Carlsen-Karjakin 2016 – Game 5

Apparently Karjakin didn’t manage to solve his inferiority complex during the rest day.

Carlsen changed the opening for a third time with white, this time going for the popular Giuoco Piano. I didn’t mention the Giuoco in my Preview of the match because I didn’t consider it serious enough for a big match, but it does have the potential for a one-game opening. And judging from Carlsen’s strategy when playing white, it appears that he will change the openings in every game – hence the Giuoco deservedly got its chance.
Karjakin was actually quite alright after the opening, perhaps the best position of all his black games so far. With the game dynamically balanced with chances for both sides and a full-blooded fight in sight Karjakin, perhaps not-so surprisingly anymore, went for the passive and prospectless option to take on c5 and transpose to a worse and defensible position. It is now safe to say that willingly going for these passive yet defensible positions is his match strategy. That shows his confidence in defending these positions (although coming so close to losing in the previous two games makes the whole strategy look extremely risky, but eventually the results are the only thing that matter) and his hope is to make Carlsen upset that he doesn’t win positions that he usually wins and then perhaps provoke him into excessive aggresion as a result of these failed attempts.
The game settled into the familiar pattern of Carlsen taking his time to improve his position while Karjakin sat back and banked on the opposite-coloured bishops. And then perhaps Karjakin’s strategy finally worked – Carlsen became too complacent, expecting only passivity of Karjakin and again, like in the previous game, didn’t show the necessary precision, only this time it meant underestimating Karjakin’s excellent plan of the king evacuation to c8 followed by g5. This was followed with the reckless 38 g4 and immediately after black’s next he was under attack. In positions with opposite-coloured bishops the side that attacks practically has an extra piece and defending such positions is incredibly difficult. For the first time in the match Carlsen found himself on the defensive and facing serious danger of actually losing. But Karjakin faltered and all ended well for the World Champion.

Here’s the game with light notes. I write this from the airport, as I’m on my way to the UK to play the first two rounds of the new 4NCL season for Cheddleton. Let’s hope we improve from last year when we finished second!

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