"My favourite Nepomniachtchi game"

9/10/2021 – In April 2021, Ian Nepomniachtchi won the Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinenburg and thus gained the right to challenge world champion Magnus Carlsen in a match to be staged later this year. A perfect occasion to present the challenger's skills in the "Special" of ChessBase Magazine #203. Our authors (including Adhiban, Berg, Edouard, Krasenkow and others) annotated their favourite game by the 31-year-old Russian. This has resulted in an exclusive collection of 21 high-class encounters played between 2002 and 2021. One of them — Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen from the Legends of Chess Final in 2020 — is presented in this article, annotated by IM Robert Ris. "A wonderful prelude to their upcoming World Championship match". Enjoy!

ChessBase Magazine 203 ChessBase Magazine 203

"Special": Ian Nepomniachtchi with analyses and videos. Adhiban, Navara, Praggnanandhaa, Vitiugov, Wojtaszek and others comment on games from the World Cup. Opening videos by King, Marin and Werle. 10 opening articles and much more. Enjoy the new layout!

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CBM #203 Special: Ian Nepomniachtchi

Robert Ris analayses Ian Nepomniachtchi – Magnus Carlsen (Legends of Chess Final 2020)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Rg1!?

This rare move became famous when Ivanchuk used it in a rapid game to defeat Kasparov. From all White's options this move is ranked 12th by number of games played, but it's certainly more dangerous as the current game proves.

6...b5 Another remarkable game in this line went 6...Nc6 7.g4 g6 8.g5 Nd7 9.h4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 Ne5 11.Kd1!? Van Foreest,J-Firouzja, Wijk aan Zee 2020.; Other critical options are the typical moves 6...e6; 6...e5; 6...g6

7.g4 Bb7 8.g5 8.Bg2 has been played more frequently, but that's not why Ian decided to give 6.?g1 a try!

8...Nxe4 Carlsen deviates from the previous game which went 8...Nfd7 9.a3 g6 10.h4 Bg7 11.h5 Nc6 12.Be3 Nc5 was seen in Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen, chess24.com 2020, and now strong would have been 13.h6! Bxd4 14.Bxd4 Nxd4 15.Qxd4 e5 16.Qe3 followed by 0–0–0. The pawns on g5 and h6 remain quite unpleasant even in the long run.

9.Nxe4 Bxe4 10.a4!?

A new idea which poses Black some serious practical problems. In previous games White exclusively opted for 10.Qg4

10...e5 One month after the present game the only other GM game saw 10...b4 which is at least a safer continuation for Black. 11.Qe2 d5 12.f3 Bg6 13.f4 e6 (13...Be4!?) 14.Be3 (14.f5?! Bc5! 15.fxg6 Bxd4 16.gxf7+ Kxf7?) 14...Bd6 15.h4 0–0 16.0–0–0 Nd7 (16...b3!) 17.h5 Be4 18.Bg2 Nc5 19.Bxe4 dxe4? (19...Nxe4!) 20.Kb1 Nxa4 21.f5 exf5 22.Nxf5 Nc3+ 23.bxc3 bxc3 24.Rxd6 Rb8+ 25.Kc1 Qa5 26.Nh6+ gxh6 27.gxh6+ Kh8 28.Qxa6 Qb4 29.Rb6 1–0 Lagarde-Brunello, Trieste 2020.

11.axb5! Be7 The critical move is accepting the challenge with 11...exd4 12.Qxd4 d5 13.Rg3!? though it's understandable one isn't eager about entering this position as Black. For the piece, White has one pawn, ideas to regain the piece with ?e3 (pinning the bishop on e4), while it's not simple for Black completing development as the queen on d4 is eyeing the pawn on g7.

12.Rg4! axb5 12...Bg6 13.Bg2 d5 14.Be3! 0–0 (14...Bh5 allows 15.Nf5! Bxg4 16.Qxg4 0–0 17.Bxd5 and the rook is trapped.; 14...exd4 15.Rxd4 0–0 16.Bxd5 and White will regain the material with interest.) 15.Ne2 is great for White.; 12...Bb7 13.Nf5 0–0 14.Rga4! and White obtains a very annoying pawn on a6.; 12...d5 allows 13.Rxe4! dxe4 14.Nf5 Qxd1+ 15.Kxd1 when Black is still in deep trouble.

13.Bxb5+ Nd7 In hindsight, 13...Kf8 is the best option for Black, though also in that case after 14.Bd2 White retains the better prospects. 14.Bd2!

