2021 World Championship Match, Game 1

 With the qualification for the 2022 World Championship match in full swing, it might have been easy to overlook that the match scheduled for 2020 hadn't actually yet been played. But now it has finally started, as Ian Nepomniachtchi becomes the fourth person to try to defeat Magnus Carlsen in a world championship match.

While the 73-point rating gap in Carlsen's favour suggests that he is the strong favourite - 538's calculations give him something like a 5/6 chance of winning the match outright - Nepomniachtchi is a much improved player over the past few years, and can take heart from the fact that he is one of the few active players with a plus score against Carlsen.

The first game was a rather cautious affair, although quite interesting for those of us who like subtle endgame battles. Carlsen sacrificed a pawn early on for nagging endgame pressure, and a lesser player than Nepomniachtchi could easily have crumbled; instead, he managed to hold on for a draw. If the remaining 13 games are as tightly-fought as this one, it will be an intriguing match.


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