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10 Dec, 2021 16:07

‘Blunder after blunder’: Russia’s Nepomniachtchi accused of surrender as Carlsen wraps up chess title

‘Blunder after blunder’: Russia’s Nepomniachtchi accused of surrender as Carlsen wraps up chess title

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen retained his World Chess Championship title with victory over Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia in Game 11 to take an unassailable 7.5-3.5 lead in their match in Dubai.

Heading into Friday's game with a big lead in their best-of-14 showdown, Carlsen wrapped up the title after another error-strewn performance from the challenger. 

The pair were unable to be separated after the first five games of their €2 million ($2.26 million) tussle before the Norwegian made a breakthrough in an epic Game 6 which lasted 7 hours and 45 minutes and was the longest ever at the World Championships.

That appeared to shatter Nepomniachtchi’s resolve and although he picked up two subsequent draws, the initiative had been firmly surrendered to Carlsen as the reigning champion also won Games 8 and 9.

Playing as white, ‘Nepo’ also blundered in Game 11 on Friday with a misguided attack on Carlsen's rook on move 23, paving the way for his resignation. 

“It’s hard to feel that great joy when the situation was so comfortable to begin with, but I’m happy with a very good performance overall,” said Carlsen.

“Overall I’m happy with my play, very proud of my effort in the sixth game, and that sort of laid the foundation for everything.

“The final score is probably a bit more lopsided than it could have been, but that’s the way I think some of the other matches also could have gone if I had gotten a lead.”

Speaking on his defeat, Nepomniachtchi cited the "tension" of the occasion but suggested that was not an excuse. 

“Of course it’s really tense and it’s a little more tense than I expected," said the Russian. 

"But I guess anyway the tension is not a reason to overlook some simple things you would never overlook in a blitz game.

“What can I say? I should find out why it did happen and improve.”

Some observers were left disappointed with the ease at which Carlsen had ultimately seen off the challenge from his Russian opponent. 

“The dominating story is blunder after blunder [from Nepomniachtchi]. It just feels like it was gift wrapped to Magnus and that’s not how I ever want to remember any sort of chess event,” said Grand Master and commentator Robert Hess as he watched on critically.

Elsewhere on a Chess24 broadcast, Grandmaster Anish Giri claimed that Nepomniachtchi “wants to lose” to be put out of his misery.

Carlsen’s victory is the fourth successful defense of the title he has held since 2013.

The Norwegian Grand Master, 31, is widely viewed as one the of greatest ever to play the game and has held the world number one ranking since 2011.

Despite his ranking of number five in the world, there were hopes that Nepomniachtchi – playing under the banner of the Russian Chess Federation due to WADA sanctions – could challenge his poster-boy rival.

A two-time Russian champion, Nepomniachtchi, 31, sparred with Carlsen at youth level and defeated him at the 2011 Tata Steel tournament and the 2017 London Chess Classic.

This time, though, their showdown ended in a dominant win for Carlsen, who claimed the lion’s share of the €2 million prize money on offer.

Carlsen celebrated his victory by tweeting an image of late NBA star Kobe Bryant holding up five fingers to signify his five titles – the same number of victories the Norwegian now owns in world championship deciders.