Carlsen-Nepo 10: Challenger keeps faint hopes alive

A tame draw in Game 10 leaves Magnus Carlsen on the brink of inflicting a crushing defeat on Ian Nepomniachtchi to clinch the 2021 World Chess Championship.

Russia’s FIDE World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi has banked all his hopes of an unlikely comeback against Magnus Carlsen on Friday’s Game 11 after accepting a tame draw today.

The 31-year-old appeared in “damage limitation” mode, according to Carlsen afterward, as he opted for a solid Petroff Defence and steered the game towards a 41-move draw.

Replay Game 10 below (or check out all the games with computer analysis on our broadcast page). 

Nepo, who has a 3 point gap to close with just 4 to play, will now be hoping to return to the board rested and ready to take on Carlsen again with the White pieces.

Norway’s world number 1 is just a point away from defending his title and being crowned World Champion for the fifth time. For Nepo to overhaul him, it would take nothing short of a sporting miracle.

The Russian had gone into today’s game needing to steady the ship on the back of two disastrous losses and appeared satisfied with his day’s work afterward.

Watch the day’s live commentary and post-game press conference with Judit Polgar and Anish Giri.

Game 10 started with the third Petroff of the match – a choice Carlsen confessed that he had not really expected from Nepo.

The opening moves were tame with few chances on either side, although Carlsen said afterward he felt he had a slight edge. But when the queens came off on move 10 most pundits expected a quick draw.

A series of trades followed and the draw was agreed once they cleared the time control at move 40. The game lasted just 2 hours. The players now head into a rest day on Thursday before what is likely to be the final tranche of three games.

Watch the day’s play with the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour team of David Howell, Kaja Snare and Jovanka Houska.

In the Oslo broadcast, IM Lawrence Trent said: “If it was me I wouldn’t have played that way because I don’t like leaving it until the last minute to try and save a match.

“I think Ian is talented enough to put pressure on with the Black pieces if he gets the kind of position.

“But maybe yesterday was so mentally draining for him that he just wanted to refresh for the rest day, come back and go all-in basically for the last four games – and that’s what he needs to do.

“Every game is a must-win game so I expect fireworks in Game 11 now.”

IM Trent added: “Miracles do happen – it’s the festive season!”

In the press conference afterward, Nepo explained his strategy: “Today was just an idea to play a normal game — not to blunder something in one move.”

Asked what he would have done differently in the match, Nepo responded with: “I guess I would lose less and win more.”

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