After a day off for the players, the World Chess Championship, resumed on the 23rd November, with game 9. It would see the challenger for the crown, Sergey Karjakin, leading World Champion, Magnus Carlsen by a point. After 7 draws, Karjakin was the first to draw blood, by winning game 8. This had incensed Magnus Carlsen, who declined interviews after the match and stormed out of the post-match press conference, complaining that he had been kept waiting.
The chess world had been given a taste of his pride and temper and now waited to see his metal.
Game 9 saw Sergey Karjakin take the White pieces, leading the match by 4.5-3.5 — would he go for the jugular or would it be more tentative play and consolidation? Well, the game started well, with the Russian sticking with 1.e4 and the Ruy Lopez, but unfortunately Magnus Carlsen was not in the mood to bare any teeth. He chose the Archangelsk Defence, which is very solid but presents Black with few chances. It was clear that Carlsen was going for a comfortable hold with the Black pieces, content to contain Karjakin. There was no panic, and no pressure felt to strike back immediately. After all, he would have White in games 10 and 12, and all kind of things can still happen.
As it turned out, whether this was a correct approach or not is open to debate, but it could well have backfired on him. As the game progressed, Sergey took the better of things and Magnus started to fall behind on the clock. This didn’t help matters and had Karjakin chosen 39.Qb3, there may have been some excitement as Magnus could have found himself under some pressure. As it was, White opted for 39.Bxf7+ and this led to a very drawy position, where Black was able to tighten up and batten down the hatches. Sergey played on, but there was nothing really possible unless his opponent made a mistake, which was unlikely. The shuffling and probing came to nothing and the players split the point in 74-moves.
The outcome of the game will likely be mission accomplished for Magnus Carlsen — he stopped the rot and held without too much trouble in the end. Sergey Karjakin, however, will probably have mixed feelings — ok, he is still a point ahead in the match and that can not be understated, but he had an opportunity to try to make his lead two points. These chances do not come up often against Magnus Carlsen, and to not take them is rather wasteful. Carlsen will have White in game 10, and really has to do something. Karjakin now has more pressure on that game than he could (should) have.
Match score: 5-4 to Karjakin.