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    Entries in Ian Nepomniachtchi (25)

    Monday
    Dec112017

    2017 London Chess Classic, The Finale: Caruana Wins After a Playoff with Nepomniachtchi; Carlsen Wins Grand Chess Tour

    The draw ratio was heavy early on, but the tournament finished with a good number of decisive games. In the last round, three of the five games finished with a winner, and two of them were of great consequence.

    Entering the round, Ian Nepomniachtchi led the tournament by half a point over Fabiano Caruana, while Magnus Carlsen retained a very slight lead over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings. Vachier-Lagrave entered the round half a point ahead of Carlsen, and in the basic case needed to extend that lead by at least another half a point to leapfrog Carlsen to achieve Tour victory.

    Unfortunately for the part of the plan that was in his hands, he had Black against Nepomniachtchi, and the two called it a day after just 19 moves. Thus both left their fates in their rivals' hands: Nepo needed Caruana to not win against Michael Adams, and MVL needed Levon Aronian to beat Carlsen. For quite a while it looked like they would both get their wish. Despite having the white pieces, Caruana was slightly worse or at best equal against Adams for a long time, and even implicitly offered a draw by repetition. Adams hadn't had a good tournament, and wasn't really better at that point, but he decided to play on anyway. It proved to be a bad idea: shortly before the time control Adams made a few inaccuracies, and in the second time control lost a difficult pawn-down ending with queens and rooks, then just rooks. By catching up to Nepo, Caruana forced a playoff - more on that below.

    As for Carlsen, he was in trouble against Aronian, but he found a very nice, long blockading idea that got him out of most of his trouble. Unfortunately for Aronian, he continued with excessive ambition, first giving away his advantage in pursuit of an interesting piece sac, and then going from drawn (by taking twice on d6 starting at move 39) to lost.

    Those were the most important games of the round, and there was a third victory as well. Wesley So defeated Viswanathan Anand with the black pieces, though it wasn't so much a win with Black as it was the opportune exploitation of a big tactical error or two. With Adams, Aronian, and Anand all losing today, it looks like triple-A was the tow-ee today rather than tower. And a strange feature of the tournament is that Black outscored White - as recently happened in St. Louis - provided the playoff isn't taken into account.

    First though, the round's other game was a draw between Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura. Neither had a great tournament, but what really matters for Karjakin is his form next March in the Candidates tournament.

    On to the playoff: Caruana and Nepomniachtchi began with a pair of very well-played draws at g/10 (plus a five second Bronstein delay). With loads of time to rest and prepare it was thought that Nepo would have a significant advantage over Caruana, who needed six hours to overcome Adams, but Caruana played very well. It was then on to a pair of five-minute games (with three seconds' Bronstein delay), and here, surprisingly, Nepomniachtchi faltered. In the first game, with White, he blundered a piece in the opening in a position that was already poor. Resignation wasn't out of the question, but with lots of money at stake and its being a blitz game, Nepo kept going, and somehow managed to hold. It was a virtuoso performance of sorts. In the next game, however, Caruana outplayed his opponent and won a long game. It wasn't perfect, but Caruana was clearly the deserved winner.

    Thus Caruana achieved his first-ever victory in a Grand Chess Tour event, while Carlsen gained his second all-around tour victory, the first coming in 2015. (He didn't play in all the events in 2016 due to his world championship match with Karjakin.)

