2019 Wijk aan Zee, Round 3: Nepomniachtchi the Clear Leader
Monday, January 14, 2019 at 10:48PM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2019 Wijk aan Zee, Ian Nepomniachtchi

The implosion of Vladimir Kramnik continues apace, and today's grateful recipient was Ian Nepomniachtchi. The 5.Re1 Anti-Berlin rarely leads to interesting positions, but it did this time. Kramnik got a bit carried away looking for queenside counterplay, got into terrible time trouble, and four consecutive mistakes on moves 32-35 turned a worse position into a complete disaster. Nepo now leads with 2.5/3, half a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand and Ding Liren.

Anand was the other co-leader entering the round, and was satisfied with a comfortable draw with Black against Sam Shankland. Ding Liren started the round half a point out of first, and thanks to his win over Jorden Van Foreest remains on Nepo's heels. In fact Ding was winning in the middlegame, but misplayed a promising attacking position (29...f4! kept a decisive advantage) and had to win the game all over again in an ending. Or perhaps we could say that Van Foreest had to lose it again, because it came down to one big mistake. The idea of playing b3-b4 was correct, but 39.b4 was a de facto blunder; it needed to be preceded by a2-a4. The point is that after 39.b4 Black played 39...a4, and that pawn's survival resulted in a winning ending for Ding, which he converted without any mistakes.

The round's other winner was Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who bounced back from yesterday's loss to defeat Vladimir Fedoseev with the black pieces. (So far the score in decisive games is 6-1 in Black's favor.) Fedoseev seems to have underestimated Black's attacking potential when he played 24.e3 and 25.Nxh4, perhaps assuming that 26.Qc4 and the resulting queen trade his king couldn't be in that much danger. It turned out he was wrong, and Duda won in good style to get back to 50%.

In other games, Magnus Carlsen managed to reach a rook and four pawn vs. rook and three pawn ending against Santosh Gujrathi Vidit. This ending began at move 37, and continued until move 131. Vidit knew what he was doing, and Carlsen never came close to getting anything. Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played a lively Gruenfeld, with Mamedyarov coming up with an interesting novelty on move 15. (Black had almost always played 15...b4, with a long theoretical line to follow.) Black had been doing fine there, drawing every game but one - which he won. Time will tell if Mamedyarov's idea is another arrow in the arsenal, but in the game he didn't have any real problems. Other than move 26 he belted out his moves instantly, and the game was dead drawn when they called it quits on move 31. Finally, Teimour Radjabov and Richard Rapport went a move further, calling it a day after 32 moves of a Taimanov Sicilian.

The tournament website is here, and the games, with very light notes, are here. Finally, here are the round 4 pairings:

Looks like Carlsen's amazing 20-game winless streak in classical chess will finally come to an end. If by a "miracle" Kramnik wins, though, Carlsen will fall to #2 on the rating list. But it ain't gonna happen.

Article originally appeared on The Chess Mind (http://www.thechessmind.net/).
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