World chess champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, playing the Black pieces, survived some early pressure and then mismanaged a favorable position to draw Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in the first game of the scheduled 14-game title match in Dubai Friday.
Carlsen, in his fourth title defense match since winning the crown in 2013, was down a pawn early in a sharp gambit line of the Ruy Lopez opening, but managed to equalize with trades that broke up White’s pawn structure and neutralized his opponent’s advantage.
In the end, it was Carlsen who was pressing for the win, but Nepomniachtchi returned his extra pawn to ease the pressure. An inaccuracy by the champion on Move 40 allowed White to effectively force a draw position.
Carlsen will have the advantage of the White pieces and the first move in Saturday’s Game 2.
The first player to get to 7 1/2 points will be the winner in the match, which comes with a total purse of $2 million. If the match is tied after 14 games, there will be a one-day playoff played at faster time controls on Dec. 15.
Carlsen, the world’s top-rated player since 2011, is considered the favorite in the match. But Nepomniachtchi, a two-time Russian national champion, is one of the few top players to have a favorable career record against the champion in games played at classical time controls.
Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen, World Championship Match, Game 1, Dubai, November 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. h3 Na5 9. Nxe5 Nxb3 10. axb3 Bb7 11. d3 d5 12. exd5 Qxd5 13. Qf3 Bd6 14. Kf1 Rfb8 15. Qxd5 Nxd5 16. Bd2 c5 17. Nf3 Rd8 18. Nc3 Nb4 19. Rec1 Rac8 20. Ne2 Nc6 21. Be3 Ne7 22. Bf4 Bxf3 23. gxf3 Bxf4 24. Nxf4 Rc6 25. Re1 Nf5 26. c3 Nh4 27. Re3 Kf8 28. Ng2 Nf5 29. Re5 g6 30. Ne1 Ng7 31. Re4 f5 32. Re3 Ne6 33. Ng2 b4 34. Ke2 Rb8 35. Kd2 bxc3+ 36. bxc3 Rxb3 37. Kc2 Rb7 38. h4 Kf7 39. Ree1 Kf6 40. Ne3 Rd7 41. Nc4 Re7 42. Ne5 Rd6 43. Nc4 Rc6 44. Ne5 Rd6 45. Nc4 Draw agreed