Risk is the solution for elite classical chess to survive. Magnus Carlsen assumed it during eight hours of mental boxing in the 6th game of the World Cup (the longest in its history) that he disputed in Dubai against Ian Niepomniashi, who was at his height almost to the end. The epic combat ended with the Norwegian’s victory after 136 moves. The Russian will lead the white pieces this Saturday in the 7th round of the 14 scheduled, from 13:30 (Spanish peninsular time), with the unfavorable score by 2.5-3.5.
“I think the key is that I was more patient than Ian in the eighth hour. He knew that the position was very difficult to defend, and that his mistake could come at any moment. It was a matter of persistence, “explained the champion while his entourage hugged each other and jumped for joy. Niepómniashi appeared in the press room, something very rare for losers in this type of situation. And he also answered all the questions they asked him, trying to give the impression that he was whole: “It is not realistic to think that there can be five or six games of a duel against Carlsen for the world title without someone winning one. It was my turn to lose, but this continues ”, he explained.
Carlsen’s manner when he arrived at the World Expo Conference Center indicated a fierce determination to fight and risk. Instead of waiting for the host to call him, he entered the stage earlier and took a seat, as if wishing the fight would start now. It seemed clear that during the rest day he had seen the light on how he should play against a new Niepomniashi, previously very aggressive and rather lazy to train, now super solid and very well prepared.
That light had lit the way for him to go back years, to the time of his career when he started games in the strangest and most unusual ways, so that his rivals could not respond by heart and had to waste his head – and his time- from the first sets. The downside of this approach is that the initial advantage of the white pieces is renounced, but it is overwhelmingly logical to undermine the self-confidence that the Slav showed during the first five games.
In fact, Niepómniashi accused the blow when he found himself in the 6th play with a very unusual position: he got up despite the fact that he had to play, took off his jacket and made gestures of discomfort. However, he managed to make himself aware that he had to put on the stone chipping jumpsuit, and played very well until movement 28. Everything indicated at that time that, despite everything, the 6th consecutive draw was going to be signed shortly.
But the champion showed that his determination was bomb-proof, and he continued to play to win despite the fact that in the 31st he only had three minutes to reach 40. In the room occupied by his father and other close associates, as well as some journalists Norwegians, the screams were typical of a football game. Niepómniashi finally missed, but Carlsen’s winning shot was so hidden that, under the tremendous pressure of the clock, the Norwegian did not see it. Then the advantage passed to the Russian, who also did not refine.
After the control of the fortieth set, the machines diagnosed a balanced position. But, among humans, Niepomniashi’s was considerably more difficult to play. The Scandinavian kept pressing, but the Slav held his ground, and they passed the next control (move 60) with their swords raised. With 15 minutes each to go for the remainder of the game (with an additional 30 seconds per move), Carlsen fired all his remaining ammunition, but Niepómniashi continued to wield the shield with virtuosity until he made the decisive mistake on move 131. This hit It can be very hard on your emotional stability, which has always been your main weak point. The longest game so far in a World Cup was the 5th of the Kárpov – Korchnoi duel in 1978 (124 moves).
After a day of rest to rethink his strategy, Carlsen was able to verify that the right way to take down the tough Russian is to take him to unknown fields, even after eight hours of exhausting work and extreme stress. This is how a streak of five consecutive draws is broken in this duel and nineteen if the previous two are added for the World Championship. This game deserves to be included in the collection of the most epic fights in chess history.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.