    The games are here (with my comments to the three wins in the round proper and brief comments to the last two playoff games), and these are the final standings:

     

    • 1-2. Caruana, Nepomniachtchi 6 (of 9; Caruana first after the playoff)
    • 3-5. Vachier-Lagrave, So, Carlsen 5
    • 6. Nakamura 4.5 (nine draws!)
    • 7. Aronian 4
    • 8. Karjakin 3.5
    • 9-10. Anand, Adams 3

     

    Sunday
    Dec102017

    2017 London Chess Classic, Round 8: Nepo Beats Carlsen, Takes the Clear Lead with a Round to Go

    Magnus Carlsen had enjoyed excellent fortune in the last two rounds, getting a lot of luck (while also defending resiliently) to turn two lost positions into a draw and a win. But this time his luck run out, and even went in reverse. This time he had a large, possibly winning advantage against Ian Nepomniachtchi, and this happened at (at least) two points in the game. One thing Nepo did well was to move fast, and Carlsen got into mild time trouble. That doesn't fully explain the series of errors he committed, however, culminating in a blunder on move 36 that left him a piece down for nothing. There was no Santa Claus in store for him this time, and he resigned after move 40.

    The other four games were drawn, so Nepomniachtchi now leads the tournament, half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana. In the overall Grand Chess Tour standings, it seems that Carlsen's slim lead over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave would hold up if all tomorrow's games were drawn, but any further positive progress by MVL or further regress by Carlsen would give the Frenchman tour victory.

    Here are today's games (I've annotated Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi), and here are the pairings for the final round today/tomorrow (Monday):

    • Nepomniachtchi (5.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (4.5)
    • Anand (3) - So (4)
    • Karjakin (3) - Nakamura (4)
    • Caruana (5) - Adams (3)
    • Aronian (4) - Carlsen (4)

    Sunday
    Dec102017

    2017 London Chess Classic, Round 7: Lots of Blood

    In round 7 three of the five games saw a winner, doubling the total of wins through the entire tournament.

    One of the players whose game finished in a draw was Fabiano Caruana's. He started the round in clear first with a +2 score and the white pieces against Wesley So. So was better prepared in a 5.d3 Bc5 Ruy and equalized easily, drawing in just 30 moves. (If anything, So was a little better near the end.)

    Caruana maintained the lead, but thanks to Ian Nepomniachtchi's win over Viswanathan Anand it's a shared lead. Nepo played an experimental opening hoping for a chance to fight, and he got it. His play wasn't perfect, but he handled the unusual situation much better than Anand did, and won an impressive game.

    While Caruana and Nepomniachtchi are the front-runners in this tournament, Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are the leaders in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings. Both drew their first six games, and both won in round 7. For Carlsen this required some luck early on, as Michael Adams was winning in the opening (with Black against the Bird) and was better in the ending as well. But while Carlsen's initial salvation in the game was a matter of luck, he simply outplayed Adams in the ending. First he stabilized the situation, then he equalized, and then he managed to obtain some counterplay that wound up winning the game.

    As for MVL, he won a nice game with Black in the Najdorf against Sergey Karjakin. He had suffered some defeats in the Delayed Poisoned Pawn in the last year or two, but this time he was well-prepared, neutralized White's attacking ideas, and eventually exploited the weaknesses left behind in the wake of White's aggression. He, like Carlsen, is half a point behind the leaders.

    Finally, good preparation helped Levon Aronian gain the upper hand against Hikaru Nakamura, but he was unable to convert it into a win. (Or even to cause Nakamura as many problems as Aronian felt his early advantage merited.)

    The games, with my comments, are here; the pairings for the penultimate round follow:

    • Carlsen (4) - Nepomniachtchi (4.5)
    • Adams (2.5) - Aronian (3.5)
    • Nakamura (3.5) - Caruana (4.5)
    • So (3.5) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) - Anand (2.5)

    Friday
    Dec082017

    2017 London Chess Classic, Round 6: Five Interesting Games, and a Tale of Two Endings

    Round 6 of the London Chess Classic maintained its usual allotment of draws - there were four more today out of the five games - but all five were interesting in their own way.

