Reports Nov 18, 2016 | 11:53 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen-Karjakin, Game 6: All square at halfway

“I felt that today was not the day that I should be looking to do big things”, said Magnus Carlsen afterwards, so he settled instead for proving he can draw at will with the black pieces, in a game that lasted 2 hours, 32 moves, and never really left his preparation. Sergey Karjakin can take comfort from having reached the halfway mark of his first World Championship match on a level footing with the champion. There will be more exciting days ahead!

Both Sergey & Magnus were in high spirits after Game 6 | photo: Vladimir Barsky, Russian Chess Federation

Before we get to the game itself – and once again we have video analysis by a number of grandmasters – let’s look at what Alexander Grischuk had to say to Sport Express after Game 5. He was asked whether he had the impression that Magnus Carlsen is out of form:

Perhaps, yes, but Sergey definitely isn’t in his best form either. It’s very tough to be in your best form in general, and probably nine times out of ten you don’t manage it. That’s why it’s your best, because it happens very rarely.

But when should you be in your best form if not in a World Championship match?

Of course everyone tries to get into their best condition, but again, it far from always works out that way. So far it’s even tough for me to say which of them is feeling better at the board. They haven’t yet had one, let’s say, old-fashioned game where it was all guns blazing. It’s been a very intricate, manoeuvring struggle.

Is that why many are calling the match outright boring?

It’s true that so far I haven’t seen anything really new in this match. If you take each game individually then I agree, it’s been a bit dull to watch, but from my point of view the main thing is that it’s an even struggle. Let them make draws in ten moves in each game, but the score will remain level – and it’ll be interesting for me. It’s better that way than if you have brilliant games but one of the sides takes a huge lead. The most enthralling thing right now is precisely the match struggle.

Is every draw in the match in Karjakin’s favour?

Of course. After all, before the start Carlsen was the clear favourite, but now the fewer games that remain the less of a favourite he’s become.

On the other hand, Game 6 was the first of two in which Sergey would have the white pieces, and Game 5 had been pretty traumatic for Magnus… even if the effects seem to have worn off quickly!

We saw a repeat of the Ruy Lopez “Anti-Marshall” played in Game 4 for the first nine moves, until Carlsen went for a pawn sacrifice line with 9…d5 rather than 9…d6. That was no surprise to Sergey, of course, but Magnus’ 14…c5 was a new move that finally got him thinking. The watching Anish Giri was impressed:

Nigel Short, meanwhile, felt Karjakin’s style made him a fixed target:

Two jabs of Black’s f-pawn later and a position was reached that Karjakin would later explain seems to be a forced draw:

It’s far from obvious to the untrained eye, but Magnus blitzed out: 17…Bxg5 18.Nxg5 h6 19.Ne6 Qd5 20.f3 Rfe8:

Karjakin talked about his opponent’s “brilliant” opening preparation and said that, “I was quite lucky to have 21.Re5 here – otherwise I’m lost”. That might not be strictly true – computers suggest some crazy lines in which 21.Nc7 also works out fine – but the move in the game forced a draw. 

Sergey is looking confident, but it's still a surprise that so far he's failed to make any impact on his opponent in the opening | photo: Vladimir Barsky, Russian Chess Federation

There followed 21…Qd6 22.c3! Rxe6 23.Rxe6 Qxe6 24.cxb4 cxb4, and with crippled pawn structures and opposite-coloured bishops it was only a matter of time until the game ended in a draw. Or at least Nigel Short was feeling pretty confident 

Nigel’s progeny could soon breathe a sigh of relief:

For a proper analysis of the game look no further than Eric Hansen:

And Niclas Huschenbeth:

You can also rewatch the live commentary from Eric and Loek van Wely, who were both making their last appearance as chess24 commentators during the World Championship:

All that remained for the players was to run the media gauntlet once more…

After the tension of the day before both players were in good spirits, knowing they had a free half day and then a rest day ahead of them:

Magnus summed up:

It goes on and as long as I’m not down in the match it’s ok. Yesterday I could have lost at some point. It wasn’t forced, but it was a difficult position. I felt that today was not the day that I should be looking to do big things. I’m quite satisfied with a short game and now I’ll go and try and prepare for the next.

Sergey noted Magnus’ opening preparation is underestimated, but was also satisfied at the halfway mark:

As I said before Magnus is very good in the openings, so it’s not a big surprise also for me. Basically I have a feeling that the match is interesting and maybe the only game with which I could be really unhappy was yesterday, so it’s fine.

He handled a somewhat incoherent question about whether the match could last as long as Karpov-Kasparov in 1984 with aplomb, “We have to play in Wijk aan Zee in January, so we don’t have so much time!”, and also revealed he might be going up in a helicopter on the rest day. Carlsen commented, “that scares me”, and is planning to keep his feet on the ground.

Apart from the players it’s a chance for commentators, chess fans and journalists – especially those in Europe – to get some sleep, for a change, although there were some disgruntled voices. Ian Nepomniachtchi, who’s been commentating live on the match both on his Twitch channel and on Russia’s Match TV, picked the wrong day for a rest:

Magnus Carlsen fans may have suffered a moment of panic when they noted Lawrence Trent among Team Carlsen...

But it may just be that he’s busy managing his boy Fabiano Caruana, since the US no. 1 didn't pick the best day to drop by:

So where does that leave us, then? Well, it’s six draws and counting…

That’s still two to go to match the start of Anand-Kasparov at the top of the World Trade Center in New York in 1995, while Nigel reminded us that these draws are nothing compared to previous World Championships:

What can we expect now? Well, let’s return to that interview with Alexander Grischuk, who was asked if he could see any reason to believe that Karjakin might win:

For now there are no particular grounds to think that Sergey will win, but the main thing is that he’s not losing! And in the fifth game for the first time at some point he outplayed Magnus, so he’s got a chance. I’d suggest an analogy with boxing: if you face a stronger opponent you don’t think about immediately trying to knock him out. At first you try not to get knocked out yourself, then you try to box on a level footing, and only then do you try to break through.

Karjakin will again have the white pieces in Sunday’s Game 7, for which Peter Svidler will be joined by Jan Gustafsson in our live commentary. That dream team will cover every game, including tiebreaks if necessary, until the end of the match!

Meanwhile, lucky Loek van Wely picked the quickest day so far to commentate! He’s not going to get away that easily, though, since at 12:00 CET on Saturday he’s going to play another session of Banter Blitz. Don’t miss it!

Remember you can also watch the games in our free mobile apps:


See also:

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