In my last blog, I talked about the history of the World Chess Championships and covered the action in the 2021 match between the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. We left off at the crucial point of the match: the grueling game 6 which gave the World Champion a point lead.
A week has passed since the epic match and unfortunately for the challenger, things unraveled for him quickly. After a solid draw in round 7, Nepomniactchi made a shocking blunder in the following game. Carlsen is not the one to let an opportunity slide, thus capitalizing on his opponent’s mistake and extending his lead by 2 points. See if you can spot the tactic below.
Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniactchi
Game 8 of the 2021 World Chess Championship Match
White to move
I will explain the answer in the next blog.
The players got a much needed break after game 8. The challenger was faced with the infeasible task of recovering from a two point deficit in the remaining 6 games. Defeating Carlsen in one game is a tall task, doing so twice on demand is nothing short of impossible. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to play in such a high pressure event against such an incredibly strong player, where every move is scrutinized. The pressure certainly got to Nepomniachtchi as he collapsed in game 9, this time getting his piece trapped. The quick draw in the following round gave the challenger extra time to recuperate, but there was no recovering from this.
The match officially ended on Friday, with Carlsen winning game 11 and reaching the needed 7.5 points to retain his title. This marks his 5th World Championship victory. The champion’s first reaction immediately after the game was that of relief. During the press conference he thanked his team and cited Alireza Firouzja’s performance in the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss as a big motivation. Nepomniactchi was gracious as usual during the postgame press conference. He expressed that he would need some time to reflect on what went wrong in the match, but his initial feeling was that it had little to do with chess. His response hinted at the importance of mental and emotional preparation ahead of these events.
Magnus Carlsen at the press conference after successfully defending his title
Photo by Eric Rosen courtesy of FIDE
Congratulations to the deserving champion! His next event will be the World Rapid and Blitz Championship taking place from December 25-31 in Warsaw, Poland.