World Championship Match 2: The pointy Catalan ends are drawn

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Deep preparation


A full expert review of the game will be posted on our news site shortly. Game 2 will be annotated by none other than the great English master Luke McShane.


Besides the competitive factor – which has to do with the stamina, nerves and sheer talent of chess – a world championship match is also a fight between two teams of talented “chess scientists”. Each competitor invests money and time to assemble a group of trusted assistants to help them achieve each game with as many variations prepared as possible. After all, showing a strong novelty or surprising the opponent in a sideline can have a decisive effect on the end result.

After two games of the 2021 World Championship game, the defending champion and challenger have demonstrated how much work these competitions require. Commentators and pundits mostly agree that Magnus Carlsen currently has a 2-0 advantage in terms of preparation, but Ian Nepomniachtchi’s side are to be thanked for looking at the game deep enough. 8 … Na5 line seen in the first game, and to Nepo himself for surviving the complications of a brutal Catalan opening on Saturday.

The likes of Erwin the Friend, an expert analyst himself, knew we were in a creative and fierce struggle from the time of shot 8.

Carlsen was the one who created the conditions for a fighting game, and after 8 … c6 9.a4 Nd5 10.Nc3 f6 11.Nf3, Nepo responded in kind, going for 11 … Qd7 instead of 11 … b4, creating more imbalances in an already complex position.

Soon after, Black planted his knight on the mighty d3 outpost, portrayed by Nigel Short like a “giant sprawling lobster”. After thinking for just over 15 minutes, Carlsen responded with criticism 14.e5, as predicted by Short.

Nepo was holding on, but it was clearly Carlsen who was in the driver’s seat – the world champion doesn’t play the Catalan as often as the other lines against 1.d4. However, an imprecise knight’s jump from the Norwegian turned the tide.

After 17.Ne5, Black has correctly chosen 17 … Bxe5 18.dxe5 Nac5, take over. At the post-match press conference, Carlsen confessed that he completely missed his opponent’s 18th stroke, but “[took] a bit of reassurance in the fact that you usually have to work hard enough to gain positions like black ”.

Nepo definitely had a chance to win. The Russian later praised Carlsen’s play after his mistake on the 17th move, as the champion found the most stubborn maneuvers despite being well aware that he had made a mistake in a critical position. White’s ability to prevent a quick disaster worked well for Carlsen, as Nepo surprisingly hesitated on move 24.

black 24 … c3 was described by Anish Giri like “panicked”. Nepo later explained that he was too scared to be on the wrong side of a mating attack. The Russian elaborated:

Maybe … c3 was a bit of a human reaction to make sure I didn’t get mated, and I guess after … c3 was more or less even.

Once the dust settled, Black was a trade, but White had a strong knight on d6 (much like his opponent earlier in the game). Among other things, commentator Judit Polgar felt that the world champion was the one who was trying to come up with a plan to aim for victory.

Carlsen 37.Dg4 was not the most precise here, because after 37 … Kxd6 (the knight is way too strong) 38.exd6 Qxd6 Black knew he could shoot a potential 3v2 turn final at the King’s Wing. And that’s exactly what happened, with Nepo keeping things under control ahead of the signing of the peace treaty in the 58th move.

Former world champion Garry Kasparov, who visited the gambling venue in Dubai, shared on Twitter:

Not even one of the living legends of chess fully understood what was going on in the game, but what is undeniable is that it has been two days of intrigue and palpable tension. We can only hope to see more in the coming weeks. The fight is on!


A full expert review of the game will be posted on our news site shortly. Game 2 will be annotated by none other than the great English master Luke McShane.


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