Another tight draw as Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi battle for world title

Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi played to a third successive draw in the third game of their world championship showdown in Dubai as the Russian challenger weathered another atypical position before negotiating a bloodless result after 41 moves in 2hr 42min.

Nepomniachtchi, playing as white, opened with 1 e4 and the action quickly followed the same anti-Marshall branch of the Ruy Lopez opening from Friday’s first encounter. Carlsen broke from familiar territory with the rare 10 … Re8, bypassing four more popular choices from the position, marking the third time in as many games that he was first to mix things up with an unusual move.

“Re8 is a really, really dumb move because usually you would try to go Re8 without d6,” Carlsen said afterwards. “But it turns out even here he was well prepared and he didn’t give me even slight chances to play.”

The tension continued to build until Nepomniachtchi made a thematic central pawn break with 18 d4. After a quickfire exchange of pawns, then knights (18 … exd4 19 Nxd4 Nxd4 20. Qxd4), Carlsen pondered the position for a minute and a half before electing for 20 … Be6. Nepomniachtchi then took nearly half an hour before settling on a modest pawn push (21 h3).

Resolution came before very long, after the exchange of knights and queens prompted a rapid simplification. By the time the rooks came off the board after 30 Rxb8 Rxb8 31 Rb1 Rxb1+ 32 Bxb1 Ke5, Carlsen’s advanced king had all but snuffed out Nepomniachtchi’s winning chances.

Carlsen, 30, has been ranked No 1 for more than a decade and was considered the world’s best player even before he defeated Viswanathanhy Anand for the title in 2013. He’s making his fourth defence of the world championship against the 31-year-old Nepomniachtchi, die wêreld Nee 5.

The overall score in their €2m showdown at the Dubai Exhibition Centre remains level at 1.5-1.5 ahead of Monday’s rest day. The proceedings will resumeon Tuesday – Carlsen’s 31st birthday – with the Norwegian controlling the white pieces.

“It’s three games in,” Carlsen said. “There’s a lot of time to go and, as you saw [on Saturday], it could have easily been a decisive result. Obviously, for each game the most likely result is a draw. Saying otherwise would be quite disingenuous. But any game could explode. Not today.”

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