World Chess Championship Game 7: Another Queen's Gambit, Another Draw
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Magnus Carlsen drew Fabiano Caruana today. | Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

World Chess Championship Game 7: Another Queen's Gambit, Another Draw

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Nov 18, 2018, 1:42 PM |
102 | Chess Event Coverage

To do a "Caruana" is an eponym meaning winning seven games in a row in a tournament. The world champ has done many amazing things in his career, but to do a "Carlsen" might mean to draw seven games in a row on chess's highest stage. 

For the second consecutive world chess championship, the Norwegian has opened his title defense with seven draws. In today's round seven, he repeated the first nine moves from his round-two game, but Caruana's Queen's Gambit Declined held easily. At least the champ didn't suffer, as has been common with White for both players in the match.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen did stay awake for today's game, which is more than some fans were able to do. | Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

In fact, neither player has lost in several months in any classical game. Today's game, perhaps more than any, never wandered into any sort of advantage for either player.

Caruana thus neutralized the tail end of the vaunted "double White" without any issues. In doing so, he also helped dispel the idea that the leaked training camp video had any negative effects. Recall that the two main openings revealed to be in his preparation were the black side of the Petroff and Queen's Gambit Declined—the exact two openings from the past two match days. Caruana has not suffered in either.

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Much ado about nothing in round seven. | Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

Carlsen seemed taken aback by an opening retreat.

"I knew the move existed, I just didn’t expect it," he said about 9...Qa5 and 10...Qd8. "It wasn’t too much of an unpleasant surprise because I felt there should be many safe options for White and also chances to play for something."

Fabiano Caruana Magnus Carlsen

Caruana plays Qd8-a5 and one move later he will retract his queen right back home. At least Carlsen didn't also toggle his knight, as Giri cheekily suggested, or play would have lasted barely 30 minutes. | Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

"What I did was just way too soft," Carlsen said. "Then I had one chance to play actively [15. Nce4] but I didn’t entirely believe in it. Castling is essentially just an admission that the position is equal."

Fabiano Caruana

Team Caruana's preparation has looked solid. Left to right: Fabiano Caruana, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Cristian Chirila. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

However, even some top colleagues are growing restless with the impasse.

"I'm not gonna hide; the position is pretty dull," Maxime Vachier-Lagrave said after move 26. "The problem is that you need at least one of the players to take serious risk to get the life in the position."

His prediction that the champ would press proved only somewhat accurate.

"Magnus likes these positions until he sucks the life out of them. He will definitely try," said MVL. That fleeting attempt ended not long after when Carlsen got his knight to d6, but needed to trade everything else to do so in what amounted to a Pyrrhic victory. Another White, another non-advantage.

Magnus Carlsen

The usual trio of Team Carlsen: Henrik Carlsen, Magnus Carlsen and Peter Heine Nielsen. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

If the two draw tomorrow, they will tie the all-time world championship record for most draws to start a match. In 1995, Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand played eight straight winless games in New York. About the only group that might be universally happy with a draw tomorrow would be ticket holders for round 11, who would then be guaranteed a game to attend.

Here's the analysis from today's stasis:

Sam Shankland

Here's GM Alex Yermolinsky's take on the game:

So was the champ frustrated at yet another chance with White going by the wayside? He preferred to think of it in a couplet: Some small fortune last game canceled out the lack of opportunities today.

"Not completely," he said. "After the last game it kind of felt like I got away with murder and in that sense it’s easier to be calm about a draw today. I’m not loving it but I’m not in any sort of panic mode either. Could have been worse and the match is still equal and with Black it’s going OK. I’m not at all thrilled about my play today."

Magnus Carlsen

Still searching for opening advantages, but Carlsen said he's not worried. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Today didn't even have a supercomputer's unique insight. Well, not unless you count adding to a punchline:

The players were asked about the round-six ending and the diabolical winning idea. Did they go back and study the ending further on the rest day?

"I was told that it was winning and I did think about the position in my head afterwards," Caruana said. "I mean, it starts to seem kind of easy once you’re told the moves. But the main challenge in this position is that I don’t know that it’s winning. If someone tells me that Black has a win here then I will spend all my time and maybe I will figure it out."

Carlsen agreed, as did Kasparov in a Tweet. Simply put: If you are told there is definitely a solution that wins for Black, you'll likely find it. But if you don't know there is one, that gives it the difficulty.

"If you approach it as an exercise: Black to move wins, then it’s entirely possible to find it," Carlsen said. "The move knight to g1, though it’s beautiful, it has a very clear logic behind it...I don’t agree that it’s inhuman to find."

Fabiano Caruana

According to Chirila, Caruana did a lot of studies in preparation for the match (the leaked video also showed some). But in round six, he needed to know it was study-like to find the seemingly-obtuse ...Ng1! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Despite the results, there have been some chances, large and small, for both sides.

"If none of us makes any mistake until the rest of the match, I guess the one who will be Black in the Armageddon will be very lucky!" Caruana said.

"I would be really depressed if the match went 12 draws," Vachier-Lagrave said. 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Screenshot: Chess.com.

The top Frenchman, who in 2016 worked for Team Carlsen, this time had some advice for the American, assuming he gets his fourth-straight crack at the Sicilian tomorrow.

"I’m surprised he hasn’t tried out the Sveshnikov yet," he said.

Another top-10 GM also wants to see what's in store.

And if you have some advice for the challenger, although he probably won't answer your calls, you can at least join Team Fabi with his new t-shirts. The opening of his merch store amounted to the biggest novelty of the day.

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From the Fabiano Caruana Amazon store.

An interview with Deputy Arbiter and former Women's World Championship condender Nana Alexandria.

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.

To follow the match, Chess.com has extensive coverage, including daily reports on game days right here on Chess.com/news. You can catch all of the moves live at Chess.com/wcc2018 and watch Chess.com's best-known commentators, IM Danny Rensch and GM Robert Hess, on either Twitch.tv/Chess or Chess.com/TV. Special guests, including Hikaru Nakamura, Hou Yifan, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, Sam Shankland and more will be joining the live coverage on different days. 

In addition, GM Alex Yermolinsky will be doing round-by-round wrap-up videos, available immediately after every round on all your favorite social platforms (Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Chess.com). 

The current U.S. chess champion GM Sam Shankland will provide written, in-depth analysis of each game in our news reports.

GM Yasser Seirawan will share his thoughts on the match standings and inner workings of how the players are approaching each game with videos, exclusive to Chess.com members, on each rest day. 


Previous reports:

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