    The outwardly least interesting game was arguably the most important one going into the round: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Fabiano Caruana. For Vachier-Lagrave, a win was important if he hoped to overtake Magnus Carlsen in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings, and a win would also have put him into a first-place tie with Caruana in the tournament itself. Unfortunately for MVL, Caruana's preparation was superlative: everything through move 22 was prepared by Caruana, and White's 23rd move was a less-dangerous version of the idea he was ready for. Caruana held with ease, and even entertained some slight hopes of obtaining an advantage. Those hopes weren't realized, as Vachier-Lagrave correctly played it safe and steered the game to a draw.

    The shortest game by number of moves was Viswanathan Anand's game with Sergey Karjakin. Like Caruana, Karjakin was well-prepared. His 12...Qa6! is an important new idea in the Flohr-Mikenas system of the English that may mark the end of the line for White's approach. That said, Karjakin was imprecise on moves 15 and/or 16, and Anand missed a chance to play on, as he confessed during the post-game interview.

    Wesley So and Levon Aronian drew their game as well, but unlike the two games mentioned above this one was wild. Aronian took a serious risk with his plan of 14...Ng4 followed by 15...Bxf2+, and neither side proved fully able to handle the complications. First So could have been clearly better, and later Aronian was as well - and maybe even winning. Missing his chance, So finished the game very accurately and drew by repetition.

    The two remaining games were marathons. Michael Adams' game with Ian Nepomniachtchi seemed headed for a routine endgame draw, but then he decided to repeat his policy from round 3 against Vachier-Lagrave. In both games he sacrificed a pawn to reach an objectively drawn ending with a rook and three pawns against his opponent's rook and four pawns, with all the pawns on the kingside. Against MVL he succeeded in holding the ending; against Nepo, he didn't. (The pawn structure was different in the two games, but both were objectively drawn.) Nepomniachtchi blamed Adams' plan of putting the rook on the h-file, and while he could have gotten away with it, there's no doubt that it made it very easy for Adams to lose. While I agree with Nepomniachtchi's diagnosis, I'd offer another one: Adams' failure to play g4.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen had a war, and it followed the sad Murphy's Law script that has characterized so many of Nakamura's heartbreaks against the Norwegian. Nakamura played a fascinating opening, outplayed Carlsen, and achieved a winning ending. And yet, somehow, Carlsen held the game. He shouldn't have, and Nakamura had loads of time to work everything out, but somehow...he just couldn't manage it. Two highligh two general suggestions about the ending: allowing Black's pawn to c2 was dubious, and the move that gave away the win for good was 59.Rxf5. The game was full of content, but I'll leave it to all of you (and other sites) to analyze it.

    I have analyzed the other four games, however, and all five can be replayed here. Meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 7; I would be very surprised if Carlsen doesn't parlay his good fortune today and the white pieces tomorrow into a win over Adams, who is both the lowest-rated player in the event and probably the most discouraged, along with Nakamura, after his unnecessary loss to Nepo.

    • Nepomniachtchi (3.5) - Anand (2.5)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)
    • Caruana (4) - So (3)
    • Aronian (3) - Nakamura (3)
    • Carlsen (3) - Adams (2.5)

    Thursday
    Nov302017

    Team Nepo Wins London Pro-Biz Cup

    From a quick look at the games it seems that the (strong) amateurs held up their end pretty well, though of course not infallibly. In the end, the team of Ian Nepomniachtchi & Rajko Vujatovic won with 2.5/3, ahead of three teams that finished with two points apiece: Garry Kasparov & Terry Chapman, Hikaru Nakamura & Lee Green, and Dave Norwood & Ali Mortazavi. (There were eight teams overall.)

    More here and here.

    Tuesday
    Oct242017

    Speed Chess Championship: Karjakin Doubles Up Nepo

    Today's match was a rout, so I'll mention it up front: Sergey Karjakin won handily against Ian Nepomniachtchi, 20-10. He'll play the winner of the upcoming match between Fabiano Caruana and Nakamura. The match just ended so there's no archive link yet, but you'll be able to find it on Twitch.tv's chess channel.

