World Championship: Carlsen within a point of keeping crown as 10th game drawn

With four games to go, Magnus Carlsen leads 6.5-3.5 and needs only one more point to keep the title.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen, right, competes with Ian Nepomniachtchi at the FIDE World Championship in Dubai.   -  AP

In what turned out to be the quickest game of the ongoing World Chess Championship title match, Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi needed only 125 minutes to draw Game 10 in 41 moves in Dubai on Wednesday.

With four games to go, Carlsen leads 6.5-3.5 and needs only one more point to keep the title. Nepomniachtchi will play with white pieces when the action resumes on Friday, after a day of rest.

Having lost three out of the last four games, Nepomniachtchi was expected to adopt a more pragmatic approach and he did. Playing black, he chose to repeat Petroff Defence and made no secret of being fine with a draw.

Asked if he was surprised by Nepomniachtchi’s decision to stick to Petroff, Carlsen said, “I didn’t particularly think he would do that. But I guess he was in damage-limitation mode at this point.”

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The players gave very little away and after a series of exchanges in quick time, a draw was agreed. Though the draw appeared the most obvious result for a long time, the players played out a minimum of 40 moves to meet the stipulation set for a draw-offer.

The game ended once the second rook came off the board and the players were left with a knight and four pawns each.

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“At this point, there’s so few games to go that any draw is an excellent result,” said Carlsen.

Asked if his strategy was going to draw the remaining games, Carlsen said, "I very much assume he’s going to try and win, especially with the white pieces. But sure, any half-point that I can get is great and I think that’s pretty obvious."

Strangely, moderator at the media conference Grandmaster Maurice Ashley asked Nepomniachtchi, "You’ve only got four games left and a three-point deficit. Your strategy is still heavily trying to win this match?"

To which a visibly-irked Nepomniachtchi responded, "Well, that’s an absurd question."

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