Carlsen plays 13. … d5, which appears to be the first new move of the game. Nepomniachtchi responds quickly with 14. Nbd2 followed by an exchange of e-pawns (14. … dxe4 15. dxe4). The challenger, who’s yet to spend more than a half-minute on any of his moves, is already more than 20 minutes ahead on the clock.
Carlsen releases the tension after (11. … b4 12. d3 bxc3 13. bxc3). Nepomniachtchi has spent less than a half-minute on each of his moves so far. Carlsen has spent more than three minutes on each of his last two and has been inspecting this position for more than five minutes.
Carlsen plays 8. … Rb8, a rare move at the top level but one he played against Duda at the World Cup. Then a pawn exchange (9. axb5 axb5) followed by more familiar Ruy Lopez theory (10. h3 d6 11. c3). That’s followed by some curious body language from the world champion.
at 12.44pm GMT
Game 5 is under way!
Nepomniachtchi, playing with the white pieces, opens with 1. e4. Another Ruy Lopez follows (1. … e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6). And the moves that follow mirror the openings from the first and third games (5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4).
Both players addressed the elephant in the room after Tuesday’s contest. Specifically, the active streak of 16 consecutive draws in classical world championship games. Carlsen drew the final two games with Sergey Karjakin in 2016, all 12 against Fabiano Caruana in 2018, then four straight to open this year’s tie with Nepomniachtchi.
Carlsen, who’s spoken on multiple occasions about altering the format, was diplomatic when the question was put to him yesterday. “There’s a saying that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all,” he said. “So I’m going to invoke that particular saying right here.”
Nepomniachtchi, for his part, was less keen on change. “It’s hard to say because I believe the importance of traditions in chess is really big,” he said. “I guess whatever works you shouldn’t try to make it work better in order not to break it. I believe this system with the matches is more or less fair.”
Carlsen, who turned 31 yesterday, was asked whether playing on his birthday affected his approach or mindset. “I would have of course loved to have had a rest day on the eve of my birthday so I could have had at least a token celebration. Apart from that, I would say it’s pretty good. I think I won at least one game in the World Cup against (Farrukh) Amonatov in 2005. And obviously the match in 2016 was decided on my birthday in the tiebreak. It’s going to take a lot for me to have bad reflections of me playing on my birthday, even though I lost to (Wesley) So last year.”
As far as I can tell, the only player to compete in a world championship game that started on his birthday (until Carlsen yesterday and in 2018) was the great William Steinitz in Game 16 of his doomed title defense against Emanuel Lasker on 17 May 1894. It wasn’t his best day.
A quick refresher on the format. 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 two points apiece after Friday’s Game 1, Saturday’s Game 2, Sunday’s Game 3 and Tuesday’s Game 4)
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. Players cannot agree to a draw before black’s 40th move. A draw claim before then is only permitted through the arbiter, if threefold repetition occurs (as occurred in Game 4).
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 the fifth game of the World Chess Championship. The overall score in the showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai remains level at 2-all following draws in Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 and Game 4 with 10 scheduled contests remaining.
The first three games were fighting encounters notable for Carlsen making early material sacrifices in exchange for long-term initiative, demanding extraordinary accuracy from the Russian challenger for him to emerge with a result. Yesterday? Not so much. Carlsen failed to get his teeth into Nepomniachtchi’s Petrov with the rare 18. Nh4!? and the affair fizzled out to a draw after 33 moves and 2hr 37min.
Carlsen, who failed to strike with the favored white pieces, was asked whether he felt like the peaceful result felt like a setback. “It’s OK,” he said. “I’ve started with a lot more draws than this [in the 2016 and 2018 world title matches]. When you play a forced line as today, you don’t expect to hit very often. But the idea is to hit once in a while, take your opponent by surprise, and the other times you’ve usually got to be very safe.
“Obviously I would have loved to win, would have loved to find more chances than I did, but I think overall it’s a normal result against a world-prepared opponent.”
The best-of-14-games match is taking place at the Dubai Exhibition Centre 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, as happened in Carlsen’s second and third title defenses).
We’re a little more than 40 minutes from today’s first move, so not much longer now.