World Anti-Doping Agency forced to intervene in dramatic world title chess match

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen's World Chess Championship showdown was marred by controversy when the World Anti-Doping Agency were forced to intervene to resolve a flag row before the game.

Nepomniachtchi is going head to head with Carlsen, Norway's defending world champion, in a 14-game final to decide who walks away with the crown and a $2million prize pot.

But before their first battle got underway in Dubai, drama ensued when WADA intervened to warn chess governing body FIDE over a flag placed in front of Nepomniachtchi's position.

As they are currently serving a two-year ban at world-championship level over alleged doping offences, Russia's national flag and anthem has been prohibited from all major tournaments.

Nepomniachtchi is officially representing Chess Federation Russia in the final, meaning his signage included the word 'Russia'.

WADA claim this was prohibited under the rules, forcing it to be changed to the abbreviation CFR to remove any mention of the banned country.

FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich told the Guardian: “We checked several times with them.

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"Maybe at some point our team understood that we could have the full name but then they said ‘no, it should be an abbreviation’. It’s as simple as that."

When their meeting finally got underway, Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen played out a fascinating draw after four hours of play.

Carlsen, the heavy favourite to retain his title, said: “I wouldn’t say I was ever particularly optimistic in the sense of winning the game.

“I do feel like I was a little bit shaky at times. [There were] certainly things that I could have done better but overall I think the result was fair enough."

Nepomniachtchi also said: “I was very slightly optimistic during the whole game because this was quite a curious line from black.

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"But while he was down a pawn in the endgame it was very hard to win something for white."

Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen will lock horns over the next three weeks in Dubai, where the second of their 14-game series will be held next Saturday.

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