Magnus Carlsen could finish off his latest World Chess Championship title defense as early as Friday if the reigning champion can manage to beat challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi with Black in Game 11 of their match.
Carlsen holds a 6.5-3.5 lead over Nepomniachtchi after 10 games. The players enjoyed a rest day from the match on Thursday.
Nepomniachtchi aims to stabilize match
Carlsen had the advantage of White in Game 10 on Wednesday. Oddsmakers saw good chances for the Norwegian to press his advantage, as Nepomniachtchi blundered his way to two straight losses heading into the game.
But the Russian challenger instead sought to stabilize matters, playing a safe line in the Petroff Defense instead of reaching for a victory with Black.
“The problem is that basically, playing as Black, you don’t have such a big choice,” Nepomniachtchi said afterward. “If you play a so-called sharp opening like the Sicilian, if White wants to shut it down, White surely will shut it down. That’s not realistic. Anyway, I have a couple of white pieces, a couple of tries in the remaining four games, and of course, it depends on what I produce in the 11th game. But today was just an idea to play a normal game, try not to blunder something in one move.”
Nepomniachtchi succeeded in that goal. He played solidly throughout Game 10 and, after 41 moves, the players agreed to a draw. While Carlsen believed he held a slight edge during parts of the game, he opted to avoid sharp lines in order to sidestep any potential preparation from the challenger.
Ian Nepomniachtchi stops the bleeding with a quiet draw in Game 10, but he now needs to score at least 3.5/4 in the remaining games or Magnus Carlsen retains his World Chess Championship title! https://t.co/ptzl4eDHTW #CarlsenNepo #c24live pic.twitter.com/5pq084fuoo
— chess24.com (@chess24com) December 8, 2021
“I think if I’d played a little more patiently there, I could have had the tiniest of edges,” Carlsen said afterward of a key middlegame moment. “Naturally, I would have hunted for it more diligently if the match situation had been different.”
Carlsen can clinch World Chess Championship with win
Unibet lists Carlsen as a +230 pick to win Game 11 – and thus finish off the World Chess Championship – with Black. That’s a more realistic possibility than it may seem in a vacuum. Nepomniachtchi (+520) will certainly go for broke to win with White, a strategy that makes a draw (-155) somewhat less likely, but implies risking another loss.
|World Chess Championship Odds – Game 11 (via Unibet)|
|Ian Nepomniachtchi: +520||Draw: -155||Magnus Carlsen: +230|
As was the case before Game 10, Unibet isn’t offering a market on the overall match winner at this point, though handicap betting is still available. Carlsen (-112) is posted as a 3.5-game favorite over Nepomniachtchi (-120), suggesting an expectation that the champion will win one more game before the match is through. The players will stop playing additional games once either hits the 7.5 points needed to clinch the World Chess Championship.
That means Nepomniachtchi will need to find more wins to keep the match alive. When a reporter asked how he would change things if he could start the match over again, the challenger kept his response simple.
“I guess I would lose less and win more,” he said.