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FIDE Chess Dubai Day 8: “Catastrophe strikes!” says Alejandro Ramirez

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Dubai: Today’s play was described by the 2004 Grandmaster  Alejandro Ramirez as “Catastrophe strikes“.

His final assessment of today’s play sums it all up: “To be honest it’s going to take a titanic amount of psychological power for the challenger to come back in this match, and if he achieves it and wins twice, and then wins on the tiebreak, or even wins three games before the tiebreaks are reached, I would dub this as the greatest comeback in chess history.”

The challenger for his part, had a simple answer to the waiting media: “Obviously, this wasn’t planned!”

This year’s FIDE World Championship is asymmetric – 14 games long – and a departure from the recent format of a 12-game duel. The biggest difference is the mid-way review, since we don’t have two equal halves but mirrored halves. Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi has had the advantage of the white pieces and first move in 4 games so far, but trails champion Magnus Carlsen 4-3.

To get an idea of the size of the task ahead, Carlsen holds the world record for an undefeated streak, 125 consecutive games stretching over 26 months. This is, of course, uncharacteristic, but there are two essential factors to consider: Here in Dubai, Magnus could play more cautiously than he did during that streak; but there should be considerably more nervous tension in each of the seven possible games remaining here.

The champion has been very hard to predict in terms of overall match strategy, and as a maximalist, he might try to break his adversary with another win. The opening phase of game eight, which balanced the colours once more, revealed much about what Carlsen intends to do from here.

Nepomniachtchi, as in game 4, replied to the champions opening move with the rock-solid and symmetric Petroff, or Russian Defence

The champion is known for making something out of nothing, but the utter safety of his early play was seen by experts as a declaration of intent. He was not making things interesting now, and the task of risk-taking is left to the trailing challenger.

The turn away from preparations came at the 9th move when after a 40-minute thought, the champion came out with an unexpected move. It was here that the challenger blundered, and he knew by the 21st move that he had gifted away all winning chances to the champion and that the match had gone out of reach. Nepomniachtchi soldiered on, but after 46 moves, accepted the inevitable.

The players get a much-needed rest day tomorrow, and the match resumes on December 7, with challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi having the advantage of the white pieces in game nine.

With inputs from the Official website of FIDE World Championship Dubai 2021

and

Catastrophe strikes – GAME 8 Recap by Alejandro Ramirez, in his official YouTube commentary of the game.

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