Carlsen-Karjakin Game-8: Karjakin wins, seizes lead

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World Champion Magnus Carlsen is down! Sergey Karjakin takes the lead after eight rounds, with 3.5 – 4.5 in his favour. Carlsen is shocked and can’t attend the press conference after a much-tensed game. He took too many risks and avoided the repetition of the moves.

Sergey Karjakin smileKarjakin beats Carlsen, in classical chess, only for the second time in his career. The first time was in 2012, also with Black pieces. He repeated that today: “It’s much better to play well than to play White“, he said.


Magnus Carlsen (2853) – Sergey Karjakin (2772) [D05]
World Chess Championship New York NY USA (8), 21.11.2016


1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Be7 6.0-0 0-0 7.Bb2 b6 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Nbd2 Bb7 10.Qe2 Nbd7 11.c4 dxc4 12.Nxc4 Qe7
Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

White to play


Black equalizes after the opening and Magnus know that very well. Of course, the position is played before by both sides. Both of the players have developed their pieces and they are ready for the middlegame plan.


13.a3 a5 14.Nd4 Rfd8 15.Rfd1 Rac8 16.Rac1 Nf8 17.Qe1?!
Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

Black to play


White’s last move Qe1 is mysterious because the queen is no longer protecting the e4-square and the Black’s Knight can land there in the future. Magnus is fighting hard to prove any advantage of his position, but in reality, he’s not playing the best moves.


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17…Ng6 18.Bf1 Ng4 19.Nb5 Bc6 20.a4 Bd5 21.Bd4 Bxc4 22.Rxc4 Bxd4 23.Rdxd4 Rxc4 24.bxc4

Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

Black to play


Of course, if he takes with the rook he can never be worse here.“, as Karjakin stated in the press conference. Carlsen is fighting for the win and for that reason, he tries to complicate the position. He would like to create an unbalanced position in order to have chances for the win.


In reality, 24.bxc4 is not the best move and now the queenside pawns, a4 and c4, are weak and Karjakin may attack them later on in the game.


24…Nf6 25.Qd2 Rb8 26.g3 Ne5 27.Bg2 h6 28.f4 Ned7 29.Na7 Qa3 30.Nc6 Rf8 31.h3 Nc5 32.Kh2 Nxa4 33.Rd8 g6 34.Qd4 Kg7 35.c5?

Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

Black to play


Both players were in huge time trouble and three results are possible because the players have less than 2 minutes to reach 40 moves. The move c5 is very surprising. White is trying to complicate the issue, but c5 is a mistake which Black cannot punish in the game.


35…Rxd8 36.Nxd8 Nxc5 37.Qd6 Qd3
Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

White to play


The best square for Black’s queen is d7, because the Queen is the best defensive piece. She can consolidate the defensive side.


Actually, it is very difficult to find the correct move order because the Queen can reach d7 from two different directions.

Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8I didn’t have time at all to calculate,” Karjakin said about the critical differences between 37…Qd3 and 37…Qa4. “Having one minute on the clock, it was impossible to understand.


If Black plays Qa4 then White can capture the b6-pawn with Qxb6. This is what Karjakin was concerned about. Perhaps, the computer can find them easily, but it’s very difficult to spot the correct moves during the game. Please note that both players have heavy time pressure.


38.Nxe6+! fxe6 39.Qe7+ Kg8 40.Qxf6 a4 41.e4 Qd7 42.Qxg6+ Qg7 43.Qe8+ Qf8 44.Qc6?!

Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

Black to play


This was another very risky decision. Probably, White should try for the draw with move repetition, Qg6 and Qg7. In reality, White doesn’t have a forcing draw, but only White should try for the draw. Carlsen pushed very hard in the game. He wanted a decisive result.


Perhaps, he feels that he should prove something. He is the World Chess Champion and he feels the obligation to convert one game into a win, but the position didn’t provide this opportunity for him to do so.


44…Qd8 45.f5 a3 46.fxe6 Kg7 47.e7?!
Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

Black to play


This is another critical moment: White has a lot of options and the best one is Qb5. In the game, White played e7 and exchange the advanced e6-pawn for the b6-pawn.


Now the a3-pawn is the most dangerous pawn in the position as it gives winning chances for Black. 47.Qb5 a2 (47…Nxe6 48.Qb4 Qf8 49.Qxb6) 48.Qb2+ is a possibility.


47…Qxe7 48.Qxb6 Nd3 49.Qa5 Qc5 50.Qa6 Ne5 51.Qe6 h5!

Carlsen vs Karjakin Game-8

White to play


White was in a big trouble because the passed a-pawn is a killer. Black managed to create a lot of threats in the White’s monarch with the Queen and the Knight. White doesn’t have time to capture the a-pawn.


52.h4 a2 0-1 


White resigned in this position because if the Queen captures the a2 pawn, then Black will give check with the Ng4+, then after Kh3, Black will play Qg1.


You can download the PGN of this game here.


Black is threatening to checkmate with Qh2# and Queen is covering the two very important squares a7 and b7. White doesn’t have perpetual checks. 53.Qxa2 Ng4+ 54.Kh3 Qg1 55.Qb2+ Kg6 56.Bf3 Nf2+ 0-1


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After the game, Carlsen waited for a couple of minutes, alone, at the press conference stage, while Karjakin gave his customary private interview with the Russian television.

Magnus Carlsen unhappyCarlsen was visibly uncomfortable (as seen above) and a few moments later, he got fed up and went away. He did not return to attend the press conference.

Magnus Carlsen not attending press

Sergey Karjakin at the press conference


In the next game, Karjakin will play with White and Carlsen with Black. What do you think? Will Karjakin become the new World Champion, or can Carlsen make a comeback? 🙂 Feel free to write your thoughts in the comments below.




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Comments: 8

Comments 8

  1. hi sir how are you? i have a question for you i am preparing to your winning the middle game course as you may already know i studied your winning plan what to do when opponent have no weakness,we when it comes to planing i still need to play in center?or should i compose any plan according to your recomendation
    your ganta joshua

  2. Hello Igor! Recently i’ve read that you have already finished a new course but anyway i have an interesting topic for discussion and especially for a practical part of your courses: When do we have to trade queen for two rooks and vice versa? i believe it would be interesting for everyone. Perhaps we may have an understanding of it if we have studied the course “Gm’s positional understanding” but despite that I did so not long time ago, i missed my chance to trade two rooks for an opponents queen in my recent game. I understand that we should evaluate the activity of pieces that are left on the board after such exchanges, for instance we should keep in mind that rooks like open files and queens like having multiple targets but as you’ve repeated in your courses several times knowing something does not mean having a skill, so practical exersises are the key. Could you please include exercises to the practical part related to the theme i have suggested above to some of your future courses? Thanks in advance!

    1. Well I think it depends concretely. It’s easier to coordinate one queen than it is to coordinate 2 rooks, so if queen has a lot of annoying targets to attack, we shouldn’t trade our queen for two rooks(especially if one of the targets is our king). But if that isn’t the case, we should definetely trade queen for two rooks since rooks are slightly stronger, 5+5=10 points which is more than queen’s 9 points. Especially when the rooks get connected, like let’s say on the 7th rank .

      1. yeah thats true that an activity of the pieces and their coordination is a crucial factor which we should evaluate before taking such desicions, anyway it seems to me that it makes a lot of sense to practice such situations

  3. I think that Karjakin is stronger mentally (the way he can defend proves it) and can keep his advantage until the the 12th game. I think Carlsen might self-destruct as he did in this game.

  4. Did Carlsen not attend press conference because he wasn’t allowed to, or because he was so frustrated that he didn’t want to?

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