Only with great difficulty was the title holder, Magnus Carlsen, able to rescue a draw in the ninth game of the World Chess Championship. His Russian challenger, Sergey Karjakin, now leads the 12-game match 5-4.
The duel for the title of world chess champion is increasingly becoming a battle of nerves. Following his defeat in the eighth game, reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen (pictured above, right) again found himself in a critical situation in the course of the ninth.
"This was a very difficult game for me, I was lucky to survive it," Carlsen said afterwards.
"I was much better at times, but then Magnus played brilliantly," was Sergey Karjakin's assessment.
The 26-year-old Russian now simply needs to avoid defeat for the next three games to succeed Carlsen as world champion.
Carlsen used a Spanish opening, one of the most frequently-played moves in chess, to start Wednesday's game. In doing so, he chose a variant which is considered a double-edged sword, as well as being particularly complicated. This was a risky decision by the Norwegian, who can not afford another defeat. Quickly, the two grand masters had created an exciting situation on the board, in which Carlsen had a pawn less but was in a position to more easily activate his chess figures. The experts describe such situations, which open up opportunities for both players, as "dynamic equilibrium." Instead of the slow tactics seen at the beginning of the game, the two opponents now treated fans to a veritable slugfest.
Shortly before the time control, the tension surrounding the 64 squares increased dramatically. Karjakin succeeded in his efforts to apply pressure to Carlsen, who was in a difficult position. He was no longer choosing the best moves and had hardly any time left on the clock. In this critical phase, Karjakin used almost all of the time available to him, but failed to make the best move. Instead, he opted for containment, which put him in a good position, but offered practically no chance of victory. The game was drawn on the 74th move.
Carlsen needs points
Having earned a split of the point, Magnus Carlsen now has three more opportunities to tie the match. In two of the remaining games he will have the white figures - a small advantage for the reigning champion.
"Of course I do not feel comfortable in this situation," said a tired-looking Carlsen at the post-game press conference.
"I need one win from three games - and I am usually capable of that!"
However, Carlsen knows that it will be tough, because Karjakin has repeatedly caused him trouble in the last few games. One thing is certain: The closing phase of this world championship will not be for the faint of heart.