World Chess Championship Game 9: Another Draw Sets Record
Photographers have limited space to take photos during the first five minutes. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

World Chess Championship Game 9: Another Draw Sets Record

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Nov 21, 2018, 12:26 PM |
78 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen will definitely not be celebrating the record that was set today at the world championship match in London. He let an opening advantage slip away versus Fabiano Caruana, and now the first nine games have all ended in draws—one more than in the 1995 Anand-Kasparov match.

Having tried 1.e4 and 1.d4 in his back-to-back white games (games six and seven), today Carlsen returned to his move of choice in game four: 1.c4. Another English Four Knights came on the board, after which Caruana repeated the sideline 6...Bc5, and for two more moves that earlier game was repeated.

Magnus Carlsen eye game 9 World Chess Championship

Carlsen tried his luck with 1.c4 again, but the result didn't change. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's 9.Bg5 was the first deviation, and a slightly odd one. Was it really worth a full tempo to force ...f6, a move Black often plays anyway in these structures?

The position did become more tactical, as in many lines the opened a2-g8 diagonal allowed a check, and especially the concept of Bc1-b2 and d3-d4 sharpened up the game enough for Caruana to spend much time on the clock:

  • 12…Bb6 9 minutes
  • 13…Bd5 21 minutes
  • 14…exd4 8 minutes
  • 17…Bxf3 13.5 minutes

"I wasn't surprised," Caruana said at the press conference. "I looked at the line but couldn’t remember the details. It’s a very complicated position, so I was just trying to figure it out as best I could, which I didn’t really manage."

Caruana World Championship 2018

This time it was Caruana who was under some pressure after the opening. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The move 17...Bxf3 was an especially critical moment in the game. By taking the knight, Caruana decided to go for a slightly worse structure. After 23 moves, Hikaru Nakamura said on the Chess.com live broadcast:

"This is a vintage Magnus position. If you go back a couple of years, he was incredible winning them. If Fabiano were to lose today, the match is over in my opinion. We’re gonna see how Fabiano’s nerves are today!"

And the world champion was indeed content with what he got out of the opening. "I was very happy with the opening obviously. And you cannot expect much more," Carlsen later said.

Carlsen Caruana World Chess Championship 2018

Carlsen and Caruana, already in the final phase of the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen chose 24.h4, a move he was critical of afterward. During the game, the experts mostly focused on the follow-up 25.h5, though. "It looks like Magnus rushed it," said IM Danny Rensch, an opinion that was shared by GM Hou Yifan, who also joined our show today.

The Chinese grandmaster, currently at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, praised Carlsen's preparation but described 25.h5 as "too hurried."

After the anti-positional but tactically excellent 25...gxh5 ("a very good move obviously" —Carlsen) co-commentator GM Robert Hess correctly predicted the next strong pawn move by Caruana, 26...f5! That one also looks odd at first sight, putting all those pawns on the square of the opponent's bishop.

However, Hess's analysis was praised by Nakamura, who quickly noticed Black's concrete plan of putting pressure on the kingside—pressure that was going to be enough to hold the draw.

"White’s king becomes vulnerable as well," Caruana argued about those two pawn moves.

Carlsen Caruana World Chess Championship 2018

These two players, the best two in the world, keep on avoiding big mistakes. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The rooks were traded, and later also the queens. The draw was inevitable, although Carlsen played on for a bit. In his opinion, trying to provoke an early ...h5 by Black was worth a try, as he explained to a Norwegian journalist.

Irritated by the question "when did you understand it was a draw?", Carlsen first repeated the question with incredulity and then said: "I understood it immediately. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play. I’m trying to entice him to play …h5. And if does play …h5 then I at least have a target. But obviously if he just keeps still and keeps his fortress just waiting for my king to enter then there’s nothing. There’s no harm in playing. I really don’t understand the point [of the question]."

Sam Shankland

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

The important moment that Caruana decided to trade his bishop for the knight on f3 was discussed afterward. "I didn’t feel totally comfortable," he said. "I thought if I started to drift then it could be unpleasant. White’s moves are easy…so I wanted to make it more concrete."

Caruana called his position "unpleasant," but added: "The drawing margin is very high with opposite-colored bishops. I had less time so I thought it would be easier to play if I simplified the position a bit."

Carlsen Caruana World Chess Championship 2018

Caruana at the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen on the moment: "I had kind of mixed feelings about 17…Bxf3. On the one hand, it leads to a very comfortable advantage. But on the other hand, as Fabiano said, it simplifies the position quite a lot. It felt like I wasn’t in time to do everything that I wanted."

"We are only three draws away from a tiebreak," one reporter started while asking Caruana about his chances in a possible playoff. The challenger, smiling at the small provocation, replied: "I’m really not thinking about the tiebreak now. If we get there then I’ll start to think about but there’s still a lot of chess to be played, and I really don’t agree with most people about my chances in a tiebreak."

Tiebreak simulations Carlsen Caruana

The chances of all three possible results as calculated by SmarterChess.

The side-story of the day, dubbed “London Eye” by GM Ian Rogers, was a minor injury Carlsen suffered during the rest day. During a friendly football (soccer) match, he had hurt his eye, and posted a selfie on Instagram and added: “The match is heating up.”

Carlsen hurt his right eye (which seemed to be his left eye due to his phone’s front “selfie" camera) in a clash on the field was with NRK reporter Emil Gukild, who in fact hurt his left eye and had quite a bit of blood.

Carlsen's team doctor was present during the incident (he often brings one with him to world championships) and was the one to administer first aid. Both were treated quickly and thanks to the use of ice, Carlsen didn’t get a full black eye. The world champion did wear a bandage right above his right eye today.

Asked whether he was in any pain from the injury today, Carlsen just responded with a firm "no," with which some terseness with the press started. To the question if this was his best game during world championship, Carlsen replied to with another "no."

Carlsen Caruana World Chess Championship 2018

A photo that sums up the mood at the press conference: Carlsen was more down, and Caruana lighter than usual. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

As Norwegian reporter Tarjei Svensen noted in the press room, Carlsen has now drawn 14 games in a row (including five at his previous event, the European Club Cup), five more than his previous longest streak of nine draws. In 2018, Carlsen's draw percentage is 72 percent.

Caruana was in a better mood. About Carlsen's injury, he said with a smile: "Well, I don’t usually look at Magnus too much during the game! I actually had known about the injury. It didn’t really change the game today."

With two white games vs one for his opponent scheduled, Caruana has enough reason to be satisfied. The first of those white games he will play on Thanksgiving. What he is thankful for was the last question today, and it got a humble answer: "I'm thankful for my team for doing a great job."

Carlsen Caruana World Chess Championship 2018

Spectators can watch the press conferences, too. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Mike Klein 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.

Impressions of the match in London.


Correction: an earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Caruana said "I was surprised" about the opening.


Previous reports:

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