For the second straight game Carlsen has sacrificed a pawn for tactical compensation. It’s a sharp position and the rapid pace of Carlsen suggests it may be something he’s worked on in preparation. Nepomniachtchi is having a lengthy think yet again, having already exhausted 27 minutes more of clock than the champion.
“Kind of a hard choice here for Ian and Magnus still very much in book,” the Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri says on Chess24’s broadcast. “(Carlsen) knows all the options in this position. I feel really, really worried for Ian. I think if he survives this game, it’s going be a huge achievement and a huge relief for him and his team.”
Carlsen advances his a-pawn with 9. a4 after more than four minutes. Both players briefly leave the board before Nepomniachtchi returns to inspect the position. After a more than 10-minute think, he opts for 9. … Nd5. Carlsen almost immediately fires back with 10. Nc3.
Carlsen takes nearly four minutes before settling on 8. Ne5. An exceedingly rare move where the far more popular choice is a5. Clearly the intent is to pull Nepomniachtchi out of his opening preparation. The challenger, who appears legitimately surprised, takes more than nine minutes considering his options before responding with 8. … c6. A very interesting start to Game 2.
Carlsen playing with the white pieces opens with 1. d4. The Catalan Opening follows (1. … Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3) and the players blitz out their first seven moves (3. … d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 Kf8 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 b5) before Carlsen pauses to ponder the position.
Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi have arrived at the playing hall. The challenger briefly took his chair in the sound-proof studio where play takes place before returning backstage. Photographers are already jockeying for position to capture shots of today’s opening move. We should be under way in the next few minutes.
A quick refresher on the format for this world championship match. It will consist of 14 classical games with each player awarded one point for a win and a half-point for a draw. Whoever reaches seven and a half points first will be declared the champion. (Both Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi are on a half-point after Friday’s Game 1 draw.)
The time control for each game is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61.
If the match is tied after 14 games, tie-breaks will be played on the final day (16 December) in the following order:
• Best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
• If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
• If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armageddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
Notably, Carlsen’s second and third title defenses both came down to tiebreakers. But many believe the increased length of this year’s match (from 12 to 14 games) and the stylistic matchup at hand promises a decisive result in regulation.
Hello and welcome back for Game 2 of of the World Chess Championship. Feels like we only just said goodbye after yesterday’s four-hour, 45-move opener, where the Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi was made to toil with the white pieces in a tense, fighting draw with Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, the longtime champion who perhaps gained a psychological edge by showing he was not afraid to sacrifice a pawn early for long-term initiative (9. … Nxb3). Nepomniachtchi’s opening advantage ultimately didn’t hold up and he was forced to rely on precise endgame play to emerge with a result.
For those of you just coming aboard, Carlsen, 30, has been at No 1 in the Fide rankings for 10 straight years and was considered the world’s best player even before he dethroned Viswanathan Anand for the title in 2013. Nepomniachtchi, 31, is ranked No 5, having earned his place at the table by winning the eight-man candidates tournament in April with a round to spare. It’s the culmination of a rivalry that started nearly two decades ago when they first met across the board as boys at the 2002 European Under-12 Championship in Peniscola, Spain. Notably, Nepomniachtchi enters the title tilt with a winning lifetime record against Carlsen in classical matches (four won, one lost and eight drawn). That makes him unique among today’s top players, even if two of those victories came in youth championships.
The best-of-14-games match is scheduled to take place at the Dubai Exhibition Centre over the next three weeks, with the winner earning a 60% share of the €2m ($2.26m) prize fund if the match ends in regulation (or 55% if it’s decided by tie-break games).
We’re about a half hour from today’s first move, so not much longer now. In the meantime here’s our Sean Ingle’s interview with Carlsen from earlier this week.