World Chess Championship: Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana agree to a tepid draw in shortest game of the match in Game 11

For the eleventh game of the World Chess Championship Match, world champion, Magnus Carlsen switched his opening once again and went for 1.e4. His challenger, Fabiano Caruana could not have been happier as he got to play his favourite Petroff Defence. With black, Caruana neutralized the position comfortably to steer the game to a draw in just a little over 2 hours, leaving the match score tied at 5½-all. In terms of time, this was the shortest game of the match.

 World Chess Championship: Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana agree to a tepid draw in shortest game of the match in Game 11

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana during the press conference after Game 11. Image Courtesy: World Chess

The penultimate installment of the match had begun on a humourous note after Carlsen’s former world title challenger, Sergey Karjakin, played 1.b4 as the ceremonial first move. Karjakin, who happened to be with his wife in London, had been invited to open the game. Soon afterwards, Karjakin took to Twitter to thank his partners in crime, Viswanathan Anand and journalist, Maria Emelianova.

After the move had evoked laughter from all around (since the broadcast had begun by the time the move was made), Carlsen replaced it with his choice of 1.e4. In the Petroff Defence that ensued, the world champ did not repeat the 3.Nd3 side line which he had played Game 6 but instead, chose the main line with 5.Nc3.

This usually leads to a fierce game with players castling on opposite wing. This game was no exception. Kings soon went opposite ways. For the first seven moves, the players followed the line they had discussed previously at the Sinquefield Cup. Caruana was the first to deviate this time with 7…0-0 (instead of 7…Nc6 that was played at the Sinquefield Cup).

While the opening did allude to an exciting game, Carlsen decided to put the brakes on with his 13.c4 by offering a trade of queens. After Caruana took the exchange, the sting was out of the position. More exchanges followed as Carlsen went for 15.Nh4 and by the 25th move, the players were left in a dead equal endgame with bishops of opposite colour.

Carlsen pressed on in the endgame, trying to draw blood out of stone. His inspiration, he said, was the 1975 game between Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Anatoly Karpov played in Milan, Italy, where the former world champion managed to pull out a win from a similar position.

“I don’t think there is anything real. I mean, every chess player knows the game Ljubojevic-Karpov in which Karpov won some ending like this. But yeah, the drawing margin is very high.”

While the position didn’t offer much, Carlsen tried a few tactical tricks to see if the challenger fell for any. But Caruana had also foreseen these tactical resources and made no mistake defending against them and by the 55th move, after Carlsen’s last tactical threat had been parried successfully, a draw was agreed.

After the game, Carlsen praised his challenger’s opening preparation. “He’s been very well prepared so far and I haven’t gotten much with white. I mean, and those are the cold, hard facts.”

Another interesting detail was Carlsen’s admission of having been caught off guard by Caruana’s opening. But then, this exact variation of the Petroff had been mentioned in the infamous leaked video that contained Caruana’s preparation details.

“Yeah, the Nd7-Nf6 line was there (in the video), obviously, but he managed to surprise me nevertheless. If that was, indeed, some king of gambit, it worked well,” Carlsen said.

In the last remaining game of the match, it will be the challenger, Fabiano Caruana, who will have the white pieces. If the final game is also drawn, the winner will be determined via a tiebreak in faster time controls.

In his previous world championship match against Karjakin, Carlsen had voluntarily gone into the tiebreaks and had emerged victorious. Back then, however, it was Carlsen who had the white pieces in the final game.

Answering whether this will make a difference, Carlsen said, “Psychologically, it’s a difference obviously. We’ll see what happens, but if that’s the situation, I would prefer to be white tomorrow.”

Caruana said he expects the final game to be a tough one. “What can I say, it’s going to be a tough game. At this point, the tension is sort of at its peak. If I knew what would happen, I would tell you.”

Sunday will be another rest day in London. Play will resume on Monday at 8:30 PM IST.

Replay Game 11

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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2018 18:18:43 IST