Carlsen versus Nepomniachtchi: FIDE World Championship Round 6

@AbasovN, @CynosureChess

A new record for longest World Championship game in the 6th of 14 clashes between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi

Round 6 of the FIDE World Championship was played today between the reigning champion, GM Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.

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 six’s game annotations can be found below.

Carlsen, playing with White, went for another Catalan, with echoes of the second game he had played against Nepomniachtchi. Carlsen was again the first to vary the opening, again by offering a pawn for greater piece activity. Although Nepomniachtchi seemed to be taken by surprise, using up 30 minutes of his time by move 10, he appeared confident in handling Carlsen’s opening.

Nepomniachtchi’s position even seemed to be more comfortable for him, and Carlsen began using up his time to consider his next moves. On move 26 Carlsen traded his queen for both of Nepomniachtchi’s rooks. This is considered a slightly favourable trade for the player who keeps both rooks at the elite level of the game. The imbalance in material brought some indications Carlsen may be trying to eke out the grinding victories from small imbalances he has made his characteristic technique, but to most commentators the advantages appeared microscopic. 

With both players in severe time trouble before the first segment of additional time was added, it looked like both had excellent chances. But, the time pressure being what it is, both blundered and blundered back into equality. At move 40, with the additional time control, a draw again seemed to be the most likely result. Both players continued trying to grind down the position, with Carlsen slowly making the most of it — although again entering time pressure. Even so, a draw still seemed like the most likely result and Nepomniachtchi’s team were positive he would manage to hold it to a draw.

Yet Carlsen, move after grueling move, continued putting Nepomniachtchi through the meat grinder. Inch by incremental inch, Carlsen gained an advantage in the endgame, built it up with a favourable trade on move 79 after calculating at move 75, and pitted Nepomniachtchi into an endgame which is theoretically drawn, but vastly more difficult for a human opponent playing with black to defend against. 

Even at move 129 — surpassing the previous record for longest World Championship game (Korchnoi v Karpov, 1978, game 5; 124 moves long ending in stalemate), almost every move for black was drawing. Yet White, having so many more options, was able to find a winning line, and it was really over with 131… Qh6+ after which the only two logical moves White has are winning (there is a third option, but it immediately loses material). From there, Carlsen was easily able to advance his pawns, and Nepomniachtchi resigned after 7 hours, 45 minutes of play, and 136 moves. This game was the longest (in number of moves) and also the first World Championship game to be played over two days (starting at 16:30 local time, and ending around 00:15 local time).

The next game will be played tomorrow, 4 December 12:30 UTC. 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).