After nine consecutive draws, Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen have drawn yet again in the Chess World Championship in London. There are now just two games left for either player to find a win or the series will go to a best of four tiebreaker series.
World number one Carlsen came close to winning Game 9 on Wednesday but lost his advantage following a rushed decision to offer up a pawn on his 25th move. Grandmaster Hiraku Nakamura called the move “a little premature to me”, a sentiment which was echoed by Carlsen after the game concluded.
“I felt like I had a comfortable advantage and then I just blew it, I was poor,” said Carlsen, visibly disappointed by the way the game ended. That ninth draw set the record for the longest streak of games without a win in the 132-year history of the Chess World Championship.
Finally though, in Game 10, Carlsen went all in. After spending 15 minutes contemplating his 21st move he surprised everyone by sacrificing a pawn in order to remove a rook hindering his attacks. Once he made the move he jumped up from his chair and headed to the refreshment area.
The pressure ramped up on world number two Caruana. As the moves progressed the pair traded bishops and then queens before reaching time control on move 40. For Carlsen to win, he needed to do it with just his rooks and pawns.
Russian GM Peter Svidler said Caruana was in a difficult position. “My hands would be very shaky with white in this position. It’s very, very scary.” With the game in such a fine balance, one mistake could prove fatal.
An overextension of the king by Carlsen potentially opened the door for Caruana to take something from the game but Carlsen managed to retreat just in time. The game then fizzled out to a draw a few moves later as neither side had a chance of winning.
There are still two games left in the series, organised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), with a prize fund of one million euros on the line. If the score is level after these last two games then the series will go to the tiebreakers.
In these extra games, each player will start with 25 minutes on the clock with an increment of 10 seconds after each move. Should the series reach this point, Carlsen will be the favourite to win given he is also the world number one Blitz Chess player.
Off the board, there was major controversy early on in the series as a two-minute video was uploaded to the Saint Louis Chess Club Youtube channel before being removed shortly after. The video showed details of Caruana’s preparation for the championship.
While the video was online several screenshots were taken and shared online. Chess fans were quick to analyse the photos, including one of a laptop screen showing openings potentially being research by Caruana. The names of three grandmasters were also contained in the video – Leinier Domínguez, Alejandro Ramírez and Ioan-Cristian Chirila – who are working as second’s to help the American prepare
The final games of the series are played on Saturday 24th and Monday 26th and are shown for free on the FIDE website. They are also streamed on Twitch.tv by Chess.com hosted by IM Daniel Rensch and GM Robert Hess with regular appearances by guests such as GM’s Hiraku Nakamura and Yifan Hou.