Carlsen – Karjakin (game 8)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 Not something overly aggressive. Carlsen tries to get out of the main lines. In WC a lot of mind games come into play. Karjakin is thinking on move 3. He’s trying to figure out what Carlsen cooked up. This is not a line which Carlsen normally plays. And Karjakin also rarely faces this opening.

3…e6 4. Bd3 c5 5. b3 This is the Colle-Zukertort which I have played many times throughout my career and I also have a best-selling DVD of this specific opening 🙂 This is a very smart choice by Carlsen. If you are not familiar with this opening, it is very hard to play against it.

5…Be7 There are 2 plans: Either white can postpone c4 & focus on Kingside play with Ne5 then f4 or transpose to Queen’s gambit plan with c4.

6. 0-0 0-0 7. Bb2 b6 This is not an opening either one is very familiar with. Obviously Carlsen has an small edge because he’s prepared for it. In spite of the preparation, Carlsen is spending a lot of time in the opening. It is clear that he is not very familiar with Colle-Zukertort 🙂 Maybe Carlsen is ordering the online version of my Colle-Zukertort video and watching it now 🙂

8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nbd2 Bb7 While it is not a very dangerous opening, white has a slightly more comfortable position.

10. Qe2 with 2 ideas: The Rooks can go to c1 and d1 or eventually e4 to avoid symmetrical pawn structure.

10…Nbd7 11. c4 Unfortunately now black can take and we will see symmetrical pawn structure again. White still has a more comfortable position but for a sure a long game.

11…dxc4 as expected. Black is happy to draw.

12. Nxc4 Qe7 White’s Bishop on d3 and Knight on c4 are more active than the Black Bishop of c5 and Knight on d7. Very slight edge for white but no reason to sweat 🙂 Best quote of the day: “I thought one of them would be in bad shape, could not expect both.” Carlsen is down by about 20 min on the clock in spite of having white. It shows his lack of familiarity with this opening.

13. a3 a5 Now white has the target of putting his Knight on b5 since no pawn to chase it away.

14. Nd4 Rfd8 All jokes (at the expense of the players) aside, all the pieces are still on the board. Plenty of play, although slow, left.

15. Rfd1 Good news, bad news. The good news is Carlsen is slowly trying to create something, anything, whatever he can find 🙂 The bad news is the Norwegian & Russian fans, as well as all chess media, will have another long night 🙂

15…Rac8 16. Rac1 All pieces completely developed. Now choice of 2 plans for black: Nf8-g6 or Ne4.

16…Nf8 17. Qe1 When you can’t come up with a concrete idea, make the least damaging move 🙂 All kidding aside, I have absolutely have no idea why Qe1 🙂

17…Ng6 18. Bf1 This is like a rope-a-dope tactic by Muhammad Ali. Carlsen is pulling his pieces back to provoke Karjakin to do something 🙂

18…Ng4 Karjakin fell for it. He is being aggressive like George Foreman in Rumble in the Jungle 🙂 I am not sure what to say because Carlsen’s play today is very curious. Maybe he is simply frustrated?

19. Nb5 Again, this is very curious by Carlsen, especially when Karjakin can develop a dangerous attack on his Kingside. Now 19…Qg5 and it can be dangerous.

19…Bc6 Karjakin failed to find the strongest move. But no harm done. Black is fine. It seems that neither player is willing to be aggressive or take chances.

20. a4 Carlsen can’t find a good plan. Karjakin can’t find a good plan. Maybe we should allow them 1 lifeline and phone a friend? 🙂 Karjakin was so mesmerized by 20. a4, he froze for 15+ minutes 🙂

20…Bd5 After nearly 25 minutes, this move was made. I was afraid he would go back to b7 🙂 I think I got it! They’re trying to make moves which confuse their opponent 🙂 20. a4 was so deep, it required Bd5 🙂

21. Bd4 Finally! The moment to exchange everything for a drawn endgame!

21…Bxc4 Not very accurate but it will not change the end results. 21…Bxd4 was more accurate.

