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FWCM 09: Karjakin cements his lead

by Sagar Shah - 24/11/2016

Karjakin came to the ninth game with a full point lead. Magnus was raring to play aggressive chess even with the black pieces and went for the Arkhangelsk system in the Ruy Lopez. In the resulting position Carlsen had some kingside weaknesses to play against while Sergey had an extra pawn and the bishop pair. The Challenger's advantage proved to be superior as the World Champion had to be ultra resourceful in order to save the half point. Full analysis, key positions and vivid images from the ninth game.

Pictures by Albert Silver

FWCM 09: A balance of attack and defence

The joy of playing 1.e4!

In a must-win situation playing 1.e4 is a very risky idea. The number of drawish lines in the Berlin makes the white player's life extremely difficult. However, when you are leading the match, then 1.e4 is an extremely solid choice. The onus is shifted on Black's shoulders and he has to make all the efforts to get a fighting game. Not an easy task. If you play theory, you are bound to get into slightly inferior or equal positions, and if you do not play theory then you could well end up with a minus position.


In the ninth game of the World Championship Match 2016 Magnus had the same problems to face. He was trailing the match 4.5-3.5 and had to get an interesting position with the black pieces. What was his choice?

Magnus went for the Arkhangelsk variation in the Ruy Lopez with 6...Bc5

The knight on g8 came out on move four which meant that there was no Berlin on show

It was true that Black got an unbalanced position. For a pawn deficit he got a chance to ruin white's kingside structure. However, Karjakin had things under control. He tucked his king into h1 and got his rook to use the open g-file.


Soon the position turned into a one sided battle. It was clear that the weaknesses on the kingside didn't mean much, but the extra pawn and bishop pair were the more potent factor. Carlsen was looking at only two results from here. A draw or a loss. Note that if it were Black to play he would have nearly won the game with ...Bc7. But it was White's turn and he pinned the bishop with Ra6!

Karjakin's rook transfer to h4 was missed by Carlsen

And on move 39 came the most critical moment of the game. Sergey Karjakin showed that his level of confidence had risen considerably and he sacrificed his bishop on f7. Truth be told, the lines were not clear. But he backed himself and went for the best continuation in the bishop sacrifice line. But, maybe the move 39.Qb3 was stronger as ...Nf5 is anyway met with 40.Bxf7+!

The move 41.d5! was an excellent one. With threats like 42.Bc3+ the position is not at all easy for Black to defend.

Magnus found the best possible defence in the position with 41...Nf5! Computers might not agree with this, but practically this was the strongest and the easiest way to try and hold the position.

That's what giving 100% means. Sergey has his head in his hands and Magnus' eyes are emanating intense concentration.
Karjakin had an extra pawn but it was not sufficient for the full point and the World Champion escaped with a draw
Magnus is down, but not out!
[Event "World Championship 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.11.23"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C78"]
[WhiteElo "2772"]
[BlackElo "2853"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "148"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2016.11.24"]

