A middlegame mistake from Nepomniachtchi saw him lose a pawn to the Norwegian Grandmaster on Sunday, allowing the 31-year-old reigning champion an advantage which he made the most of in the game which extended past four hours and which only ended with the Russian’s resignation.
The error affords Carlsen a telling 5-3 advantage in the best-of-14 series, something which experts predict will be too much for the Russian player to overcome with just six contests left to play.
Carlsen, who was playing white, saw his first move ceremonially made by former Real Madrid defender Michel Salgado – and opted to leave it on the board while Nepomniachtchi employed the Petrov Defense to counter.
The two traded pieces in the ongoing battle of wits, with Carlsen taking upwards of 40 minutes at one point to ponder a potential exchange of queens.
However it was the fatal decision which cost him a pawn which proved to be Nepomniachtchi’s downfall, with Carlsen tightening his grip one the game until it reached its conclusion
“I suspected it was a mistake,” Carlsen said afterwards.
“I thought it was just a blunder. But I had plenty of time so I thought I will double-check to see what he was intending. It turned out it was nothing.”
Nepomniachtchi agreed that his mistake proved costly.
“After [losing the pawn], probably I didn’t defend in the best way. It becomes truly unpleasant and frankly speaking it’s hard to defend after such a blunder,” he said.
Both men will rest on Monday before resuming on Tuesday, when Nepomniachtchi will open game nine playing as white.
“It was pretty cagey at the start (of the game),” Carlsen added.
“Obviously a win changes the dynamic of the match. I don’t think I would have won this game if I hadn’t won the first one.”
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