Dubai: The third game of the world championship match revealed just a little bit more about the months of work done by the players and their teams. The burning question was whether the combatants would resume their original positions or would one of them slip and throw open the doors to any of several possible outcomes.
What we learned
The first two games followed an unexpected course, and champion Magnus Carlsen called them ‘atypical’. Both games featured early sacrifices from the titleholder in return for long-term pressure – the kind of play that the present challenger is known for. This had very nearly backfired in game two, when Carlsen suddenly found he had unwittingly overlooked challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi’s defensive resources.
While the early games of the match may have been atypical in style, they do fit in with conventional wisdom about title bouts. Champions normally push hard in the early games, denying the challenger any time to settle to the enormous stress the battle inevitably brings.
Magnus admitted before the match that he was keeping this in mind as an early strategy. Ian Nepomniachtchi however insists that stresses evaporate as soon as the first move is played. Then it is just chess, he says, and he just plays on.
Setting the stage
World number six, Anish Giri. The Dutch grandmaster now believed the chess public was in for a day of dull safety, a common reaction to the incredible stress and complications of the preceding round.
The making of the first move is a daily ceremony. For opening game three, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich was joined by Her Excellency Mrs Hanan Al Aleeli, the UAE Ambassador to the Republic of Latvia, and Anastasia Myskina, the first Russian female tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title, at the 2004 French Open. Myskina had the honour of starting the players off, and her choice of 1.d4 caused a murmur of surprise in the theatre audience before Ian went back to his game one repertoire after the reset.
The opening followed the path of game one, and the now-familiar rhythm of a brief pause from Magnus from time to time, his eyes wandering as he consulted his memory banks, and then a resumption of the usual pace. The champion took a really long pause on his 10th move, making it look like a psychological moment, with Carlsen scrutinizing the board for any hidden ambush awaiting him, as well as which of his own prepared lines best suited his mood.
As play entered the middle-game phase, the position remained in approximate balance, with white still enjoying the slight superiority inherited from the first move.
Tension and resolution
The battle reached its full heat at move 20 and each move thereafter came with long thought after studying the complexities on the board. According to observers, Carlsen had a really narrow path open for taking, but all the same, he neutralized any dangers efficiently. Nepomniachtchi failed to make an impression with his second white game, his advantage having been kept in check throughout, and the inevitable draw followed after 41 moves.
With details from the Official website of FIDE World Championship Dubai 2021