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Nepo Blunders Bishop, Loses Game 9

Game 9 of the World Chess Championship ended with Nepo blundering material, and finally resigning after move 40. With this loss, Nepo effectively ended his quest for the Championship title. His chances to win the Match are less than 1 out of 100.

Photos: Eric Rosen and Niki Riga (FIDE)

December 6th was a rest day for the two GMs, and a golden opportunity for the Challenger to rest and regroup. The same day, top GM and the 2016 Challenger, Sergey Karjakin, flew to Dubai in order to help Nepo with his comeback. Before the start of game 9, Karjakin said to NRK: “Today we will win! We know Magnus is strong, but I believe Ian is motivated and he is in good shape today.”

This confidence was something that the World Champion expected and confessed it to Magnus Barstad. “I have to expect that the match will enter a phase that will be a bit different. A desperate opponent is a very dangerous opponent. I expect that he has regrouped on the rest day and will bounce back strongly now.” Carlsen said.

On the ninth game of the Championship, the Challenger was white, with the privilege of the first move being a good omen for his winning spirit. Despite fans craving for complicated and sacrificial chess, experts were just discussing a change of opening, which happened along with a new haircut!

The ceremonial move was played by the Indian prodigy, GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, and Twitter was happily surprised. Chess enthusiasts commented that Prag will one day be there as a Challenger or even Champion.

Nepo started with 1.c4, and the defending Champion took his time to decide on his plan. As early as the third move, Magnus mapped the course of the game, but the Challenger seemed well prepared for any case. Already from move 23, Carlsen had time trouble and moved to his familiar strategy, a pawn sacrifice to gain active playing.

After a few moves, though, the Challenger blundered his bishop, something almost unheard of in the Championship match-level play. Carlsen was visibly confused when he saw this opportunity, but stayed calm, calculated everything, and executed precisely to get this gifted point.

At the Press Conference that traditionally follows the game, Magnus Carlsen called the position after Nepo’s blunder ‘absurd’: “You don’t expect to see something like this at the championship match game,” said Carlsen. To the question whether he feels sorry for his opponent who is losing with a disastrous score, he said: “It’s the Championship Match. You’d prefer to win the game on skill, but if the game is handed to you by your opponent, you take it any day of the week”.

Carlsen has only lost a total of two games in world title matches since his successful challenge versus holder Vishwanathan Anand in 2013. At the same time, Nepo needs to win 3 out of 5 remaining games, in order to have equal chances to win the Championship. So, practically, Nepo winning the Match is an inconsiderable concept.

The match is best-of-14 games with a prize fund of 2 million euros, with 60 percent for the winner. Each win is worth a point and each draw is half a point. The first player to reach 7.5 points will be the winner. (If the match should be tied after 14 games, the players will proceed to a series of tie-breaker games.) It’s two more games than in the 2018 World Championship Match.

The venue for the event is located in downtown Dubai at the Dubai Expo.

The match’s sponsors include Algorand, a leading blockchain company; Kaspersky, the official cyber security partner; and PhosAgro, a giant international fertilizer group.
Games start at 12:30 UTC. You can follow the games live on World Chess.

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