A great move, which forces Black to take a decision about his bishop on e4. 14.Rxa8 Qxa8?; 14.Rxe4? Rxa1–+

14...Bb7 If Black intends to retain control over the f5–square with 14...Bg6 then White obtains a totally dominant position after 15.Nc6 Qc8 16.Rxa8 Qxa8 17.Ra4 Qb7 18.Qg4 followed by ?a7; Black is busted.

15.Nf5 0–0 16.Rxa8?! Ian is naturally playing for a mating attack and I doubt many people would have considered shifting play to the queenside with 16.Rga4!! when surprisingly Black's position is already collapsing as too many vulnerable points in his position require protection, e.g. 16...Nb6 (16...Rxa4 17.Rxa4 and Black is unable stopping both threats Ra7 and Ba5.) 17.Rxa8 Bxa8 (17...Nxa8 18.Ra7 wins a piece.) 18.Bb4 Nd5 (18...Bxg5 19.Qxd6+–) 19.Rxa8! Qxa8 20.Qxd5 Qxd5 21.Nxe7+ Kh8 22.Nxd5+–

16...Bxa8

17.Rh4 With the idea of Qh5.

17...g6! The only move, as 17...Bxg5? 18.Bxg5 Qxg5 19.Bxd7 Qg1+ 20.Kd2 (20.Ke2?? Bf3+!) 20...Qxf2+ 21.Qe2 is just an extra piece for White.

18.Qg4 Nc5 18...gxf5 19.Qh5 leads to mate.

19.Qh3? Again, the most natural option chosen by Nepo is not White's best! The incredible 19.Kf1!! with the idea to prepare ?a5 wins for White after 19...Be4 (19...h5 is met by 20.Rxh5! gxh5 21.Qxh5 Ne4 22.Ba5!+–) 20.Ba5!! Bxf5 (Relatively best, since after 20...Qxa5 21.Nxe7+ Kg7 White gives mate by force 22.Rxh7+ Kxh7 23.Qh4+ Kg7 24.Qh6#) 21.Bxd8 Bxg4 22.Bxe7 Rb8 23.Rxg4 Rxb5 24.Bxd6 Ne6 25.Ra4 and the remaining endgame is pretty hopeless for Black, e.g 25...Nxg5 26.c4! and now 26...Rxb2 27.Ra8+ Kg7 28.Bxe5+ even drops the rook.; 19.Ba5? simply fails now to 19...Qxa5+! check!

19...h5?

After this blunder it's game over, but probably the World Champion already didn't really like his position anyway, which may explain the reason he didn't go for the critical 19...Bxg5! 20.Rxh7 Bxd2+! (20...Bf6? 21.Nh6+! Kxh7 22.Nxf7+ and White wins the queen.) 21.Kxd2 Qg5+ when the variations are becoming pretty insane, but certainly worth playing through! (21...gxf5? 22.Rh8+ Kg7 23.Qh6#) 22.Kc3 (22.Kd1? is simply bad, on account of 22...gxf5 23.Rh8+ Kg7 24.Qh7+ Kf6 25.Rxf8 Bf3+! 26.Be2 Qg1+ 27.Kd2 Ne4+ 28.Kd3 Bxe2+ 29.Kxe2 Qxf2+ 30.Kd3 Qd4+ 31.Ke2 Qd2+ 32.Kf1 Qf2#; 22.Ne3?! is an interesting alternative, though after 22...Ne4+ 23.Kc1 Nxf2 24.Rh8+ Kg7 25.Qh7+ Kf6 26.Rxf8 Qxe3+ 27.Kb1 Bd5! only Black can be better.) 22...Ne4+! (22...gxf5? 23.Rh8+ Kg7 24.Qh7+ Kf6 25.Rxf8 Ne4+ 26.Kb3 Bd5+ 27.c4 and there no more any good checks as the black queen fails to join the counterattack against the white king.) 23.Kb4!

Here Robert Ris starts a deep analysis with several sublines in CBM #203.

20.Rxh5 gxh5 21.Qxh5 Ne6 21...Ne6 and without waiting for his opponent to execute the mating variation, the World Champion resigned, in view of 22.g6! fxg6 23.Qxg6+ Kh8 24.Qh6+ Kg8 25.Qxe6+ Kh8 (25...Rf7 26.Nh6+) 26.Qh6+ Kg8 27.Qg7# A wonderful prelude to their upcoming World Championship match in Dubai, November 2021!

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You can find these and 20 other brilliant games by Ian Nepomniachtchi in the "Special" of ChessBase Magazine # 203.

ChessBase Magazine #203

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