Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin are keeping the chess world on edge of their seats. A draw in the 11th round has left the finalists tied with 5.5 points each going into Monday's final.
"I was not very impressed [with] the way I played but at least the draw was normal," was how a disappointed Sergey Karjakin described the penultimate match of the Chess World Championships.
He did have a tough time of it in Saturday's match when world champion Magnus Carlsen showed little difficulty in taking the initiative. The Chess World Championships will now be decided in the final match this coming week - or in tie breakers, if there is no winner in the 12th game.
The 11th match on Saturday started with little surprise. Karjakin went with a Spanish Opening, which Carlsen was well prepared for. By the 19th move, at the latest, a pawn's advance from the world champion left Karjakin with no choice but to battle for a draw.
Carlsen managed to push a pawn forward into his opponent's territory, but it only really brought him an optical - not strategic - advantage.
The result: a fairly quick split of the points after 34 moves.
At the press conference following the match, it was clear this World Championship is not only about good preparation and clever moves.
"The situation is, of course, different than in other chess games," Karjakin said. "Every move, you think in the back of your head that it could be the deciding mistake."
At 5.5 points each, psychology will play an important role in the final regular game. Carlsen used the press conference to put the pressure on his Russian opponent saying, "The match turned in a good direction for me."
If the 12th round on Monday ends in another tie, the players will move on to a tie-breaker, somewhat comparable to a penalty shootout in soccer.
On Monday, Carlsen will take over the white figures and will be able to make the game's first move. While he won't limit his options, count on him to set the tone from the very beginning.
But one thing is clear, Magnus Carlsen hasn't lived up to his role as the tournament's favorite and will have a tough game ahead of him on Monday.