World champion Magnus Carlsen won Game 9, with black pieces, to add cushion to his lead against Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in the World Chess Championship at the Expo 2020 site on Tuesday.
The Norwegian, who turned 31 last Tuesday, won the ninth game following a costly blunder on move 27 by Nepomniachtchi. Carlsen, who is also the world rapid chess champion and the world blitz chess champion, now holds a substantial 6-3 lead in the 14-game series. Five game still remain and the series will conclude on December 15.
The 31-year-old’s Nepomniachtchi 27.c5 error saw Carlsen trap a piece after which the Russian resigned.
“No style points awarded, so I’ll take it,” Carlsen, who has been holding the world title since 2013, was quoted as saying on the International Chess Federation’s (FIDE) official Twitter handle.
“It was a tough game in which I was under pressure both on the board and on the clock. A turnaround like that was unexpected,” he added.
Nepomniachtchi, meanwhile, was distraught after fluffing the lines.
“I could not imagine there is a way to blunder in that position,” said Nepomniachtchi.
Earlier, the pair had shared points over the opening five games before Carlsen took the lead with white pieces in the sixth game. The duo again shared points in the seventh game after which Carlsen increased his lead with victory in the eighth game.
World No.5 Nepomniachtchi, popularly know as ‘Nepo,’ will now have to dig deep over the next five games if he is to stop Carlsen and make a match of it. Nepo is playing under a FIDE banner because of Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) sanctions against Russia.
The pair have played against each other on four occasions since 2019, in the classic format. Carlsen went on to win once while the remaining matches ended in draws. The duo recently met in Carlsen’s home country, Norway, in September with that match too ending in a stalemate.
FIDE has extended the number of classic games to 14 after all 12 games were drawn in the last championship between Carlsen and Fabiano Caruaba in London in 2018. It was the only time in the history of the World Chess Championship that all classical games were drawn.
And Carlsen defended his title following three wins on the trot in the rapid chess tie-breaker. This time, with one point for a win and half a point for a draw, 7.5 points would win the title, whereas a 7-7 draw would take it to another rapid chess tiebreaker.
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