Magnus Carlsen clinched a fifth successive FIDE World Championship title as he finally killed off the challenge of Ian Nepomniachtchi with a clean win in Game 11.
The Norwegian had gone into today’s encounter a near dead cert for the title and looking to end the match with three games to spare.
In his daily analysis sessions over the course of the match, Meltwater Champions Chess Tour commentator David Howell has been picking over the key instructive moments for his Play of the Day.
Here is the final instalment:
Carlsen managed it with relative ease as Nepo crumbled. The final score of 7.5-3.5 was crushing.
The 31-year-old’s first reaction was: “It’s hard to feel great joy when the situation was so comfortable to begin with, but I’m happy with a very good performance overall!”
Carlsen has now held the world title since 2013 when he beat Vishy Anand in Chennai. By the time he has to defend it, he will have spent a decade as champion.
Having only won the last match in 2018 on tiebreaks, this was a much more convincing match performance. The champion was dominant and ruthlessly turned the screw after winning an epic encounter in Game 6.
Nepo, meanwhile, simply never recovered from that loss. The Russian suffered a series of blunders and went into Friday’s game three points behind and needing a win to keep any faint hopes of overturning Carlsen’s lead around.
Experts had predicted a fiery opening but Nepo opted for a slow Italian. The game ignite but the blunders which have dogged Nepo returned.
With his 23. g3, the Russian appeared to blow his chances. Grandmaster David Howell on chess24’s Oslo broadcast described the choice as a “blunder” and a “last roll of the dice”.
Grandmaster Anish Giri was less charitable on the chess24 Deep Dive broadcast, saying: “He just wants to lose!”
Carlsen went on to take full control and trade down into an ending. The game limped on, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Minutes after the win, Carlsen, a big basketball fan, tweeted an iconic picture of Kobe Bryant – another five-time title winner:
In the press conference afterward, the five-time champ said: “I’m very happy, of course. I didn’t expect it to go quite like this. I think it was just a very good, professional performance overall and I have no regrets at all. Just very satisfying!”
He added: “A lot of my decisions when push came to shove skewed conservative, and you can say in hindsight it worked out pretty well.”
Speaking about his first experience of a World Championship match, Nepo said: “It was a big experience that I couldn’t get any other way… Bad news and good news. Good news: it was nothing about chess, or almost nothing about chess…”
He added: “We only live once, and I have to face the consequences…”
Carlsen was asked about what motivated him beforehand.
He said: “I was really impressed with [Firouzja’s] performance in the Grand Swiss and the European Team Championship and I would say that motivated me more than anything else!”
Asked how he would celebrate, Carlsen said: “I’ll be celebrating by playing the World Rapid and Blitz Championship!”
The tournament, another chance for Carlsen to pick up world titles, will be played in Warsaw from December 26-30.