Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana were deadlocked in Holborn on Wednesday night after nine successive draws, a record for the opening of any world championship match. Both had two serious chances to take the lead, but neither could clinch their opportunities.

The crunch to the classical games comes at Saturday’s penultimate game 11 and Monday’s final game 12, viewable live and free online with grandmaster commentary, starting at 3pm. If they are still level at 6-6, the match goes into speed tie-breaks next Wednesday. Carlsen is the better speed player, and has never lost a tie-break.

Caruana’s best moment came in Monday’s eighth game, when he switched from his slow 3 Bb5 anti-Sicilian to the direct 3 d4. Aided by the champion’s inaccuracies, Caruana had a near-winning position at move 20 before a timid defensive pawn push instead of a stronger queen advance.

It has been far from a vintage series, as caution has dominated. They are so evenly matched that there has been a conscious decision by both camps to minimise risk. Carlsen remains the slight favourite to win on tie-break, but whatever the match result, the Norwegian looks more vulnerable than when he became champion.

He admitted as much when they were asked to name their chess hero. Caruana answered “Bobby Fischer” but Carlsen replied: “Myself, five years ago.”


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