There were some uncomfortable moments for Norwegian world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, but he was able to secure a draw with the Black pieces in Wednesday’s Game 5 of his scheduled 14-game title match with Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The result is the fifth straight draw to open the match and a clear defeat for Carlsen’s proclaimed pre-match strategy that he hoped to score an early win against his lower-rated and less experienced opponent.
Despite some intriguing positional battles, neither player has come close to obtaining a decisive advantage in any of the games played so far.
Asked after Wednesday’s game to assess the match so far, a visibly fatigued Carlsen said it was “very clear that it is going to be hard for either of us to break through. It’s not easy.”
But he noted that Thursday is a rest day and he will have the advantage of the White pieces and the first move in two of the next three contests.
The first player to 7 1/2 points wins the match, with a one-day rapid playoff is the score is tied at 7-7.
In the third Ruy Lopez defense the two players have played so far, Carlsen and internet analysts said White missed some chances to push back the Black forces, particularly in declining to advance his c-pawn on Move 20. White continued to press his middle-game advantage after a trade of queens, and it took a number of precise moves by Black to re-order his forces and neutralize White’s pressure.
Carlsen said he felt relief after trading off one of Nepomniachtchi’s active knights on Move 35, and the symmetrical pawn structure and the completely even material balance led the players to agree to a draw just after the first time control was passed at Move 40.
Game 6 of the match will be played Friday.
The moves of Game 5:
Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen, World Chess Championship, Game 5, Dubai, December 2021
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 Draw agreed