    Monday
    Oct232017

    Speed Chess Championship: Grischuk vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin vs. Nepomniachtchi

    The first quarter-final match of Chess.com's Speed Chess Championship was between Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and the replay can be watched here. (To avoid spoilers, I'll give the result in the comments.) Tuesday (i.e. today for most of the world, tomorrow for a few time zone stragglers), another match: Sergey Karjakin takes on Ian Nepomniachtchi starting at 1 p.m. ET.

    Friday
    Aug252017

    Aronian-Nepo and Caruana-Hou Yifan Links

    In the previous post I mentioned the online speed chess matches between Levon Aronian and Ian Nepomniachtchi and between Fabiano Caruana and Hou Yifan. They're over now, and can be viewed here and here, respectively. To avoid spoilers, I'll give the results in the comments.

    Monday
    Aug212017

    Speed Chess Championship: Aronian-Nepo and Caruana-Hou Coming Up This Week

    Chess.com's big speed chess event rolls on this week with two more knockout matches. Levon Aronian faces Ian Nepomniachtchi on Wednesday, August 23, at 10 a.m. PDT (= 1 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CET) and on Thursday, August 24 Fabiano Caruana will play against Hou Yifan starting at 3 p.m. PDT (=6 p.m. ET/1 a.m. CET).

    For those who haven't seen Chess.com's blitz battles before, here's how they work. The start with 90 minutes of 5'+2", take about a three minute break, play 60 minutes of 3'+2", take one more short break, and then conclude with half an hour of 1'+2". There are extremely brief interviews before the matches, longer interviews afterwards (depending on the quality of the connection and the players' facility with English), and running commentary (often pretty corny) throughout.

    Friday
    Apr142017

    Zurich: Four Lead After Three Rounds

    The slow rapid/pseudo classical (G/45 minutes + 30 second increments per move) tournament in Zurich has been very entertaining so far, and after three of seven rounds four players are tied for first place with 2/3 (or rather, 4/6, as the tournament prefers 2-1-0 scoring; perhaps they're boycotting fractions and/or decimal points in Switzerland).

    Vladimir Kramnik has a win and two draws, and was completely winning against Ian Nepomniachtchi in round 2, up a piece for two very inadequate pawns in an endgame. Nepo kept trying and Kramnik either switched off mentally or chose a poor plan, and the game finished in a draw.

    Despite that bit of good luck, Nepomniachtchi was completely winning against Peter Svidler in round 1 and botched it, so two draws instead of a win and a loss came to the same thing. In round 3 he confessed that he would have offered Viswanathan Anand a draw at a certain point, but due to the Sofia rules he had to keep playing, and it paid off when Anand blundered on move 37. (It turns out that he also blundered on move 36, but got away with that one.)

    The third amigo is Svidler, who came back from a somewhat precarious opening position against Hikaru Nakamura in round 3 to win. In a promising position Nakamura switched from plan to plan, and after one switch too many found himself under uncomfortable pressure along the c-file. Breaking it cost him a pawn, and in the resulting heavy piece ending Svidler won a second pawn and the game.

    Nakamura is the fourth player with two out of three, or four out of six, or 754/1508. He defeated tournament underdog Yannick Pelletier and Grigoriy Oparin in rounds 1 and 2, respectively.

    Boris Gelfand has 1.5 points (out of 3), Oparin and Anand have a point apiece, and Pelletier has but a single draw to his credit thus far.

    Before the main event began, the players contested a blitz event to determine pairing numbers. Nakamura and Gelfand tied for first with 4.5/7, Kramnik was third with 4 points, and Nepomniachtchi took fourth on tiebreaks over Anand; both had 3.5 points. The importance of this is that it means he - Nepo - gets an extra game with the white pieces in the main event. Oparin was sixth with 3, and Svidler and Pelletier tied for last with 2.5 points apiece. (You can watch the opening ceremony and the blitz tournament here.)

    Even before that there was another event - but stay tuned for the next post.