Magnus Carlsen came within an inch of beating Sergey Karjakin in what our commentator Peter Svidler described as “an epic game”. What developed into a 7-hour thriller started with a Berlin Defence where it seemed the only talking point would be a puzzling rook shuffle in the opening. A couple of inaccuracies, though, and Magnus was scenting blood. You had the feeling almost anyone else in world chess would have gone down without a fight, but Karjakin clung on for dear life and got the draw his bravery deserved – even if he needed some help from his opponent!
This was the day the 2016 World Chess Championship match began in earnest, with both players coming close enough to taste victory and defeat. It left them visibly shell-shocked, with neither certain if Magnus had ever had a clear win within his grasp (our silicon friends answer in the affirmative).
It was a remarkable journey from a game which started with a 5.Re1 Berlin that failed to set the pulses racing. Eyebrows were at least raised by Carlsen’s retreat 10.Re2:
The move, of course, looks a little ridiculous, but it turned out what was much stranger was that Sergey and his team had apparently overlooked a move that had been played by players as familiar as Igor Kovalenko, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Paco Vallejo, with the latter tweeting the lapidary:
Karjakin thought the move had been played in other positions, but not this one, and spent a full 25 minutes before coming up with 10…b6, looking to capitalise with 11…Ba6. Magnus repeated Kasimdzhanov’s 11.Re1, which led to one of the funniest moments of the post-game press conference. When Anastasia Karlovich asked if 10.Re2 had been a slip Magnus decided to roll with it and drew laughter with:
“Yeah, it slipped out of my hand, so I moved it back to e1 the next move!”
So a quarter of the match has already gone by and the players are still locked together:
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