Carlsen pulls level at the World Chess Championship | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 25.11.2016
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Carlsen pulls level at the World Chess Championship

The defending champion, Magnus Carlsen has beaten the challenger, Sergey Karjakin, in the 10th game of the World Chess Championship. With just two games remaining, the match is level at 5-5.

It turns out that Magnus Carlsen has not forgotten how to laugh.

"I feel great now, "the world champion said after he finally succeeded in defeating his Russian opponent Sergey Karjakin."This is a great relief for me. I had gone nine games without managing a win, this has never happened to me before."

Karjakin took the defeat in his stride. "It was a difficult game in which Magnus played very well," he said. With the victory, the title match in New York is again tied and Carlsen now has every chance of defending his title.

Karjakin entrenched himself

Carlsen went into Thursday's 10th game urgently needing a win, so there was much speculation about which opening he would choose.  The Norwegian champion decided to move his king's pawns to allow for the so-called "Berlin defense," just like in the third game. This is a series of moves that has been quite popular in top-level chess for the past 15 years, since it allows the player using the black figures to build a fortress that is difficult to capture and pursue a draw. Magnus Carlsen is one of the great experts in this method, whether playing with black or white.

In the next few moves, the world champion demonstrated just how well he has mastered this manner of positioning. Almost unnoticed, he improved his position, exchanging a chess piece here, moving a pawn there. After Karjakin had missed a good opportunity to counter and after four hours, the game reached its climax. In the hours leading up to this, Carlsen had repeatedly succeeded in increasing the pressure on Karjakin. The Norwegian had achieved a clear advantage but was not yet in a position to win the game. This was the assessment of both the human experts and the computers. Everybody was wondering whether Carlsen would in fact find a way to successfully storm the Russian defense expert's fortress.

Breakthrough in the 57th move

This time Carlsen elected not to throw caution to the wind, but instead to tenaciously lay siege to Karjakin's position. The world champion repeatedly maneuvered his towers back and forth, but at first he declined to advance his pawns. This strategy paid off in the 57th move. Just for a moment, Karjakin's figures were not ideally positioned and Carlsen was able to break through with a pawn - and took one of his pawns.

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However, the game remained full of suspense. This is because Karjakin managed to maneuver himself into a position in which apart from the kings and pawns there was only one rook left on either side. Such situations are notorious among the professionals for their concealed opportunities for a draw. However, with a little luck, the champion managed to overcome this stumbling block and won the game after six hours.

"I wasn't until the very end that I was sure I would win the match," Carlsen said.

Psychological advantage?

At the subsequent press conference Carlsen was received with enthusiastic applause. After this victory, he can approach the remaining two games with optimism. However, don't expect either of these grand masters to take any risks. If the match is still tied after Monday's 12th game, it will be decided by series of quick tie-break games.

Karjakin declined to speculate about this possibility. "First we will play the final games, and then we will deal with quick games," the Russian said. 

For the 26-year-old Carlsen, who went into the match very much as the favorite, defending his title in New York has become a difficult chore.

"It has been a battle so far and it remains a battle," he said.

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