2016 WCC, Game 9: Karjakin Stays Aggressive!

Tyler SchwartzChess

Karjakin tries for two wins in a row

Will Carlsen’s strategy change?

During Game 8, GM Fabiano Caruana described Carlsen’s opening strategy: “It’s a bit tame, he probably just wants to get a position where he feels he can outplay him (Karjakin). I mean he’s not really better, but he has chances for some pressure.” I believe, to end up in positions where Carlsen is “not really better” Carlsen has played moves which are “not really best”.

Here are some examples so far this match of Carlsen playing these “not really best” moves in the openings. Game 1: Trompowsky, never before seen in WCC play. From that game 6.Bb5 is found only 4 games in the lichess opening explorer. Game 3: Berlin Defense, 10.Re2, 11.Re1. Lichess opening explorer had 425 Games of white’s 10th move, only 1 played 10.Re2. Only 1 other example of Game 5’s 6.b4. In Game 7 with the black pieces Carlsen played 10...Nc6, only 2 other examples in the lichess opening explorer. In Game 8, Carlsen’s first loss, there were no positions in the lichess opening explorer after just 8 moves.

So far this style, which worked so effectively against Anand, is not working on Karjakin. Will Carlsen make a change? Will he shift to long complicated lines? Will he double down on this style and play 1.b3? Whatever he does, his back is getting closer to the wall. Four more games in regulation, Carlsen is down a game.

The Game 8 Press Conference

I got the chance to talk with Andrew Murray-Watson, Communications Director for World Chess, and he confirmed that Magnus went out early to the press conference on his own will. Magnus was told he could go out early if he wishes, or he could wait for Karjakin to finish his interviews. Carlsen chose to go out solo, and chose to leave early. This ends my curiosity over the incident, Carlsen was out of line.

Update: Carlsen revealed in the Game 9 Press Conference that he is appealing FIDE’s ruling. A process that takes less than 48 hours.

Game 9

Photo Courtesy of Agon

Game 9 saw the most rapidly played opening so far in the match. No real Magnus “not really best moves”. The game followed 2009 Nakamura v Kasimdzhanov until black’s 21st move. Mildly curious moment happened just 2 moves later as Carlsen thought over 15 minutes on his move following Ra6.

A curious spot for Carlsen to spend so much time when he was clearly in preparation just a couple moves earlier, and no strange moves in between. Carlsen would run into time trouble later in the game with only 2 minutes on his clock when he reached move 40. If Carlsen wants to beat Karjakin, time management is an area that could be improved.

A cool moment came on white’s 34th move. White to play, what would you play?

If this were a basic puzzle the move Ba4 seems great! White will win the rook for a bishop. The move was a trap. Here’s why 34...Rxa4 35.Qxa4 Qf5! 36.Qxb5 Qxf3+ 37. Kg1 Qd1+ with a perpetual coming. Karjakin did not play Ba4, and recited the above line the post game press conference. This position shows Karjakin is playing very well, and he is playing for the win.

Time a factor again

Carlsen had two minutes left on his clock when he played 38.Ne7. Bd8 was more accurate. Take a look at this decision for Karjakin. How would you continue as white, and take your time, Karjakin spent 30 minutes on this move.

This position will be discussed for a long time. Stockfish recommends 39.Bxf7 Kxf7 40. Qc4+ Kg7 41. d5! Nf5 which was what happened in the game. It was the most exciting and critical moment of the game. Luckily GM Maurice Ashley was in the press room. I asked him, “you think Karjakin will take on f7? “No,” GM Ashley replied, “he’ll play Qb3 it’s easier.” GM Susan Polgar agreed.

In the end Karjakin played the move that sent exited whoops echoing around the hall. Everyone thought, "Would this be it?" Will Karjakin win Game 9, and cripple Carlsen’s chances of defending his title?

When the dust settled this is the endgame the players were left with. Karjakin maneuvered until move 73, when the players decided Game 9 would end in a draw.

A good defense by Carlsen, which will give him some much needed momentum for tomorrow. Three more games to go, Carlsen has white for two of them. What will Carlsen use tomorrow with the white pieces? Lichess will be there.

About the Author

Tyler Schwartz is a passionate chess ambassador. Tyler is the President of Chess at 3, teaching chess to children all over the world at the suprising age of 3. He is the Head of Media at Tyler also manages a chess club on the upper east side of Manhattan.