Carlsen versus Nepomniachtchi: FIDE World Championship Round 3

@AbasovN @CynosureChess

The 3rd/14 clash between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi

Round 3 of the FIDE World Championship was played today between the reigning champion, the Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, the Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.

(title image - FIDE / Eric Rosen)

Lichess is providing a broadcast of the moves being played in real-time. Additionally, GM Nijat Abasov is providing game annotations and insights on the games daily. Round three’s game annotations can be found below.

Carlsen, playing with the black pieces today, responded to Nepomniachtchi’s invitation of 1. e4 with another closed Ruy Lopez - similar to their first round clash. Whereas in the first round, Nepomniachtchi played 8. h3, today he tried another anti-Marshall line with 8. a4. This line was more well-trodden than their previous games, with the first novel move coming at move 15.

Nepomniachtchi had a mean bishop pair and it looked like near absolute central control, but Carlsen’s position was still secure enough to prevent any obvious attacks. In any event, it appeared that Nepomniachtchi again potentially had the slight upper hand - although engines evaluated the position as nearly dead equal.
After a strong build up of tension, almost all major pieces were traded off, followed by rooks being traded off shortly after. They simplified into a theoretical draw, with same-coloured bishops, and both players knew the other would be able to trivially defend - meaning the third round also ended in a tense and gripping draw.

Lichess analysed the game afterwards with Stockfish 14 NNUE, where it was assessed as being an incredibly accurate 3 average centipawn loss for white, and 2 average centipawn loss for black. This seems to be the most accurately played (as assessed by an engine) FIDE World Championship game to have ever been played. When asked how both players felt about making history, Carlsen remarked “it fills me with pride...but it’s still only half a point!”. Meanwhile, Nepomniachtchi wryly joked, “that’s quite a murky question to bring up just before the anti-doping test.”
GM Nijat Abasov’s thoughts on the first three rounds, concludes in his annotations (available above): “The players are off to the first rest day with a relatively calm draw. What can we say about the first three games? All games so far ended in a draw, but we definitely can't say it's a boring match. I believe, Carlsen, so far, doesn't play in his usual manner. Especially yesterday's game felt more like the Rachmaninoff style than Mozart's flowing melodies :) Nevertheless, he is the one who controls the beat. His playing style looks more like to neutralize Nepo's sharp play. Well, he manages it well, so far. It feels like Nepo hasn't yet found his comfort zone. Tomorrow is the rest day. It's time for players to chill for a bit, analyze the first three games and of course, think about the match-strategy for next rounds.”

The next game will be played, 30 November 12:30 UTC (it’s a rest day on the 29th!) For more details on the tournament, you can review our first round recap which has more information.

(GM Nijat Abasov achieved the GM title at just 15. He was Azeri national champion in 2017, also winning the Baku Open the same year. He has played the Tata Steel Challengers and the Grand Swiss (twice), amongst many other tournaments, reaching his all-time peak rating of 2670 in February 2020. He recently represented Azerbaijan at the European Team Championships, winning a board prize with a performance rating of 2760).