After the 10th game of the World Chess Championship the score is even once again! Defending champion Magnus Carlsen managed to bounce back after his painful loss in round 8 and a difficult draw in game 9.

For the Russian team, today’s encounter developed the character of a Shakespearean tragedy. After an incredible oversight by Carlsen, Karjakin had the chance for a forced draw right after the opening. A draw with the Black pieces with only two more rounds to go, this would have been all that Karjakin had hoped for, of course. Instead he didn’t spot the crucial sequence and slowly drifted into an unpleasant endgame. In the press conference afterwards, Sergey didn’t judge his position as too inferior, but that changed with another imprecision on move 56. Afterwards, the position was technically lost and the Norwegian chess star converted it pretty smoothly.

Certainly Magnus’ happiness about levelling the score topped his emotions. But unlike Sergey, he was well aware of his mistakes early on in the game, which could have led to a draw and not a victory. It was clearly visible that he was shocked by these circumstances as well. In the end it worked out for him, though. In the last two rounds on Saturday and Monday, he will be going with a big psychological advantage. Sergey’s hopes of repelling Magnus’ efforts in the same way he did for the last 9 rounds, were not fulfilled.

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Nevertheless, Sergey showed good sportsmanship and calmly answered the nonobligatory media questions in the mixed zone. The players don’t have the opportunity to talk to anyone beforehand, which makes these interviews very entertaining, I have to say. Poor Sergey probably won’t be happy with his frank statement, when asked about the game-changing move 20….d6-d5:

“I didn’t lose because of 20….d5!”

Little did he know.

Critical moments of game 10

Once more the game started with the Berlin Defence with 4.d3. It was Magnus who surprised his opponent first by playing the rare line 6.Bg5, which might have been proposed by his former coach GM Simen Agdestein (actually the brother of Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein).

Opening of Carlsen - Karjakin in game 10

Opening of Carlsen – Karjakin in game 10

Sergey reacted cautiously and managed to trade off the dark-squared bishops. He managed to gain some space on the kingside around move 17, but his pieces were in danger of being pushed back in the long run. Two moves later, Carlsen thought it would be time to do so and started by carelessly trading off the remaining bishops on e6, followed by 20.Nf3-d2.

A crucial moment of game 10.

A crucial moment of game 10

Whether you are a beginner or a World Champion, you should start to analyse this position with the obvious 20….Nxf2+. Carlsen admitted in the press conference that he had seen all the consequences of this move only when it was already too late (I assume before playing 20.Nf3-d2). Karjakin stated that he calculated 21.Kg1, missing the nice line 21….Nh3+ 22.Kg2 Nhf4+ 23.gxf4 Nxf4+ with a Queen-fork, when the arising position is no problem whatsoever for Black. The other opportunity is 21.Kg2, but then 21….Nh4+! comes, when the knight cannot be taken due to 22….Qg6+. You can walk through all those lines with my short analysis here:

I had the impression that Sergey felt quite reluctant about discussing this line in the press conference. It might have been one of those moments where you think “Well, I’m playing Magnus here, surely he won’t blunder anything in this obvious line…” and move on. Of course this attitude is something that you don’t want to reveal to your opponent when the match is still going on. So Karjakin missed his big chance and played 20….d6-d5 instead, which caused GM Ian Nepomniachtchi to freak out during the official broadcast:

Nepo: “What?”
Judit: “20….d5 here.”
Nepo: “What? What? I mean… that’s incredible.”
Judit: “Well, the reason why we were saying ‘What, what, what’ is because we expected Sergey to play 20….Nxf2+ and go for a draw…”
Nepo: “What?”

Even one move later Sergey had the opportunity to basically force a draw by 21….Nxf2+, but this time the situation was much more delicate. It is impressive that the World Champion spotted the crucial moves 22.Kg2 Qf7! 23.Kg1 Qf6!, which are not easy to find at all.

Game on, indeed! It is impressing how Magnus managed to continue the game, even though he was aware of his mistakes. The middle game was very pleasant for him due to Black’s doubled e-pawns, which are very unflexible. Take this position after 31 moves as an example.

A passive position for the challenger.

A passive position for the challenger

The pressure is real and even such a strong defender as Sergey eventually collapsed. Later on he rightly criticised his move 56….Rhh7, when Carlsen was able to finally break through on the queenside with 57.b4-b4.

Game 10 after White's 57.b4-b5

Game 10 after White’s 57.b4-b5

After that the position was technically winning due to the weaknesses on b7 and e6. Sergey had to give up the e6-pawn and tried to launch some counterplay, but Magnus succeeded to bring home the full point without major problems.

A nice Thanksgiving for Magnus, as GM Fabiano Caruana pointed out afterwards.

We are excited how the match is going to develop now. The odds for rapid play are quite high I would say.

Check out Niclas video on game 10 here: