1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Jan Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen compete in Dubai, December 10, 2021.
Carlsen ran away with the match following a grueling almost-8-hour victory in Game 6, with his Russian challenger then blundering his way to three defeats in the next fiveImage: Jon Gambrell/AP Photo/picture alliance

Magnus Carlsen wins 5th world chess title

December 10, 2021

The Norwegian world number 1 defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in game 11 in Dubai to acquire an unassailable lead, sealing victory with three games to spare.


Norwegian chess player Magnus Carlsen retained his classical World Chess Championship title on Friday after defeating Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai.

In doing so, he acquired an unassailable 7.5-3.5 lead in the best-of-14-game showdown to seal 60% of the $2.3 million (€2 million) prize fund.

At the end of Friday's encounter, Nepomniachtchi resigned with a brief handshake and the two players exchanged a few words.

Carlsen, 31, has now won five world titles in a row, after first sealing the crown in 2013. He is also the reigning world rapid and blitz chess champion, meaning he has a complete stranglehold on chess' most prestigious titles in all time formats. 

The contest in Dubai started with five draws before the Norwegian won the longest game ever in the recognized 135-year history of world championship matchplay. With the clock just shy of eight hours, Carlsen sealed victory and put himself on the road to retaining his title.

Carlsen: 'Then everything kind of clicked'

Decisive blunders from Nepomniachtchi

And in Friday's Game 11, it was another blunder by Nepomniachtchi that helped Carlsen clinch his fifth title.

In attacking Carlsen's rook with a pawn, the Russian, who was playing as white, left his queen badly exposed, which meant that, barring something extraordinary, the Norwegian would hold onto his crown. Carlsen duly sealed the contest after a total of 49 moves in 3 hours and 21 minutes.

The last three of Carlsen's four wins in the match all stemmed from similar, uncharacteristic one-move blunders from Nepomniachtchi. These errors followed undoubtedly the highlight of the match, Carlsen's marathon win in Game 6 that gave him the edge in the contest, after which his challenger never really seemed able to threaten the champion again.

When asked if he was disappointed the match didn't live up to its competitive expectations, the world number one said with a smile: "No, that’s fine by me."

Carlsen also saw Game 6 as the moment when the pendulum swung decisively in his favor, having been on the back foot in several of their earlier encounters and during the record-breaking sixth game.

"After five games I'd had five draws and I'd had very, very few chances to play for anything more," Carslen said. "I think Game 6 was excellent. Regardless of the quality of all the moves, it was a great fight. I guess it just decided everything."

Female chess grandmaster sues Netflix

Fierce scrutiny as match slipped away from 'Nepo'

Nepomniachtchi came into the contest as one of very few players with a winning career record against Carlsen in classical chess, although the Norwegian has regained the upper hand over the past few weeks in the Gulf. The pair, separated by just five months in age, have been rivals since they were teenagers.

The Russian's proficiency in faster time formats also prompted hope that he might pose the sternest challenge yet for Carlsen, seeing as the previous two world championships — against Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karyakin — were decided in short time-limit tie-breakers after the players drew all 14 of the longer time-limit games. 

As the match began to slip through his fingers, "Nepo" faced a torrent of criticism from observers and the media, who either accused him of being too passive in the two remaining draws in the match, or of being too reckless and playing too quickly in the defeats in which blunders cost him the point. 

Vereinigte Arabische Emirate Duabei | Dubai World Chess Championship
Nepo tried everything, even a trip to the barber shop, to recover ground against Carlsen, but pressing for victories ultimately only led him towards more defeatsImage: Kamran Jebreili/AP/picture alliance

Some of the reporters' questions even bordered on the insensitive. When he turned up for Game 9 with his distinctive "man bun" hairstyle of several years cut short, he was asked if it was a nod to a shamed samurai chopping off his braids.

"These things which have happened here, they have never happened to me at basically any events," Nepomniachtchi said after Friday's final defeat. "In my career I lost quite some stupid games, but not as many in such a [short] time." 

'Chess in Slums' inspires Nigerian kids

msh/jsi (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

Skip next section Explore more