Reigning champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Sergey Karjakin played out yet another draw in the eleventh game, thus taking their 12-game World Chess Championship Match in New York to a decider on Monday.
On Saturday, Carlsen opted for the Spanish Defence to Karjakin’s king pawn opening, avoiding the Berlin Defence that had served him so well in the previous World Championship encounters against Anand.
Carlsen chose a quiet but solid continuation and tried to mix things up in the opening itself, generating some threats with a passed e-pawn. However, the advantage was not enough to rattle Karjakin and the Russian managed to force a draw with some precise moves.
The game ended in a draw after 34 moves and three-and-a -half-hours of play when Karjakin forced perpetual checks. He, however, was not satisfied with the result as this was his last opportunity to play with white pieces in regulation, classical games. Carlsen will next have white pieces in the decider and could pile on the pressure by playing an unconventional opening to steer the game to an unbalanced position.
Earlier, Karjakin had won the eighth game to go ahead but Carlsen levelled scores in the 10th. With the other nine games ending in draws, the two are tied on 5.5 points each as they head to the decider. The player reaching 6.5 points will claim the title of World Chess Champion and pocket 60 per cent share of the total prize fund of USD 1.1 million.
In case the 12th game ends in a draw as well, the title will be decided through a series of tie-breakers on Wednesday, starting with four rapid games, akin to cricket’s one-day encounters, in which players get 25 minutes each, with 10 seconds added to their clock after every move.
In case this fails to produce a winner, a series of four even shorter blitz games will be played with a time limit of 10 minutes each. If that too proves futile, a sudden death game, called “Armageddon”, will be played with the player playing with white pieces having five minutes to wrap up the game while the one with black will have only four but a draw would be enough to earn him victory.
Only two World Chess Championship matches have gone into tie-breakers —between Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov in 2006, and between Viswanathan Anand of India and Boris Glefand of Israel in 2012. Both were decided during the rapid games.
With all to play for, it will be interesting to see who manages to handle pressure and hold his wits to surge ahead in the tense enounter.