FIDE World Chess Championship Game 3: Magnus Bulletproof With Black
Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen agreed to a draw in game 3. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

FIDE World Chess Championship Game 3: Magnus Bulletproof With Black

| 87 | Chess Event Coverage

The FIDE World Chess Championship remains in a deadlock as challenger GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen drew their third game on Sunday. Monday is the first rest day in Dubai; game four is scheduled for Tuesday, again, at 16:30 Dubai time (13:30 CET, 4:30 a.m. Pacific).

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After the exciting and tense second game where both players were in slight trouble at different moments, the third game on Sunday was quieter and much more balanced. "Accurate" was the word used by's star commentator GM Fabiano Caruana to describe the play of the two contestants, whose final moves of the game were a mere formality to reach move 40, the first moment a draw offer is allowed in the regulations (barring move repetitions). 

Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen game 3
Nepomniachtchi takes off the jacket after the opening phase. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Interestingly, Carlsen had mentioned in an interview after game two that he thought both his and Ian's nerves had impacted the quality of the games. He felt Nepomniachtchi might have converted his advantage if it were a regular tournament game, and also, he predicted the third game would be stale so that they can get to the rest day. That prediction turned out to be accurate.

The first move in the glass box was executed by a guest invited by FIDE to the event: 2004 French Open winner Anastasia Myskina. Interviewed by's FM Mike Klein, she noted a strong tie between chess and tennis:

"When I was a little kid, my coach said that chess is tennis on a field. You have to always think when you play tennis—you have to think about where to put the ball. I think it's very important to involve chess in tennis."

As it turned out, she knows how to play as well. "My father really wanted me to play chess before the matches and between the matches because he said that when you play chess you start to think better," Myskina said.

Anastasia Myskina chess
Anastasia Myskina plays the first move. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The move she played for Nepomniachtchi, in what was his second white game, was 1.d4. Nepo then carefully pushed back that pawn to its starting square and, after the clock was started by the arbiter, went 1.e4 instead, just like in the opening game. (The day before, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich went for 1.e4 which was then changed for 1.d4 by Carlsen!)

For seven moves, the players copy-pasted their moves from the first game onto the board. It was another Anti-Marshall, i.e. another game where White avoided the gambit invented by Frank Marshall (1877–1944), who lost a world championship in 1907 to the great Emanuel Lasker. Marshall held the U.S. champion title as long as Lasker held the world title: 27 years.

Nepomniachtchi's eighth move was the first deviation, and reminiscent of another historic battle. The last time 8.a4 was played in a world championship match was in 1993 in London by GM Garry Kasparov vs. GM Nigel Short,  who tweeted today: "This position brings back rather too many painful memories. Even after 28 years, the scars still hurt."

Carlsen followed his normal repertoire against this move and had played the position after 9...d6 14 times before in his career. White's 10.Nbd2 he had never faced though—only 10.Nc3, 10.c3, and 10.Bd2—the move tried once by Kasparov vs. Short as well.

Magnus Carlsen game 3 world championship 2021
Carlsen hadn't faced 10.Nbd2 before but was prepared for it. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The world champ countered with a somewhat rare move on his part (10...Re8) as neither player was "out of book" just yet. In fact, they played relatively fast for a few more moves, where 12.Bd2 for White was praised by some experts, but also 15...Nc6 for Black—the novelty of the game.

Position after 15...Nc6.

According to Caruana, this unnatural-looking knight move, so quickly going back to a square it just came from while blocking the c-pawn, was "definitely still preparation."

Close to the end of the game, Caruana would make a strong and highly interesting remark about the world champion:

"Just because Magnus has a slightly different approach and prepares lines which are not theoretical, that does not mean he has not prepared them well, that just means that he feels that that's where he has the best chance in the opening. I think that as an overall opening player, Magnus is probably the best prepared in the world and has been for many years now."

I think that as an overall opening player, Magnus is probably the best prepared in the world and has been for many years now.
—Fabiano Caruana

Carlsen's first big think was on move 16 and when he moved his bishop to c8 on the next move, things looked somewhat more pleasant for his opponent. Caruana went as far as saying: "I'm a bit worried for Magnus now."

Key Move of the Day: 17. ...Bc8

In a game played correctly by both sides, there were not many surprises. Today's move illustrates the concept of improving the worst-placed piece. While all of Black's other pieces are well-placed (perhaps the f8 bishop can be improved via g6-Bg7 later as well), this move aims to re-route the bishop to e6 (most likely), d7, or g4. Review the game's key moments, get coaching explanations, retry mistakes, and more with's revolutionary Game Review tool.

