World Chess Championship 2021: Decisively decided?


Jada Roth

Magnus Carlsen stands one win away from victory over Ian Nepomniachtchi in the 2021 World Chess Championship after game 10.

Jack Henshaw, Contributing Reporter

Yesterday marked the end of game 10 of the International Chess Federation’s — also referred to by the French acronym, FIDE —   World Chess Championship match between current world champion Magnus Carlsen and the winner of the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi. 

Originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic, the FIDE World Chess Championship match began on Nov. 26 with game one. The final game is scheduled for Dec. 14. 

The tiebreaker game is set for Dec. 15; however, it is highly unlikely a tiebreaker will be necessary to decide which player will receive the 2 million euro prize and the title of World Champion. 

A match of 14 classical chess games will decide the championship match between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi. Each player has 120 minutes to make their first 40 moves, an additional 60 minutes for games longer than 40 moves and an additional 15 minutes for games longer than 60 moves, with an added 30 seconds per move after move 60. 

Each player can earn one point for winning a game, half a point for drawing and zero points for losing. The first player to earn 7.5 points wins the match. This is the traditional time format used in FIDE classical chess tournaments. However, this format resulted in the longest chess game in world championship history, during game six of their match, lasting 136 moves over the course of 7 hours and 47 minutes.

Thirty-one-year-old Carlsen is from Norway and has been the reigning world chess champion for almost 10 years, since he defeated the previous world champion Viswanathan Anand in 2013. Since 2011, he has accumulated a higher elo rating than other chess players, in several different time formats of chess. 

Carlsen was recognized as a chess prodigy from an early age, winning many chess tournaments and earning the Grandmaster title at just 13 years old. Carlsen faced Nepomniachtchi for the first time in a chess match in 2002 during the 2002 European U12 Championship. Nepomniachtchi had a majority of the wins during their childhood rivalry. 

Thirty-one-year-old Ian Nepomniachtchi is a chess grandmaster from Russia who began playing chess as early as 4 years old. One of the top players from Russia, he has won several tournaments throughout his chess career, such as the 2002 European U12 Championship, Russian Chess Championship in 2010 and of course the FIDE 2020 Candidates Tournament. 

Unfortunately for Nepomniachtchi, his chances of beating Carlsen were better during their childhood. The current championship match began with a draw in games one, two, three, four and five. 

In game six, Carlsen exchanged his queen for two rooks, eventually resulting in an endgame where Carlsen was able to defeat Nepomniachtchi and his remaining queen with a rook and a knight in the longest chess game in world championship history. 

Perhaps exhausted from their previous game, Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi promptly drew game seven, allowing Nepomniachtchi to stabilize after his loss. Unfortunately for Nepomniachtchi, Carlsen’s momentum was not stalled after the draw and Nepomniachtchi could not keep up. 

In game eight, Nepomniachi blundered a pawn, which was enough for Carlsen to convert and win the game. In game nine, on move 27, Nepomniachi faltered, allowing his bishop to be trapped, despite removing his man-bun before the game. 

A confused Carlsen played the right moves to capitalize on the mistake, and Nepomniachtchi resigned the game just a few moves later. Yesterday in game 10, the players agreed to a draw after reaching an equal knight and pawn endgame. 

Although the world chess championship is not over, the status of the match could not favor a victory for Carlsen more. The current score of the match after game 10 is 6.5 to 3.5, with Carlsen in the lead

There are four remaining games in the match. Carlsen will win the championship if he wins one game or draws just two of the remaining four games. 

In order for Nepomniachtchi to win the championship, he will have to win all four of the remaining games, or he will have to win three, draw one and then defeat Carlsen in a tiebreaking game. This is extremely unlikely because Nepomniachtchi has yet to beat Carlsen in a single game of their championship match.

Despite Nepomniachtchi’s nearly impossible odds of victory, he has remained a class act, showing up to each post game press conference and doing interviews. Carlsen remains humble as always. 

The two will resume playing for game 11 on Dec. 10. If Nepomniachtchi does not win this game with the white pieces, he can expect imminent defeat.

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