World chess championship: Nepomniachtichi lets Carlsen off the hook

Ian Nepomniachtichi had every reason to be disappointed after missing a chance to make Magnus Carlsen suffer more than he did in the drawn fifth game of the World chess championship.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Norway's World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, left, competes with Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia at the FIDE World Championship.   -  AP

Ian Nepomniachtichi had every reason to be disappointed after missing a chance to make Magnus Carlsen suffer more than he did in the drawn fifth game of the World chess championship in Dubai on Wednesday.

Nepo kept Carlsen on the defensive for 43 moves in their Ruy Lopez game but failed to drive home the advantage after missing the precise continuation on his 20th move. In fact, after Nepo’s position appeared clearly better following the opening phase, Carlsen took almost 20 minutes for his 19th move.

Nepo, who analysed the position for over 10 minutes, must have overlooked the potential gain of pushing the lone pawn queenside pawn. Instead, he moved his rook that let Carlsen off the hook.

“I was concerned (about the possible pawn-push) because I did consider that move as the main option (for Nepo). But once I saw the rook move, I knew the worse was over. After that, my position was not going to get worse,” said Carlsen.

Keeping up the pressure

Thereafter, Nepo did keep up the pressure but could not prevent Carlsen from building a fortress around the black king. Once Carlsen managed to trade his passive bishop with Nepo’s active knight, he forced a draw following perpetual checks.

A visibly-disappointed Nepo acknowledged that Carlsen defended well.  “It was not about Carlsen’s defending, it was about me failing to use the opportunities. I had a pleasant flow of
the game and obviously, I should have tried to use the momentum. I did not work hard enough.”

Carlsen, too, was candid in admitting, “I did not make a single active move and that does not help you win games.”

With the score tied at 2.5-2.5, action resumes on Friday after a day’s rest.

The moves: Game 5: White - Nepomniactchi; Black - Carlsen: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 Rb8 9. axb5 axb5 10. h3 d6 11. c3 b4 12. d3 bxc3 13. bxc3 d5 14. Nbd2 dxe4 15. dxe4 Bd6 16. Qc2 h6 17. Nf1 Ne7 18. Ng3 Ng6 19. Be3 Qe8 20. Red1

Be6 21. Ba4 Bd7 22. Nd2 Bxa4 23. Qxa4 Qxa4 24. Rxa4 Ra8 25. Rda1 Rxa4 26. Rxa4 Rb8 27. Ra6 Ne8 28. Kf1 Nf8 29. Nf5 Ne6 30. Nc4 Rd8 31. f3 f6 32. g4 Kf7 33. h4 Bf8 34. Ke2 Nd6 35. Ncxd6+ Bxd6 36. h5 Bf8 37. Ra5 Ke8 38. Rd5 Ra8 39. Rd1 Ra2+ 40. Rd2 Ra1 41. Rd1 Ra2+ 42. Rd2 Ra1 43. Rd1 Game drawn.

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