Chess World Championship

In the glass box, Nepomniachtchi could be seen sometimes frowning during his thinking process, going in full-focus mode from holding his forehead on his right thumb to folding his arms and lying his head on the table to rest.

As it turned out, Carlsen's 17...Bc8 move was a reroute of that bishop to e6 to prepare the thematic. ...d6-d5 break. At depth 48, Stockfish 14.1 considered the unusual 21.Qd3 the only advantageous move to meet 21...d5 with 22.Bxf6 and a capture on d5.

Nepomniachtchi went a different way and after 23.e5 the game seemed to heat up a bit but, sadly, Caruana already predicted the position wouldn't be as exciting anymore in a few moves.

Soon after, he concluded: "The players played very accurately. They now look a bit bored because this is just a formality." Game Of The Day Collection

Match score

Fed Name Rtg 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 Score
Magnus Carlsen 2855 ½ ½ ½ . . . . . . . . . . .
Ian Nepomniachtchi 2782 ½ ½ ½ . . . . . . . . . . .

Having played as White twice over the three draws so far, Nepomniachtchi said he isn't frustrated just yet, calling it a "clean game."

"I was obviously making some fairly ugly moves but it seemed all to work out reasonably well," said Carlsen. "At least, I couldn't see any concrete way to pose serious problems. I think it was a reasonable game."

In the post-game show, GM Hikaru Nakamura had similar thoughts: "Magnus was only slightly worse—it never really seemed to get out of control, per se."

Carlsen didn't agree with one of the journalists who argued that things have been very comfortable for him in his black games so far.

"I wouldn't say very comfortable," argued Carlsen. "I feel like I've been trying to equalize in both games without getting a lot of chances."

Asked how Nepomniachtchi is going to "change the trend" of not getting a tangible opening advantage so far, the Russian GM countered: "Whatever I am going to do, the trend will remain the same. It's not about my preparation, it's about current theory."

Nepomniachitchi press conference Dubai 2021
Nepomniachitchi: "It's not about my preparation, it's about current theory." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Right after the game and before the press conference, the players underwent a doping test. FIDE continues to follow Olympic guidelines, which means organizing doping tests at major events, with the faint hope that, one day, chess could be part of the Games.

Asked whether there is doping that could help a chess player, Nepomniachtchi said: "If you are using doping, you are getting banned from the event, that's how it works! Also, I don't know about any medicine which especially helps you play chess. Hopefully, we won't witness someone taking headphones out of his ears!"

Nepomniachtchi on cheating headphones
Nepomniachtchi: "Hopefully, we won't witness someone taking headphones out of his ears!" Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen: "I think there are probably experiments to be made. I mean, people use drugs to both prepare for and to do exams, for instance. I assume they could possibly help chess as well. If at some point my level of chess drops drastically I might start experimenting, but for now, I don't see the need!"

If at some point my level of chess drops drastically I might start experimenting, but for now, I don't see the need!
—Magnus Carlsen

The third draw means there have now been 17 draws in a row in world championship games played at the classical time control. Nepomniachtchi's comment on that: "Well, normally you need mistakes for a chess result, so this probably could tell you that players are not making too many mistakes."

Carlsen said he plans to watch a lot of Sunday sports before enjoying his rest day tomorrow, which is when he will prepare for his next white game. Also on the next rest day, he will have a white game right after, and only on the third and fourth rest days, Nepomniachtchi will have this "advantage."

On the broadcast, it was discussed to what extent this is an advantage. Four-time women's world champion GM Hou Yifan's take was: "It depends on specific players, what are your strengths, what are you not comfortable with in your opening repertoire... If Carlsen feels the Catalan is vulnerable, it will be a huge advantage."

Meanwhile, many fans will mostly be hoping for a decisive game on Tuesday. To the somewhat odd question of how Carlsen thinks he will be remembered 50 years from now, the champion replied: "Talking about legacy during a match is a rabbit hole I don't wanna go down. But hopefully, he will be somebody who won a classical game in a world championship match after the year 2016!"

Magnus Carlsen smiling Dubai 2021
Carlsen's legacy in 2071? "Hopefully, he will be somebody who won a classical game in a world championship match after the year 2016!" Photo: Maria Emelianova/’s coverage is brought to you by Coinbase. Whether you’re looking to make your first crypto purchase or you’re an experienced trader, Coinbase has you covered. Earn crypto by learning about crypto with Coinbase Earn, power up your trading with Coinbase’s advanced features, get exclusive rewards when you spend with Coinbase Card, and much more. Learn more at

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