In game 8 with the white pieces, Carlsen over estimated his position and over pushed. He blundered before the first time control and got into a lost position. Luckily for him, Karjakin returned the favor in time pressure and allowed Carlsen to get back into the game. Inexplicably, Carlsen blundered again. This time, Karjakin found the right winning plan and scored. There are only 4 games left. Carlsen can no longer afford more inaccuracies.

Karjakin – Carlsen (game 8)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 This is the first time Carlsen uses this line in this match. Karjakin played this 13 times before but he usually plays 7. c3

7. a4 Rb8 Carlsen played this before with white where he defeated Shirov. The key is Carlsen needs to remain calm and not make any unforced errors. A lot can happen in 4 games.

8. c3 d6 9. d4 Bb6 10. axb5 axb5 11. Na3 0-0 12. Nxb5 Bg4 We are back to the main line. I analyzed this extensively before with some of my students. Karjakin has 6 games on the white side with this line. He won 3 and drew 3 against top level competition.

13. Bc2 exd4 14. Nbxd4 Nxd4 15. cxd4 Bxf3 16. gxf3 Nh5 Karjakin had this position 3 times vs Shirov, Anand, and Adams. He beat Adams and drew other 2.

17. Kh1 Qf6 18. Be3 We are still in deep theory. There are many games with this line. According to my database, white won many games with a number of draws and no loss. Unless Carlsen has a novelty, this is not good news for black. White has a bishop pair and is up a pawn. However, white’s pawn structure is not so hot. Black has some compensation but the question is will it be enough.

18…c5 This is a deviation from the Karjakin – Adams game. Nakamura defeated Kasimdzhanov with this same line.

19. e5 Still following the Nakamura – Kasimdzhanov line.

19…Qe6 and Nakamura played 20. exd6. It will be interesting to know when will Carlsen’s novelty come in. Unless Carlsen simply wants to draw, I’m struggling to find a plan which can even remotely give black chances to win. This is not a known line for black to play for win. Black has a minus score with no win on black side. Curious choice by Carlsen!

20. exd6 c4 Still following the Nakamura – Kasimdzhanov game.

21. b3 cxb3 This is the novelty. Here is where Carlsen deviated from the Nakamura – Kasimdzhanov game. White is pawn up and has a bishop pair. However, he has 3 sets of isolated pawns, including double pawns on the f file. Black has full compensation with an active position. Black’s King is also much safer.

22. Bxb3 Qd6 23. Ra6 Black is fine. There are some very small chances to cause havoc from the black side but this should not cause a big headache for Karjakin. The players are playing so fast today, I do not expect to see the thrill of a time scramble 🙂 I do not think that this is a bad strategy for Carlsen. If he draws this, he will have white in 2 of final 3 games. He is confident of his rapid / blitz play. So he only needs to win 1 to even the match to send to playoff. Carlsen knows that if he suffers one more loss, Karjakin will be the new World Champion. So he needs to fight hard but with patience. 23…Qd7 is a reasonable option with the threat of Qh3. Carlsen has been thinking for nearly 30 minutes after 23. Ra6. He is clearly trying to find the best chances to create chances.

23…Rfd8 For amateur / young players, I always recommend to get out of the pin when possible. Better not to play with fire 🙂 But of course someone in Carlsen’s caliber can make exceptions 🙂 To be successful in World Championship matches, you have to be in good chess shape, as well as being mentally & physically fit. Matches like this take a big toll on the players. 24. Rg1 is a reasonable option.

24. Rg1 Just a simple logical move to create some play on the g file.

24…Qd7 Getting out of the pin with a small threat of Qh3 and Bc7

25. Rg4 Simply to block Qh3, also to further defend the d4 pawn.

25…Nf6 26. Rh4 It is important for Karjakin to maintain his rook on the 4th rank to help defend the d4 pawn.

26…Qb5 And now 27. Ra1 is the best move.

27. Ra1 As expected. Carlsen has serious chances to win both game 3 & 4. Failing to capitalize may come back to haunt him.

27…g6 I cannot remember the last time Carlsen not scoring a win in 8-9 games. This must be very frustrating for him. I think most in the chess community underestimated Karjakin.

