Calm after the storm as Nepo plays it safe

Game 10 ends in a quiet 41-move draw, Carlsen a point away from title

In what turned out to be the quickest game of the ongoing World chess championship title match, Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi needed only 125 minutes to draw Game 10 in 41 moves in Dubai on Wednesday.

With four games to go, Carlsen leads 6.5-3.5 and needs only one more point to keep the title. Nepo will play with white pieces when the action resumes on Friday after a day’s rest.

Having lost three out of the last four games, Nepo was expected to adopt a more pragmatic approach, and he did. Playing black, he chose to repeat Petroff Defence and made no secret of being satisfied with a draw.

Asked if he was surprised by Nepo’s decision to stick to Petroff, Carlsen said, “I didn’t particularly think he would do that. But I guess he was in damage-limitation mode at this point.”

The players gave very little away and after a series of exchanges in quick time, a draw was agreed. Though a draw appeared the most obvious result for a long time, the players played out a minimum of 40 moves to meet the stipulation set for a draw offer.

The game ended once the second rook came off the board and the players were left with a knight and four pawns each. “At this point, there’s so few games to go that any draw is an excellent result,” said Carlsen.

Asked if his strategy was going to draw the remaining games, Carlsen said, “I very much assume he’s going to try and win, especially with the white pieces. But sure, any half-point that I can get is great and I think that’s pretty obvious."

Strangely, the moderator at the media conference — Grandmaster Maurice Ashley — asked Nepo, “You’ve only got four games left and a three-point deficit. Your strategy is still heavily trying to win this match?”

To which a visibly irked Nepo responded, “Well, that’s an absurd question.”

The moves: Game 10: White: Carlsen; Black: Nepomniachtchi

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nd3 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. Nf4 Nf6 7. d4 Nc6 8. c3 d5 9. Nd2 Nd8 10. Nf3 Qxe2+ 11. Bxe2 Bd6 12. O-O O-O 13. Bd3 Re8 14. Re1 Rxe1+ 15. Nxe1 Ne6 16. Nxe6 Bxe6 17. g3 g6 18. Ng2 Re8 19. f3 Nh5 20. Kf2 c6 21. g4 Ng7 22. Bf4 Bxf4 23. Nxf4 g5 24. Ne2 f5 25. h3 Kf7 26. Rh1 h6 27. f4 fxg4 28. hxg4 Bxg4 29. Rxh6 Bf5 30. Bxf5 Nxf5 31. Rh7+ Ng7 32. fxg5 Kg6 33. Rh3 Kxg5 34. Rg3+ Kf6 35. Rf3+ Ke7 36. Nf4 Kd6 37. Ng6 Re6 38. Ne5 Ne8 39. Rf7 Rf6+ 40. Rxf6+ Nxf6 41. Ke3. Game Drawn.

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