbinger of a peaceful outcome.
Despite the challenger being the first to sink into thought, he continued to play quite quickly, and official match commentator and former world champion Vishwanathan Anand suspected that the entire game could well be in both players’ prepared files and that any hesitations were due to them checking their memory.
The position remained in balance, with the champion having one advantage – that he could always force a draw by repetition of moves. Nepomniachtchi told Norwegian broadcasters NRK that he had not played any of `his own` moves and that a draw was the usual result when both players were well prepared.
At the post-game press conference, Carlsen referred to the `Insanely complicated` positions that could have resulted from his new idea, but that the challenger`s optically risky, but in fact, sensible way of playing the position just worked.
Game five, with challenger Nepomniachtchi playing the white pieces, takes place on Dec 1.
By Courtesy: Official Website of the FIDE World Championship 2021