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World Chess Championship: Magnus Carlsen loses Game 8 to Sergey Karjakin

Reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen landed in a tough spot in New York on Monday night when challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia defeated him in the eighth game of their 12-game title clash and surged ahead.

other sports Updated: Nov 22, 2016 13:35 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times
Magnus Carlsen,Sergey Karjakin,Chess
After the first seven games of their match ended in draws, Challenger Sergey Karjakin, right, of Russia beat chess world champion Magnus Carlsen, of Norway.(AP)

Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world chess champion, landed in a tough spot in New York on Monday night when challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia defeated him in the eighth game of their 12-game title clash and surged ahead.

After the first seven games of their match ended in draws, Karjakin capitalised on some mistakes as Carlsen, from Norway, tried too hard and too much to force victory in the eighth game.

The Norwegian World number one took a lot of risks to break the sequence of draws, played too aggressively and at the cost of his own chances and Karjakin punished him with appropriate responses. As a result of Carlsen’s over-ambitious and adventurous play, Karjakin now leads by 4.5 to 3.5 points in this World Chess Championship Match in which the player reaching 6.5 points will claim the crown. Players get one point for win and half-a-point for draw in this match, which is being played at the South Street Seaport in New York City and has a prize fund of about $1.1 million.

Playing with white pieces, Carlsen did not get much advantage from the opening and by move 12, the position was perfectly balanced and after move 18, it looked headed to another draw.

Thereafter, Carlsen forced a series of exchanges and unbalanced the position position by taking a minor piece with a pawn instead of another puece. It was a risky idea and clearly indicated that, after so many draws, Carlsen was anxious to try to win, even if it meant taking some risks.

The position quickly became complicated, with Carlsen pushing forward with his pieces at the cost of creating structural weaknesses in his position. By move 32, Karjakin had won a pawn and then, on move 35, Carlsen sacrificed a second pawn in an increasingly desperate effort to keep his initiative alive.

As Carlsen took too many risks, KJ arjakin played steady, found the right moves for his opponent’s aggressive overtures.

Carlsen won back the pawn and broke open the protective pawn wall Karjakin had built around his king as the players scrambled to complete 40 moves each in required total time of three hours.

Though he was in difficult posituon, all was not lost for the reigning champion as he still had some chances to firce a draw. On move 49, Carlsen should had sacrificed a pawn to give his bishop some breathing space, however, the Norwegian hung on the pawn and he further compound his mistake by another dubious move. The World number 1 resigned on 53rd turn faced with an inevitable loss.

So furious was Carlsen by the defeat, the official press release claimed, that he bolted the building and did not attend the mandatory post-game press conference.

Carlsen’s tactics in Game 8 were curious to say the least. It seemed as he was under tremendous pressure following the series of draws as he felt he was expected to easily beat Karjakin, just like he did in his two matches with Viswanathan Anand. Unable to beat Karjakin despite coming close in Games 3 and 4, Carlsen took too many risks and thus landed in a hole of his own making.

With four more games to play in this 12-game encounter, he still has chances of levelling scores and even winning the match, it ciuld prove difficult as Karjakin is a tenacious player ans dies not make mistakes easily. Playing with white pieces in 9th game after the rest day on Tuesday, he would definitely be extra cautious and play safe, forcing Carlsen to take more risks.

Karjakin said that he did not think that Carlsen played badly. “He really tried and he sacrificed two pawns and he created a really interesting game but somehow he did not manage to make a draw,” he was quoted aa saying by the official media officer.

“Thanks to Magnus, it was a really big day.”

If Carlsen is unable to wrest back initiative in the next four games, it will surely turn into the most successful year of Karjakin’s life. The onus is on Carlsen now to prevent that from happening.

The battle is truly on now.

First Published: Nov 22, 2016 12:18 IST