Carlsen goes with 27. … Kf8 as we move into the endgame. The engines now think Nepomniachtchi has the better position. The challenger responds with 28. Ng2. Carlsen thinks on this position for six minutes before choosing 28. … Nf5. After 29. Re5 g6, Carlsen is more than 11 minutes behind on time (with 11 moves to go until the time control).
Carlsen plays 26. … Nh4 after a more than 12-minute think. The position is looking drawish barring any inaccuracies. Nepomniachtchi responds with 27. Re3 in an effort to protect his f-pawn and maintain the material advantage. The engines don’t love it. If Carlsen plays g6 here, there could be a path to victory.
Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi trade a few more moves (24. … Rc6 25. Re1 Nf5). The challenger responds with the engines’ best option (26. c3) … and Sesse now evaluates the position as dead even.
Nepomniachtchi inspects the position for more than 16 minutes before settling on 22. Bf4. Exchanges of knights then rooks follow (22. … Bxf3 23. gxf3 Bxf4 24. Nxf4).
Notably, the Norwegian supercomputer Sesse evaluates the position in Carlsen’s favor for the first time today after 22. Bf4.
Nepomniachtchi goes with 21. Be3. Carlsen thinks for nearly nine minutes before responding with 21. … Ne7. He’s spent more than 24 minutes on his last three moves and has fallen behind the challenger on time for the first time today.
Carlsen is back on the clock again after 18. Nc3 Nb4 19. Rec1 Rac8 20. Ne2. The best responses appear to be Be7 or g6 … so naturally the world champion goes with 20. … Nc6 after nearly 10 minutes. The super-powerful engines continue to favor white, but it’s unclear how Nepomniachtchi will get his pieces to useful squares in the short term.
Carlsen goes with 17. … Rd8 after more than 20 minutes. (A bug on the automatic board is recording this move as 17. … Rc8 on all of the telecasts and streams. It’s incorrect!)
The world championship match doesn’t officially start until Carlsen’s first lengthy think of the match. That’s what’s happening right now: more than 20 minutes! Nothing short of incredible that it’s taken both players this long to get out of their opening preparation. The game has been raised.
A long think for Nepomniachtchi. After more than 16 minutes of contemplation, he finally goes with 17. Nf3.
Here’s a look at the live position after 15. Qxd5 Nxd5 16. Bd2 c5. Carlsen is down a pawn but not without advantages (the bishop pair and superior development). He also enjoys a more than 20-minute advantage on the clock.
Some extraordinary prep for Nepomniachtchi continues through 10. axb3 Bb7 11. d3 d5 12. exd5 Qxd5 13. Qf3 Bd6 14. Kf1. Carsen responds with 14. … Rfb8 as we move toward a queenless middlegame. (A technical glitch in which the automatic board recorded the move as the far inferior 14. … Rfc8 briefly had the chess cognoscenti in a titter.)
Both players leave the board after 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b 7. Bb3 O-O 8. h3. Magnus returns and plays a new move with 8. … Na5! Nepomniachtchi takes nearly two minutes to assess before responding with 9. Nxe5 and inviting the exchange with 9. … Nxb3. The opening is an an anti-Marshall Ruy Lopez.
Game 1 is under way!
Nepomniachtchi playing with the white pieces opens lets his ceremonial move of 1. e4 stand while Carlsen replies with 1. … e5. No double bongcloud this year, alas.
The players have made their way into the sound-proof studio ahead of the opening game. Nepomniachtchi was first to arrive as he took his seat behind the white pieces. Carlsen, perhaps in a spot of gamesmanship, made his opponent wait for a couple of minutes before entering the room and taking his chair with three minutes to go.
Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi faced off one last time at Wednesday’s final press conference, which you can watch below. It was a mostly conciliatory affair, as these things tend to be, and there is a very real mutual respect between the contestants. Pressed on his prediction for the match, Carlsen was to the point.
“I predict that the person who scores the most points over the next three weeks is going to be the winner, and hopefully that’s going to be me,” he said. “And if I do win it will probably be because I made a lot of good moves and good decisions under pressure.”
Our Sean Ingle spoke with Carlsen for his final newspaper interview ahead of the match earlier this week.
Good afternoon from Dubai, where we are less than 15 minutes away from the start of game one. Outside the arena, where half a dozen chess sets are laid out, there has been a growing buzz with spectators congregating, chatting and playing games against each other. The press room, however, is a lot less hectic than it was in London in 2018 where so many journalists turned up there was scrum for tables as well as the free crisps and cans of Coke.
However the demand for tickets has caught some fans by surprise. I spoke to a mother and her seven-year-old boy, who were told two weeks ago they could just show up and get a ticket. But when they arrived two hour before the start, they received the news that day one was a sellout.
Incidentally I am told that the first move will be made by the Fide president Arkady Dvorkovich and a senior member of the ruling family here in the UAE.
Our Leonard Barden has filed his final dispatch ahead of today’s opening game. Barden, who’s written the Guardian’s chess column every week since September 1955, says that Carlsen plans a fast start in the opening three rounds against Ian Nepomniachtchi on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Carlsen will push for an early lead. “As a reigning champion you have a good chance to strike at the start,” he said. “That’s definitely something I am going to try.” Previous cases of first-time challengers who froze include Tigran Petrosian’s disastrous game one in 1963 against Mikhail Botvinnik and Bobby Fischer’s poisoned pawn capture against Boris Spassky in 1972.
In the 2018 match, Fabiano Caruana was shaky in the marathon first game and should have lost at move 38. Carlsen himself, in his second game against Vishy Anand in 2013, planned the Caro-Kann 1 e4 c6 but nervously knocked over his c7 pawn. However, there are also examples like 1927 and 2000 where the challenger scored early and went on to win the match.
India’s Vishy Anand, who lost two title matches to Carlsen, believes that the challenger’s best chance is finding complex and difficult positions where his months of preparation using the Zhores supercomputer will give him chances. “I feel that Magnus is vulnerable under these circumstances,” he said. “It’s already his fifth title match, so the fire isn’t burning so hard inside.”
Here’s a look at the format for the world championship match. It will consist of 14 classical games with each player awarded one point for a win and a half-point for a draw. Whoever reaches seven and a half points first will be declared the champion.
The time control for each game is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61.
If the match is tied after 14 games, tie-breaks will be played on the final day in the following order:
• Best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
• If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
• If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armageddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
Hello and welcome to Dubai for day one of the World Chess Championship. We’ve got a cracker of a tie ahead as Norway’s Magnus Carlsen defends the title he’s held for the past eight years against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi. The best-of-14-games match is scheduled to take place at the Dubai Exhibition Centre over the next 20 days, with the winner earning a 60% share of the €2m ($2.26m) prize fund if the match ends in regulation (or 55% if it’s decided by tie-break games).
Carlsen, 30, has been ranked No 1 for 10 straight years and was considered the world’s best player even before he defeated Viswanathan Anand for the title in 2013. Nepomniachtchi, 31, is ranked No 5, having earned his place the table by winning the eight-man candidates tournament in April with a round to spare – an event that spanned more than 13 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We’re a little more than a half hour away from the ceremonial first move. Plenty more to come.