{Leading by a full point in the Match and playing with the white pieces is a
great feeling. Suddenly you can play 1.e4 without any fear of entering drawish
lines!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 {Magnus sticks to his 3...a6 in the Ruy
Lopez. Going into the Berlin is definitely not a good idea.} 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O
b5 (5... Be7 {had been Magnus' choice in the prior games.}) 6. Bb3 Bc5 {
[%cal Gf8c5] The Arkhangelsk is a sharp opening. But it is not such a great
idea because team Karjakin must have analyzed it in quite some depth.} 7. a4 (
7. c3 {is the other main move.}) 7... Rb8 8. c3 d6 9. d4 Bb6 10. axb5 axb5 11.
Na3 O-O 12. Nxb5 {This is all very well known and has been played in over 400
games before. White has an extra pawn, but Black has pressure on the centre,
free piece development and the ability to disrupt White's kingside.} Bg4 (12...
Nxe4 13. Bd5 $18) 13. Bc2 exd4 {Nakamura is the biggest pracitioner of this
line and has been played by big names like Anand, Caruana, Leko and Shirov.} (
13... Bxf3 14. gxf3 Nh5 {is the other main way to play for Black. But adequate
defensive ideas have been found for White here.}) 14. Nbxd4 Nxd4 15. cxd4 Bxf3
16. gxf3 (16. Qxf3 Bxd4 $15 {is already very comfortable for Black.}) 16... Nh5
{[%csl Rf4][%cal Gf6h5,Gd8h4,Gd8f6,Gf6f4,Gb6g1] Black will try and make use of
the weaknesses on White's kingside. White on the other hand will try and
cement his position and make the extra pawn count. In a way this was an ideal
position for Carlsen as there are some imbalances and chances for Sergey to go
wrong. But the downside is that this has all been played before and Karjakin
would have analyzed it quite deeply.} 17. Kh1 Qf6 18. Be3 c5 {This was
witnessed in the Tromso Olympiad between Nakamura and Kasimdzhanov.} (18... Ra8
{has been played by Caruana before.}) (18... Nf4 {is the other natural move.})
19. e5 $1 {[%cal Ge4e5] Sergey doesn't fall in place with Carlsen's plan.} (19.
dxc5 dxc5 {is a better position for Black because the b8-h2 diagonal is the
key factor. The bishop, queen and the knight will weave some sort of a mating
attack on the white king.} 20. Rg1 Rfd8 21. Qe2 Bc7 $1 {[%csl Rf4][%cal Gc7h2,
Gh5f4,Gf6f4,Gf6h4]}) 19... Qe6 (19... dxe5 20. dxc5 $16) 20. exd6 c4 (20...
Qxd6 $6 21. dxc5 Bxc5 22. Qxd6 Bxd6 23. b3 {This is clearly a torture. White
not only has the bishop pair, but also an extra pawn. Not at all what Magnus
is looking for.}) 21. b3 {[%cal Gc4b3,Rc4c3]} cxb3 {Believe it or not, this
was the first new move of the game! Move 21! Sergey was obviously very well
prepared.} ({Kasimdzhanov's choice in his game against Nakamura was} 21... c3
22. d5 Qxd6 23. Ra6 Nf4 24. Ra4 Ng6 25. Qd3 Bc7 26. f4 Rfd8 27. Rd1 Qf6 28. Rc4
Bd6 29. Qxc3 Qxc3 30. Rxc3 Nxf4 31. Rc6 Be5 32. d6 Ne6 33. Bf5 Rxb3 34. Bb6
Rxb6 35. Rxb6 Nd4 36. f4 Bf6 37. Bh3 Ne2 38. Rb4 g6 39. d7 Kf8 40. Rc4 Nc3 41.
Rd3 Ke7 42. Rc8 {1-0 (42) Nakamura,H (2787)-Kasimdzhanov,R (2700) Tromso 2014})
22. Bxb3 Qxd6 $16 {Black is still a pawn down. The question now is whether he
can hold a draw or not.} 23. Ra6 $1 {An extremely important move to prevent
Bc7.} Rfd8 (23... Qd7 24. Rg1 Qh3 25. Rg2 $16) 24. Rg1 Qd7 25. Rg4 {The rook
comes in and defends the pawn.} Nf6 26. Rh4 {[%cal Gg1g4,Gg4h4]} Qb5 (26... Nd5
$2 27. Bxd5 $1 Qxd5 28. Qb1 {[%cal Gb1h7,Gb1b6]} Qxf3+ 29. Kg1 h5 30. Rxb6 Rxb6
31. Qxb6 Ra8 32. Qb2 Ra6 33. Bf4 g5 34. Bxg5 Rg6 35. Qb8+ Kh7 36. Qf4 Qxf4 37.
Rxf4 Rxg5+ 38. Kf1 $16) 27. Ra1 g6 (27... Bxd4 $2 28. Rxd4 Rxd4 29. Bxd4 Qxb3
30. Qxb3 Rxb3 31. Ra8+ Ne8 32. Rxe8#) 28. Rb1 Qd7 29. Qd3 Nd5 30. Rg1 Bc7 (
