Karjakin Switches To 1.d4, Still Can't Make Headway

Karjakin Switches To 1.d4, Still Can't Make Headway

| 82 | Chess Event Coverage

In 2013, GM Viswanathan Anand couldn't break through with his king-pawn against GM Magnus Carlsen and switched to 1.d4 late in the world championship match. It didn't work.

Today, in round seven of the 2016 World Championship, GM Sergey Karjakin tried the same idea. After getting nothing, or even less than nothing, in the trio of Ruy Lopez games in rounds two, four, and six, the challenger switched to his queen's pawn.

Although he didn't lose like Anand did, Karjakin lost yet another chance with White. Carlsen was once again the winner of the opening battle.

Karjakin-Carlsen, watched by the whole world via this and other cameras.

Carlsen remained tough to pin down after 1.d4. In their rematch in 2014, Anand abandoned 1.e4 completely. In his five cracks at White, his 1.d4 was answered by two games with the Queen's Gambit Declined, two different types of Gruenfelds, and one Queen's Indian.

Starting with the Slav on move two—something he hadn't played in the last two years except once at the Baku Olympiad—Carlsen threw out yet another pitch in his arsenal, a Chebanenko Slav, characterized by an early ...a6. A version of the opening received extensive use by Anand in his title defense against GM Boris Gelfand in 2012. (You can read more about its main points here, here, and here.)

Today we saw a 4.e4 Semi-Slav that would quickly turn into a Chebanenko, and then a Queen's Gambit Accepted.

Carlsen's rare move 10...Nc6 (once played in Colle-Tartokower, 1925!) caused the Russian to think for 18 minutes before playing a toothless response. The regrouping of the knight allowed Black to catch up on development and even have a small plus.

Carlsen missed a chance to get a "good knight" versus "bad bishop" ending and thus attempt yet another grind against Karjakin. Instead, it didn't take long for all the hallmarks of a dead-equal game to appear: symmetrical pawns, mass exchanges, and for the third day in a row, opposite-color bishops.

Several more moments of levity transpired from the press conference. One was
the young boy who asked the players if they thought seven straight draws was "weird."

Despite this, a small inaccuracy by the champ opened the door for Karjakin, who capitalized by winning a pawn. His issue was that he had to reduce his army too far to make use of the extra soldier. The final phase of the game was an inversion from games like three and four. Karjakin pressed while Carlsen refused to budge.

"I was expecting something more sharp today," commentator GM Judit Polgar said.

"I got a better endgame but it wasn't enough to win," Karjakin summarized.

He didn't think White had anything to play for in the ending, and he didn't press Carlsen for very long.

"I was thinking Black would play ...Bc3 (thus allowed the advance a4!), but of course, Magnus will not blunder."

Carlsen admitted that he didn't have to endure the mild discomfort of defending, but unlike with his round-five inaccuracy, he didn't excoriate himself afterward.

"It was not necessary to give up the pawn, but fortunately there are more than enough resources in my position to hold," Carlsen said. "If I play any other move than [16]...Rc8 it should be a straightforward draw."

GM Fabiano Caruana, who came within a game of taking Karjakin's spot the in the playing hall in New York City, stopped by today.

Neither player gave much speculation about who will be favored in case the match ends with all draws or otherwise reaches 6-6. Karjakin cautioned that he remembered the lesson of his countryman. GM Alexander Grischuk opened with five consecutive draws against GM Boris Gelfand in the 2011 Candidates' in Kazan, only to comment on the same possibility, then lose the final game six.

There was a little more excitement in the VIP lounge today: asked Carlsen about his father's recent interview that said that Magnus enjoys "learning something new and meaningful" in chess. Nothing of the sort has transpired in New York.

"There hasn't been any groundbreaking new concepts or anything unfortunately," Carlsen said. "I'm hoping for something more fighting."

GM William Lombardy, former second to Bobby Fischer, visited today. He had been struggling with living costs, but several sources said he'd found a new home.

The challenger is being a little bit more open about his off-day plans than the champion. Karjakin's helicopter plans were grounded yesterday, not because of bad weather, but because it remained unseasonably placid until the evening. He instead opted for yet another long walk.

What about the champ? "First of all, it's about the match," Carlsen said, then paused briefly. "Second of all, it's all about the match."

Both players now have a film out about their lives. As previously reported on, "Sergey" is available online, while "Magnus" is now showing in New York City in the East Village. Karjakin said he had watched the film on his rival, but Carlsen had not reciprocated. In fact, Carlsen had not even watched his titular film.

"But I'm looking forward to it," he said of his plans to watch both.

Former FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman was one of the guests today.

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