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Interviews Dec 7, 2021 | 10:44 AMby chess24 staff

Carlsen: “The last three games have been like a dream”

Magnus Carlsen leads the World Chess Championship 5:3, after breaking through in Game 6 and then doubling his lead in Game 8. We’ve suddenly gone from a battle of nerves where every draw seemed to help the challenger, to a position where Ian Nepomniachtchi has to hit back on demand with just six games to go. Magnus spoke to his friend Magnus Barstad for 10 minutes on the eve of Game 9 and talked about how he expects his opponent to “bounce back strongly now”. 

During the match Magnus has been accompanied to the games by his head coach Peter Heine Nielsen, but also by his friend and “part music expert, part fashion expert, hype man” Magnus Barstad. 

The two Magnuses talked for 10 minutes, in Norwegian, before Game 9.

We’ve translated some of the key quotes, with Magnus talking about what awaits in the coming games.

I have to expect that the match will enter a phase that will be a bit different. A desperate opponent is a very dangerous opponent. I am completely focused. There is pressure during a World Championship regardless, whether you are down or leading, but obviously it's much better when you are in the lead.

Magnus talked about the three-game segment that has transformed the match.

The last three games have been like a dream. The sixth game is one that I am particularly proud of. It was a long game, many things happened, but this is the way to win, I feel: you keep cool and remain patient, take the chance when it arises, and I managed to do that. Obviously you can't win when your opponent defends perfectly, but I felt that he found many good defensive moves. He didn't find them in the end, but that's how it works. It's very difficult after eight hours.

Carlsen says he wasn't completely sure he would be winning until the last few moves.

When I moved my knight, I knew that nobody can take it away from me.

132.Nh5! was the start of the final breakthrough, and when the knight got to g7 the game was over

The marathon victory in Game 6 affected the following games. 

Not much happened in the seventh game, it was just a solid draw. The 8th game he loses in part because he lost Game 6 and he wasn't really switched on.

"An enormous relief and joy" Magnus said of breaking through in the match | photo: Eric Rosen, FIDE

Carlsen thinks Nepomniachtchi's level fell pretty drastically after the loss in Game 6, but was taking nothing for granted. 

I can't just assume that it will remain like that. I expect that he has regrouped on the rest day and will bounce back strongly now.

Carlsen points out that he hasn't led a match since the second match against Anand in 2014.

It's been some tough matches, very close and few decisive games. An enormous relief and joy! It's been a recurring theme the last few days that I've felt tired, and it's been exhausting, but I've been repeating to myself 'It's worse for him! It's worse for him!’

While the Carlsen camp must be trying to avoid the danger of celebrating too soon, Ian Nepomniachtchi’s team, that includes Sergey Karjakin, will be trying to fire their player up for a potential comeback. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi has a mountain to climb | photo: Eric Rosen, FIDE

Sergey told RSport

Ian’s chances of victory in the match can now be assessed as roughly 20 percent. That’s not so little, and you have to utilise it. If he goes for a fight in a good mood and with the desire to show his best chess then he’ll have a chance of winning at least one game. After winning one, it’ll already be possible to hope for more. Of course, Magnus is the clear favourite, but you have to fight to the end. It’s not even about the score. At the current moment Ian hasn’t used all his opportunities and hasn’t shown his best chess. 

When he starts to do that, he’ll have chances. For now we’re seeing, you could say, a different Ian. Perhaps he overloaded his head at the training camps, as after all he spent half a year preparing for the match. That happens — you spend so much time preparing that you lack freshness. Perhaps there are other reasons we don’t know about. I repeat, it’s absolutely not the same Ian we saw at the Candidates Tournament, in the Russian Championship Superfinal and at other events which he won. Ian needs to figure it out for himself. 

Don’t miss Game 9 live right here on chess24 from 16:30 local time (7:30 ET, 13:30 CET).

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