The second half of the World Chess Championship, got underway in New York City, with game 7 being played on Sunday 20th November. The scores were level at the halfway rest day, with defending Champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway and his challenger, Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, having 3-points each after draws in the opening 6 games.
The chess world waited to see if game 7 would bring a change of pace.
When Karjakin, playing White, opened with 1.d4, this was in itself a little exciting, as he had begun with 1.e4 so far in the match. Infact, apart from Carlsen’s possibly tongue-in-cheek Trompowsky in game 1, all games so far had begun 1.e4. Was Karjakin finally trying something and looking to unleash something on his opponent? Unfortunately not. The opening was rather unconvincing from the challenger, who seemed to be caught off-guard in a Slav Defence, by Carlsen’s 10…Nc6. His 11.Nd2 was not a pretty move, and Black will have been very satisfied with the situation that resulted from it.
Unfortunately for Carlsen, however, his 16…Rc8 was not the best move in the world. It allowed Karjakin to ease his situation with the tactical 17.Nf6+, taking the game along a rather forced sequence, which would gain him a pawn and the better stance. Carlsen’s outlook after this was to hold and this he did without issue. The players made a few uneventful moves until move 30 (the earliest that they are permitted to agree a draw) and then split the point.
This means that all games so far have been drawn and this is bringing some dissent from all quarters. So far, it is a very lack-lustre World Championship indeed, not a great advertisement for chess. Of course, it goes without saying that we can not know the match strategy of the players; however, there are now a mere 5 games left. If the players do not pull their socks up soon, we are facing the prospect of one of the most anticipated World Championships in recent years turning out to be one of the dullest of all time and settled on tiebreaks.
The flip side, is that if they do pull their socks up for even a couple of the remaining games, it can be so thrilling that the draws so far will fade into distant memory.
We will hope that this is the case, when the players sit down for game 8 on Monday. Magnus Carlsen will have the White pieces, and has 3 Whites for the remaining 5 games. He seemed to hint that this could be a turning point after game 7, saying that it was now a 5-game match, and that it was now all about those 5 games. Let us hope that these 5 games bring out the very best in these two fine exponents of our game and that they both very much want to be World Chess Champion!