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Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, has set an unwanted record by drawing 21 classical games in succession. The Norwegian, 28, halved his last five at the European Club Cup, all 12 of his title matches against Fabiano Caruana, and this week his first four at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee.
This is the longest drawing sequence of any world champion. Paradoxically, it comes when Carlsen has reaffirmed his domination of fast chess by winning the world blitz unbeaten in 21 rounds.
Bobby Fischer won 20 games in a row on 1970-71 while qualifying to meet Boris Spassky. Times have changed so Carlsen’s opponents, unlike Fischer’s, benefited from computer preparation. But the game’s legends are sensitive to comparisons between them, so the irony of the situation is obvious.
Carlsen has been world No 1 without a break since July 2011. At his peak he had a big lead over his nearest rival, but the margin has shrunk. Caruana could not manage the single win to top the rankings, and despite his 21 draws Carlsen remains No 1.
Bad runs worry any chess player, so for a world champion they are a nightmare. I still expect Carlsen to start winning again very soon and to finish near the top at Wijk next week.
This position, with White to play, could have occurred in Garry Kasparov v Vishy Anand, Linares 1999, but the Russian avoided it. Can you find the might-have-been finish?
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