...3 games to go . carlsen will have the white in 2 of those, including tonight. i have a strong hunch it will NOT be a draw. i seriously doubt that playing 'quietly' having the white fits the world champion's temperament. his entire record points towards an incremental, active style.
then, a lot will depend on the opening he will have chosen tonight. in that regard it is instructive to look at the last 2 games opening options. leaving aside the terminology, it could be simplified as follows. in the game 8 which he lost with the white, he strove to open with a rarely played at the elite level system aiming to divert the game AWAY from the well studied modern theory. if you are a magnus, with his phenomenal ability to just play the board better than almost any human, it is a smart tactic. that's how he prevailed so far - outperforming his opponents 1st in the middle and then in the end game. why did it misfire against karjakin ? was he outplayed in his own game ?
the full answer is still not clear, but what we can see looking at the actual game, there was more to that loss than magnus just being overambitious. karjakin too committed several errors, both were under the severe time pressure, both took long time to think...there was something else as astutely noted by Fabiano Caruana (the world's #2 atm) magnus had a hard time finding a plan, switching plans, running in place. he was playing so b/c karjakin did not let him carlsen playing differently. karjakin kept him off-balance both the way he played at the board and off the board. the 'off-the board', according several grandmasters observations, refers to karjakin driving magnus crazy by his deliberate avoidance of ANY risk in ALL games. iow, he got on magnus' nerves. and we saw it clearly. thus, it would not be unreasonable to state that in game 8 karjakin outplayed carlsen both in terms of 'just playing' and psycologically...
fast forward to game 9. this time the opening was the opposite of the game 8 in terms of its very, very well studied routes. both blitzed almost 20 moves in 10 minutes along the well known mains. again a splendid game in which magnus, this time with the black, barely saved his ards. surprisingly to most it was a different karjakin - active, holding the initiative from the get-go and even sacrificing pieces. that's how magnus typically plays. but he was defending in game 9, in fact brilliantly so, just like karjaking was earlier.
why am saying all this ? to point that the 2 are well matched, that both are deep, persistent, ambiguous, universal and healthy. both are prodigies. if there is a slight difference, it is that karjakin seems to posses the nerves of steel.
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