World Chess Championship: Nepo’s daddy-blunder brings Carlsen closer to title

Magnus Carlsen had an incredulous look on his face when it dawned on him what had happened. These World Chess championships have been dictated by a solitary factor — Ian Nepomniachtchi’s one crucial blunder in two of his three loses. Game 9, a decisive encounter for the Russian, was no different. Carlsen took advantage of a brain fade from Nepomniachtchi to win and essentially seal his victory in the 14 game series. The scores currently are 6-3 in favour of the champion and a mathematical possibility is all that remains with the challenger.

Carlsen’s first win came on the back of the longest ever chess world championship match. Nepomniachtchi could be forgiven for letting up near the end of the marathon. But Carlsen’s second victory, when both players were on largely equal footing, was down to a serious blunder by his Russian counterpart. Game 9 though took the cake when it came to the constant game defining errors that Nepomniachtchi has made through this series. British champion David Howell on Chess24’s feed said, “You work a whole lifetime for one shot and this is what happens on the biggest scene. He’s probably never blundered like this in his whole career. It’s just so sad.”

Playing with white, it was the 27.c5 move that was the end of the road for Nepomniachtchi. His ideal move in that situation should have been the c6, which would have trapped the black Bishop and almost assured victory for white. Essentially the move ended up trapping his own bishop. Afterwards, he was in the lounge area for almost 15 minutes, while Carlsen’s face showed a mixture of confusion and disbelief.

“I think it’s the tension for sure,” said Carlsen after the match in his post match presser. “And also that Ian is probably a bit more prone to blundering than some other opponents. But it happened to Vishy as well (in the 2013 world title match). He also made some uncharacteristic errors at the end. Pressure gets to everybody.”

Later Nepomniachtchi admitted that he didn’t even know it was possible to make a blunder from that position. In fact, the very next move that Carlsen played (27.C6) was the winning move but one that the challenger didn’t even realise was on the table until it was played.

“Till it was played I was quite happy,” he said. “Just some insanely bad luck.”

Game 10 of the World Chess Championship takes place at the Dubai Expo centre on Wednesday.

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