22. Rxc4 Bxd4 Here it comes! Pieces slowly coming off the board toward a boring drawish endgame 🙂 Word to the wise! Do not try to play like this at home. Leave it to the professionals like Carlsen and Karjakin! 🙂

23. Rdxd4 A pair of Rooks will likely come off the board which will lead to 8th consecutive draws!

23…Rxc4 24. bxc4 Once again, I cannot explain this re-capture. I am speechless 🙂

24…Nf6 I am sorry to say that there is no sufficient plan for either player to even have a chance to win such position.

25. Qd2 Rb8 Much easier to draw with the Rooks on the board.

26. g3 Almost any move by black would lead to an equal position.

26…Ne5 27. Bg2 The players need to be careful about time. Both have around 12-13 minutes for 12-13 moves. Karjakin needs to be careful about small excitement like 27…Rc8 28. Na7 🙂 All kidding aside, as I explained to some chess fans, neither player is obligated to please the fans. Their job is to win, even by winning ugly and in the most boring way 🙂

27…h6 28. f4 Black can simply retreat Ned7 =

28…Ned7 29. Na7 Qa3 30. Nc6 Rf8 Some activities but it will not change the outcome.

31. h3 Nc5 Carlsen better be careful. Over pushing here can backfire.

32. Kh2 Karjakin is down to about 3 minutes to reach move 40. Either player can blunder here.

32…Nxa4 All of a sudden, the game is getting sharp. White can play 33. Rd8 or 33. e4 or 33. g4! This game just went from boring to officially exciting, thanks to their time pressure 🙂

33. Rd8 g6 Carlsen is down to about 2 minutes! Dangerous time!

34. Qd4 Kg7 35. c5?? This is a big gamble! Carlsen can actually lose here. This is bad news for Carlsen fans. He is on the verge of going down in this position.

35… Rxd8 which is the best move that could lead to a win.

36. Nxd8 Nxc5 37. Qd6 Qd3?? Karjakin blundered to allow a draw!

38. Nxe6+ fxe6 39. Qe7+ Kg8 40. Qxf6 a4 Shocking twist, big blunders by both players in time pressure! Luckily for Carlsen, he made time control. Now he has time to find 41. e4 which is a must to hold. Otherwise, he will lose.

41. e4 Now Karjakin also needs to be careful. His King is exposed. 41…Qd7 is probably the best move here. What started as an incredible boring game became one of the most exciting, thanks to time pressure/blunders by both.

41…Qd7 42. Qxg6+ Qg7 43. Qe8+ Qf8 Now the players can actually repeat moves if they want to 🙂 Black has dangerous a pawn. So white can probably play 44. Qg6+ Kh8 45. Bf1 –> Bc4 =

44. Qc6 Now Black should play 44…Qd8 The game can get very sharp with 45. f5 a3 46. fxe6 Kh7 47. e5 a2 48. Be4+ Nxe4 49. Qxe4 =

44…Qd8 45. f5 a3 As expected. Now 46. fxe6 is the only move for Carlsen not to lose.

46. fxe6 Kg7 is inaccurate. 46…Kh7 would be better. This is a very dangerous position. Either can still blunder and lose.

47. e7 Qxe7 48. Qxb6 Nd3 49. Qa5 Carlsen is not off the hook yet as the a pawn is still very dangerous.

49…Qc5 50. Qa6 Ne5 In spite of being a pawn down, black is the one pushing to win because of the powerful a pawn.

51. Qe6 This is a huge blunder. Now 51… h5 and black is close to winning.

51…h5 Now black is completely winning (as long as Karjakin does not blunder again).

52. h4 a2 If 53. Qxa2 Ng4+ 54. Kh3 Qg1 game over. 0-1 Carlsen resigned! Game over! He could not overcome so many bad moves! Only 4 games left and he’s down by 1! Shocking!


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