30... Nxe3 {would be lost instantly due to} 31. Rxg6+ hxg6 32. Qxg6+ Kf8 33.
Qf6 $18) 31. Bg5 Re8 32. Qc4 Rb5 33. Qc2 (33. Ba4 $6 Qf5 $1 34. Bxb5 $2 Qxf3+
35. Rg2 Re1+ 36. Qf1 Rxf1+ 37. Bxf1 h5 $19) 33... Ra8 (33... Rb4 $1 $11) 34.
Bc4 Rba5 35. Bd2 Ra4 (35... Ra3 36. Qe4 $1 $18 {The knight cannot move because
of the rook sacrifice on g6.} Rd8 37. Rh5 $18) 36. Qd3 Ra1 37. Rxa1 Rxa1+ 38.
Kg2 Ne7 {[%cal Gc4f7] The most important position in the game. Karjakin had
the option of continuing with an attack on f7 or taking the pawn on f7. Both
of which looked pretty tempting.} 39. Bxf7+ $5 {This must have come as a
surprise to Magnus. There is no obvious way to finish off the game, but the
attack nevertheless is very powerful.} (39. Qb3 $1 Nf5 40. Bxf7+ Kg7 (40...
Qxf7 41. Qxf7+ Kxf7 42. Rxh7+ Ke6 (42... Ng7 43. Bh6 $18) 43. Rxc7 Nxd4 44. Rc4
Nf5 45. Bg5 $16 {Maybe this is a draw, but it will be a long road ahead and
will not be easy to hold.}) 41. Rh3 $16 Qe7 42. d5 $1 Ra3 (42... Qxf7 43. Bc3+
$18) 43. Qc2 $1 Rxf3 $1 (43... Qxf7 44. Qb2+ $18) 44. Rxf3 Nh4+ 45. Kf1 Nxf3
46. Qc3+ Kxf7 47. Qxf3+ Qf6 48. Qh3 $16 {White has excellent chances here.})
39... Kxf7 40. Qc4+ (40. Rxh7+ Kg8 $1 (40... Kf6 41. h4 $18) 41. Qxg6+ Nxg6 42.
Rxd7 Rd1 $11) 40... Kg7 (40... Qd5 41. Qxc7 $18) (40... Nd5 41. Rxh7+ $18) 41.
d5 $1 {[%cal Gd4d5] Excellent play by Karjakin. His rook, queen and bishop put
the black king under quite a bit of stress.} Nf5 $1 {[%cal Ge7f5] A good
practical decision. Carlsen takes the safest route, seeing that he can hold
the position in spite of being a pawn down.} (41... Be5 42. Bc3 $1 Qd6 43. Re4
$18) (41... Rd1 42. Bh6+ $1 (42. Bc3+ Kf8 43. Rxh7 Rxd5 44. Bf6 (44. Rh8+ Kf7
45. Qh4 Rh5) 44... Bd6 45. Bxe7+ Bxe7 46. Qf4+ Rf5 47. Qh6+ Ke8 48. Qxg6+)
42... Kf6 (42... Kh8 43. Qc3+ $18) 43. Bg5+ $1 Kxg5 44. Rxh7 Qxd5 45. Qh4+ Kf5
46. Qxe7 $18) (41... g5 42. Bc3+ Kg6 43. Re4 Rd1 44. Re6+ Kf7 45. Rh6 $16 {
the attack continues.}) 42. Bc3+ Kf8 43. Bxa1 Nxh4+ 44. Qxh4 Qxd5 45. Qf6+ (45.
Qxh7 Qg5+ 46. Kf1 Qc1+ 47. Kg2 Qg5+ 48. Kh3 Qf5+ 49. Kg2 (49. Kh4 g5+ $19)
49... Qg5+ $11) 45... Qf7 46. Qd4 (46. Qxf7+ Kxf7 $11 {This is just a draw.
Black will keep his king on f5 and White will have not be able to do anything.}
) 46... Ke8 47. Qe4+ Qe7 48. Qd5 Bd8 49. Kf1 Qf7 50. Qe4+ Qe7 51. Be5 {
Karjakin fights on for another 24 moves before agreeing to a draw. He tries to
make progress but there is absolutely no way for him to come up with a working
idea.} Qe6 52. Kg2 Be7 53. Qa8+ Kf7 54. Qh8 h5 55. Qg7+ Ke8 56. Bf4 Qf7 57.
Qh8+ Qf8 58. Qd4 Qf5 59. Qc4 Kd7 60. Bd2 Qe6 61. Qa4+ Qc6 62. Qa7+ Qc7 63. Qa2
Qd6 64. Be3 Qe6 65. Qa7+ Ke8 66. Bc5 Bd8 67. h3 Qd5 68. Be3 Be7 69. Qb8+ Kf7
70. Qh8 Qe6 71. Bf4 Qf6 72. Qb8 Qe6 73. Qb7 Kg8 74. Qb5 Bf6 {Quite a horrible
experience for Magnus. He was not only a point down in the Match but he also
had to fight for a draw throughout the game. Full credit to Sergey who tried
to maximize his chances with the bold Bxf7+ sacrifice. Three more games to go.}
That's what a World Championship can do to youngsters! Chess fever!
ChessBase editor Albert Silver is in New York and these spectacular images that you can see in this report are thanks to his efforts


  1. FWCM 2016 08: Karjakin strikes the first blow
  2. FWCM 2016 07: Carlsen's carelessness
  3. FWCM 2016 06: A heavy theoretical battle
  4. FWCM 2016 05: A perfect draw!
  5. FWCM 2016 04: Slippery as an Eel
  6. FWCM 2016 03: A lively Berlin Endgame!
  7. FWCM 2016 02: Carlsen's mysterious rook moves
  8. FWCM 2016 01: Carlsen's benign Trumpowsky!
  9. FWCM 2016: Press Conference and Opening Ceremony

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