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Draw play: Carlsen, Caruana struggle for a breakthrough in knotted chess title fight

November 20, 2018

Chess fans these days are sounding like those soccer aficionados who try to tell us those 0-0 ties are actually gripping entertainment.

Just as in 2016, the 12-game world championship title match now underway in London between champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and American challenger Fabiano Caruana has opened with eight consecutive draws, with both players threatening to break through but coming up just short. A split point in Monday’s Game 8 tied the record for consecutive draws to open a championship match set by Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand in their 1995 New York clash.

Two years ago, an impatient Carlsen was repeatedly frustrated by GM Sergey Karjakin (the “Minister of Defense”), losing Game 8 after failing to break the Russian earlier in the match. The Norwegian needed a rapid playoff to retain his crown.

Carlsen missed a clear win in Game 1, and it could be said that the American has had the better of the play since. Caruana’s best chance came in the absorbing Game 6, where Carlsen as White was desperately trying to hold a piece-down ending.

The reduced material and opposite-colored bishops make Black’s winning path narrow, but the computer engines and a world of kibitzers say there was a win to be had after 66. Bd5 Nd4 (see diagram) 67. Kg6? (still drawing was 67. Bc4) Bg5 68. Bc4 (h6 Ne2 69. Kh7 Nf4 70. Be4 Nh3 71. Bh1 [Kg6 Kg8 puts White’s king in a mating net] Nf2 72. Bf3 Nd3 73. Be2 Ne5 74. Bh5 Nf7), and now Black has 68...Bh4! 69. Bd5 Ne2 70. Bf3 Ng1!! 71. Bd5 72. Kh7 Ne2 73. Bf3 Ng3 74. Bg4 Kf7 75. Kh8 Be3 76. Kh7 Bc5 77. Kh8 Bf8 78. Kh7 Ne4, and the White king will soon be mated.

Instead, Carlsen escapes after 68...Nf3? 69. Kh7 Ne5 70. Bb3 Ng4 71. Bc4, eventually setting up an impregnable fortress. The draw came eight moves later.

In the match is tied after 12 games, the players will engage in a rapid and blitz playoff to determine the winner.

Carlsen-Caruana, Game 5, World Championship Match, London, November 2018

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. Re1 e5 6. b4 Nxb4 7. Bb2 a6 8. a3 axb5 9. axb4 Rxa1 10. Bxa1 d6 11. bxc5 Ne7 12. Qe2 b4 13. Qc4 Qa5 14. cxd6 Be6 15. Qc7 Qxc7 16. dxc7 Nc6 17. c3 Kd7 18. cxb4 Ra8 19. Bc3 Kxc7 20. d3 Kb6 21. Bd2 Rd8 22. Be3+ Kb5 23. Nc3+ Kxb4 24. Nd5+ Bxd5 25. exd5 Rxd5 26. Rb1+ Kc3 27. Rxb7 Nd8 28. Rc7+ Kxd3 29. Kf1 h5 30. h3 Ke4 31. Ng5+ Kf5 32. Nxf7 Nxf7 33. Rxf7+ Bf6 34. g4+ Draw agreed.

Carlsen-Caruana, Game 6, World Championship Match, London, November 2018

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nd3 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. Nf4 Nc6 7. Nd5 Nd4 8. Nxe7 Nxe2 9. Nd5 Nd4 10. Na3 Ne6 11. f3 N4c5 12. d4 Nd7 13. c3 c6 14. Nf4 Nb6 15. Bd3 d5 16. Nc2 Bd6 17. Nxe6 Bxe6 18. Kf2 h5 19. h4 Nc8 20. Ne3 Ne7 21. g3 c5 22. Bc2 O-O 23. Rd1 Rfd8 24. Ng2 cxd4 25. cxd4 Rac8 26. Bb3 Nc6 27. Bf4 Na5 28. Rdc1 Bb4 29. Bd1 Nc4 30. b3 Na3 31. Rxc8 Rxc8 32. Rc1 Nb5 33. Rxc8+ Bxc8 34. Ne3 Nc3 35. Bc2 Ba3 36. Bb8 a6 37. f4 Bd7 38. f5 Bc6 39. Bd1 Bb2 40. Bxh5 Ne4+ 41. Kg2 Bxd4 42. Bf4 Bc5 43. Bf3 Nd2 44. Bxd5 Bxe3 45. Bxc6 Bxf4 46. Bxb7 Bd6 47. Bxa6 Ne4 48. g4 Ba3 49. Bc4 Kf8 50. g5 Nc3 51. b4 Bxb4 52. Kf3 Na4 53. Bb5 Nc5 54. a4 f6 55. Kg4 Ne4 56. Kh5 Be1 57. Bd3 Nd6 58. a5 Bxa5 59. gxf6 gxf6 60. Kg6 Bd8 61. Kh7 Nf7 62. Bc4 Ne5 63. Bd5 Ba5 64. h5 Bd2 65. Ba2 Nf3 66. Bd5 Nd4 67. Kg6 Bg5 68. Bc4 Nf3 69. Kh7 Ne5 70. Bb3 Ng4 71. Bc4 Ne3 72. Bd3 Ng4 73. Bc4 Nh6 74. Kg6 Ke7 75. Bb3 Kd6 76. Bc2 Ke5 77. Bd3 Kf4 78. Bc2 Ng4 79. Bb3 Ne3 Draw agreed.

Caruana-Carlsen, Game 7, World Championship Match, London, November 2018

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. a3 Qa5 10. Nd2 Qd8 11. Nb3 Bb6 12. Be2 Qe7 13. Bg5 dxc4 14. Nd2 Ne5 15. O-O Bd7 16. Bf4 Ng6 17. Bg3 Bc6 18. Nxc4 Bc7 19. Rfd1 Rfd8 20. Rxd8+ Rxd8 21. Rd1 Rxd1+ 22. Qxd1 Nd5 23. Qd4 Nxc3 24. Qxc3 Bxg3 25. hxg3 Qd7 26. Bd3 b6 27. f3 Bb7 28. Bxg6 hxg6 29. e4 Qc7 30. e5 Qc5+ 31. Kh2 Ba6 32. Nd6 Qxc3 33. bxc3 f6 34. f4 Kf8 35. Kg1 Ke7 36. Kf2 Kd7 37. Ke3 Bf1 38. Kf2 Ba6 39. Ke3 Bf1 40. Kf2 Draw agreed.

Caruana-Carlsen, Game 8, World Championship Match, London, November 2018

1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 Nxd5 8. exd5 Nb8 9. a4 Be7 10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O Nd7 12. Bd2 f5 13. a5 a6 14. Na3 e4 15. Nc4 Ne5 16. Nb6 Rb8 17. f4 exf3 18. Bxf3 g5 19. c4 f4 20. Bc3 Bf5 21. c5 Nxf3+ 22. Qxf3 dxc5 23. Rad1 Bd6 24. h3 Qe8 25. Nc4 Qg6 26. Nxd6 Qxd6 27. h4 gxh4 28. Qxf4 Qxf4 29. Rxf4 h5 30. Re1 Bg4 31. Rf6 Rxf6 32. Bxf6 Kf7 33. Bxh4 Re8 34. Rf1+ Kg8 35. Rf6 Re2 36. Rg6+ Kf8 37. d6 Rd2 38. Rg5 Draw agreed.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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