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    Entries in Ian Nepomniachtchi (43)

    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.

    Wednesday
    Oct052016

    Tal Memorial, Rounds 6 & 7: Nepomniachtchi Back in Front

    Round 7 can be dispensed with fairly quickly, as not only were all five games drawn, it doesn't even seem that anyone had even a moderate advantage, except for half a move in the game between Viswanathan Anand and Peter Svidler. After 31...Rc4?! (31...Bf8 was better, and only very slightly in White's favor) Anand had 32.Rxd6!, when Black would have been in some trouble. Instead, 32.c3? left him without an advantage, and the game was drawn shortly after the time control.

    Round 6 was another story entirely. Four of the five games were drawn, and the tournament lead changed hands. Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in good style, with the decisive moment coming on move 37. Mamedyarov's 37...Qc5 was as natural as could be (especially if he was in time trouble), overprotecting the knight in anticipation of 38.Qc8 (as played in the game), but it was much better to play 36...Qc3 instead. Black wants to swap off a pair of rooks with 38...Re1+, which also leaves White's king more vulnerable. White would retain excellent chances, but in the game it was just over: 37...Qc5? 38.Qc8 Rxh5 and now White put his second rook to good use with 39.Rxf8+! Qxf8 40.Rd8, winning Black's queen. Black couldn't achieve a fortress afterward, and Nepo got the full point.

    The full point, and the lead, because Anish Giri lost to Levon Aronian on the black side of an English. The final position may not seem so bad at first, especially if one thinks that Black is giving up on account of a line like 34...Re8 35.b8Q Rxb8 36.Nxb8. If that represented best play for both sides, Giri certainly would have continued. The problem is that 34...Re8 loses immediately to 35.Ne7+! followed by 36.Nc8, cutting off the rook, while if 34...Rd1+ followed by 35...Rb1 White can again cut off the rook, this time by 36.Nb4. Black can eliminate the b-pawn with 34...Rb8! 35.Nxb8 Nc5, but since he'll be two pawns down after 36.Nc6 Nxb7 37.Nxa7 Giri's resignation was appropriate after all.

    Two other games were decisive. Peter Svidler obtained a serious opening advantage on the white side of a Reti against Li Chao and steadily increased it from start to finish. That brought Svidler back to an equal score, while Vladimir Kramnik went to +1 by giving poor Boris Gelfand his fifth defeat in a row. ("Olympic rings", as the joke goes.) Kramnik has been very successful in this event with 1.e4, and this game was no exception. Despite Gelfand's enormous experience in the Najdorf, Kramnik won the theoretical battle and obtained a clear advantage after the opening. Gelfand's 21...Rc6? was the losing move, and while Kramnik could have more easily with different 27th and 28th moves (27.Bxa6 Qxa6 28.Nb4 followed by 29.Qxb6, 30.Nd5+ and 31.Nxb6 was the first improvement, and 28.Bxa6 Qxe4 29.Nd5+! was the second) his approach was good enough. Opposite-colored bishops are sometimes overrated as a drawing weapon, and in this game Gelfand never had a chance to save the ending.

    The fifth and last game, between Evgeny Tomashevsky and Viswanathan Anand, finished in a draw.

    Two rounds remain; here are the pairings for round 8:

    • Kramnik (4) - Tomashevsky (2.5)
    • Svidler (3.5) - Gelfand (1)
    • Nepomniachtchi (5) - Anand (4)
    • Aronian (4) - Li Chao (3.5)
    • Giri (4.5) - Mamedyarov (3)

    Monday
    Sep262016

    Tal Memorial, Round 1: Nepomniachtchi Beats Tomashevsky; Other Games Drawn

    First a quick word about the Tal Memorial blitz, which occurred on Sunday. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the runaway winner, scoring an undefeated 7.5/9. Levon Aronian finished in second with 5.5 points, and Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler, and Anish Giri (in that tiebreak order) tied for third-fifth with 5 points apiece. All five players thereby secured an extra white game in the main tournament. (More on the blitz here.)

    Today was time for round 1 of the main event. Only one game had a winner, and one other game should have. The win belonged to Ian Nepomniachtchi, who defeated Evgeny Tomashevsky in a strange game. Nepomniachtchi played the Scotch, which is about as surprising as Peter Svidler dominated a post-game press conference. Nevertheless, Tomashevsky seemed badly unprepared, choosing a seemingly dubious line on move 10. The poor continuations on moves 12 and 13 suggested that his choice on move 10 wasn't part of some deep new idea, and by move 14 he was already lost. Resignation was already reasonable on move 20, and occurred on move 23.

    Svidler also seemed headed for a win over Vladimir Kramnik after 17...g5?! 18.Be3 d5?! got Kramnik into trouble and subsequent errors on moves 25 and 30 left him lost. The win wasn't quite trivial though, and in what was probably time trouble Svidler lost much of his advantage. The momentum continued to swing Kramnik's way, and by around move 45 he was the one doing the pressing. It wasn't enough, and the game ended in a draw, as did Aronian-Gelfand, Giri-Anand, and Mamedyarov-Li Chao.

    The games, with varying degrees of annotation, are here, and these are the pairings for round 2:

    • Kramnik - Li Chao
    • Anand - Mamedyarov
    • Gelfand - Giri
    • Tomashevsky - Aronian
    • Svidler - Nepomniachtchi