Easy come, easy go. Peter Svidler got a free half point in game two after Sergey Karjakin's 37.Rb5?? (compounded by 38.Rd5??), and today Svidler returned the favor with interest, losing a winning position and then a drawn position after his own back-to-back blunders. As with Karjakin's errors yesterday the mistakes were unforced and occurred with the victim having plenty of time left on the clock. Fatigue has set in, and nerves are apparently getting the best of the players as well.
In the game, Svidler chose an unusual approach for a situation where a draw would be good enough to finish the match. If he wanted to go for a solid sideline against the Sicilian, 3.Bb5+ would have sufficed. If he wanted principled chess, then 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 would have made sense, especially since Black would have had to avoid many, many lines where Black's only way to avoid a loss or a seriously worse position is to allow a forced draw. Instead, Svidler chose option #3, 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4, a line that promises White neither an advantage nor an especially safe position.
That's not to say that Svidler was worse after the move either. Both sides played very well, and Karjakin's efforts to create complications didn't extract any errors from Svidler. Karjakin then had to overpress, as normal moves would result in an easy draw for his opponent, but after overpressing he was lost. The critical moment started after Karjakin's 27...exd5, which was objectively bad but the only way to keep any drama in the position. Svidler had 13 minutes left on the clock, and after just 30 seconds or so played the terrible 28.Rxf2?? Instead, 28.Qd2 would have forced Black to sac a piece and hope to scramble for a draw after 28...Nxh3+ 29.gxh3, whlie 28.Qc3 would have won the game with ease.
After 28.Rxf2 Svidler sprung up from the board, then rushed back to see 28...Qh4! He turned red, buried his face in his hands, and shook his head repeatedly. In short, he did everything...except take his time and regain his composure. Instead, after less than a minute and a half in total he played 29.Qd2??, losing almost trivially. Had he managed to regain his bearings he would have played the obvious 29.Qxe8, when after 29...Qxf2+ 30.Kh2 Qxb6 (or 30...Rxb6) Black has practical chances but a draw is the likeliest (and objectively correct) result.
But he instead played 29.Qd2?? and again shot up like a jackrabbit. After a few seconds, probably spent quadruple checking to make sure that it really was his lucky day and he wasn't missing anything, Karjakin played 29...Rxf2. Svidler hopped back on stage and rushed to the board, played 30.Qc3+, and hopped back up and away. A few seconds later Karjakin responded with the blindingly obvious 30...d4, and Svidler looked up at the projected demo board on the screen in absolute horror, came back to the board and resigned after a few seconds. Svidler's bouncing up and down - his "ants in his pants", as the old-timers would say - looked fairly ridiculous under the circumstances, and it's hard to believe that he would have blown the game the way he did had he just stayed at the board and worked his way through the initial shock of seeing 28...Qh4.
But let's be fair: who among us hasn't blown a critical game at some point in his life, or lost a game from a winning position? Been there, done that, and so has pretty much everyone else. And before we feel too bad for Svidler, we should remember that he's still in good shape, only needing a draw in game 4 tomorrow to win the match and the World Cup title. And no matter what, he (and Karjakin) are headed for the Candidates' tournament next year, and that's the big prize.
Here is today's game, with my notes.