Carlsen versus Nepomniachtchi: FIDE World Championship Round 10

@AbasovN @CynosureChess

10th Round of 14 in the World Championships

Round 10 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 ten’s game annotations can be found below.

(title image - FIDE / Niki Riga)

Carlsen had the white pieces today in game 10, and many considered it likely he would open with 1. e4 rather than 1. d4. The symbolic first move was played to e4, and Carlsen let it stand. There had been a mix of opinions as to what Nepomniachtchi may play - three games down, with four left, the time for drastic measures seemed to be ripe. Some suggested he may try a Sicilian, (1… c5) which can allow for more sharp or imbalanced positions, others thought he may prefer to play it safe and focus on playing well and taking any chances as they appeared.

The latter camp seemed to be correct, with Nepomniatchi offering 1… e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 - the Petrov Defence, which has been played multiple times in the match so far. With a reputation for being drawish, Carlsen had nonetheless converted a Petrov in game 8 following a slip from Nepomniachtchi. However, whilst Carlsen had the option to play more sharply and complicate matters in this game, he chose to keep things simple. As he later touched on in the press conference, being three games up means he does not need to take needless risks - whilst the game was in progress, just another 1.5 / 5 would be enough for Carlsen to have defended his title for a 4th time.

Nepomniachtchi also seemed content to keep things simple, and trade off pieces equally. With little sign of how to inject further complication into the position, the game looked completely drawn. Some wondered whether Nepomniachtchi should have gone for more fiery complications - although others highlighted that a draw today allows him rest, recovery, and better chances with the white pieces on Saturday. In any event, the game eventually devolved into a completely symmetrical and equal pawn structure, with a king and knight each. The players agreed to a quiet draw just after move 40, with neither player really having the advantage over the other at any point in the game. Carlsen now only needs 1 more point out of 4 encounters to defend his title.

The next game will be played after a rest day, on Friday 10th 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).