28. Rb1 Qd7 29. Qd3 Karjakin is simply too solid. Nothing in this position for Carlsen. How do you beat a guy who is like a trampoline. He absorbs all your punches without a sweat. Carlsen has 3 more chances to figure it out after this game 🙂

29…Nd5 If Carlsen loses this match, this will be the biggest upset since Clinton lost to Trump 🙂

30. Rg1 Bd7 A year where @cavs @Cubs #brexit and @realDonaldTrump won. Will we witness another David vs Goliath defeat? Did Carlsen psyche himself out asking @Microsoft to protect him from Kremlin hacking? Could such thing be possible? The good news is they reached move 30. Draw offer can happen 🙂 The bad news is they will take their time shuffling pieces

31. Bg5 Re8 Now 32. Qc4 is annoying 🙂

32. Qc4 Now 32…Rb5 is the best option to protect the knight.

32…Rb5 33. Qc2 Now 33…Rb4 with the idea of doubling the Rooks.  Carlsen actually has to be careful here. Not an easy position to push and a loss means the match is practically over. Carlsen is thinking very carefully here. He’s smart to do so. Not an easy position to create chances to win. I am a big fan of Carlsen’s winning attitude. He wants to win every game. But his weakness is sometimes he over pushes.

33…Ra8 I still think 33…Rb4 was better. But I am sure Carlsen has his ideas 🙂 As I said earlier in the game, I did not like Carlsen’s choice of opening today. This line is not good for black according to all my stats. Not sure what his team was thinking.

34. Bc4 Rba5 White is slightly better. Black has to be extra careful with the bishop pair.

35. Bd2 Ra4 36. Qd3 I don’t know who’s in Carlsen’s prep team. But their opening choices are not effective so far against Karjakin.

36…Ra1 37. Rxa1 Rxa1+ 38. Kg2 White is still slightly better. Black has no chance to win here. Carlsen has about 3 minutes to make the last 3 moves to make time control.

38…Ne7? This is a blunder. Now white can play 39. Qb3 Nf5 40. Bxf7+ Qxf7 41. Qxf7+ Kxf7 42. Rxh7+ Ke6 43. Rxc7 This is bad for Black. 

39. Bxf7 Kxf7 40. Qc4+ Only move for Carlsen is 40…Kg7

40…Kg7 41. d5 Both players make time control. With correct play, Carlsen should hold. But the question is will he? The good news for Carlsen is he made time control. The bad news is he is still in danger.

41…Nf5 42. Bc3+ Kf8 43. Bxa1 Nxh4+ 44. Qxh4 Qxd5 White is slightly better but I think Carlsen can hold. This is big for Carlsen. Otherwise, match over! This game may give Carlsen a big boost! Now he’s still in it with 2 white in final 3 games. Match not over yet!

45. Qf6+ Qf7 46. Qd4 Black should be able to hold if he does not lose patience.

46…Ke8 47. Qe4+ Qe7 Sorry but White is not going to win this. It is a relatively easy hold.

48. Qd5 White has nothing to lose. He can torture Carlsen for a long time without any risk just like the way Carlsen usually does against other opponents.

48…Bd8 Carlsen is creating a cocoon. He’s signalling to Karjakin: Go ahead and try to beat me 🙂 Of course a little side threat is Qg5+ to trade Queens = dead draw.

49. Kf1 Karjakin does not want to allow Carlsen to play Qg5+ and trade Queens. He still wants to torture Carlsen a little longer 🙂

49…Qf7 50. Qe4+ Karjakin does not want to trade Queens. Unless Karjakin is ready to call it a day, this game will go on for a while 🙂

50..Qe7 51. Be5 Qe6 52. Kg2 Be7 53. Qa8+ Kf7 54. Qh8 h5 55. Qg7+ Ke8 56. Bf4 Qf7 57. Qh8+ Lots of moves but still draw.

57…Qf8 58. Qd4 Qf5 59. Qc4 There is no way Carlsen will lose this. But Karjakin cannot take draw with a pawn up 🙂

59…Kd7 I doubt anyone could have predicted that Carlsen did not score a single win and is -1 after 9 games. Similar to Kasparov-Kramnik World Championship match.

60. Bd2 Qe6 61. Qa4+ Qc6 62. Qa7+ Qc7 White has no way of making real progress. But it is against chess etiquette for black to offer a draw pawn down. So it is up to Karjakin to decide when to call it a day. If I am white here, I would play on. No way I would offer a draw even though I may have only 0.1% chance to win 🙂

63. Qa2 Qd6 64. Be3 64. Be3 Qe6 65. Qa7+ Ke8 66. Bc5 Bd8 More moves but no progress 🙂

67. h3 This is beautiful. Now the 50 move rules starts all over 🙂

67…Qd5 68. Be3 Be7 69. Qb8+ No, Carlsen will NOT lose this game 🙂

69…Kf7 70. Qh8 Qe6 Do not listen to the computers. White will not win this game.

71. Bf4 Qf6 72. Qb8 Qe6 73. Qb7 Kg8 74. Qb5 Still no progress. Now Carlsen knows how it feels being on the other side 🙂

74. Bf6 1/2 They finally agreed to a draw. A critical hold for Carlsen!



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