Carlsen-Karjakin 2016 – Game 11

Both players seemed content with a draw and they eventually got what they wanted. However, there were 3 notable moments in this game that I will try to explain.

Karjakin again chose the line with a3 and Nc3 as in Game 2, but this time Carlsen varied and chose a line that was frequently played by Svidler in 2013. Carlsen’s choice was similar to his previous choices when he was black (games 6 and 9 in particular) – he goes for heavily analysed and forced lines in order to achieve a draw. An approach not characteristic of Carlsen when he plays in tournaments, but matches are different and in this match he was much better prepared in the openings than Karjakin, contrary to popular belief that it would be the other way round.

In view of Karjakin’s timid play (but perhaps the position is too dry for white to try for more anyway) Carlsen didn’t face problems. And then the notable moments started. On move 18 Carlsen started pushing forward. It was more of a psychological push, the position remained equal, but he wanted to make it clear that it was him who was pushing and trying, not Karjakin. He could have made a draw by simple means, but no, his 19th and 24th move were the same, he tried to impose his will, it was vintage Carlsen, from an equal position he tried to press. Press he did, only the position was too drawish for anything substantial to happen and Karjakin was careful. But these 3 moves showed that Carlsen is back to his confident self and he said it himself in the press conference when he said that the match “is trending in a good direction” for him and I am sure what he had in mind were these 3 moments when he showed superior will.

With the last game of the match remaining and Carlsen having white, he will undoubtedly try to make it count. Karjakin has mostly been an immovable object so another gruelling duel is expected.

Here’s Game 11 with analysis.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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