Norway Chess: Nepomniachtchi climbs to second place

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/12/2021 – Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Sergey Karjakin on the rest day of the Norway Chess Tournament. The round-1 game had to be rescheduled after Nepo could not make it in time to Stavanger due to visa issues. Thanks to the victory in the classical game, the next challenger for the World Championship climbed to sole second place in the standings table. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Potkin’s brilliant idea

Ian Nepomniachtchi became only the second player to score a win in a classical game at the Norway Chess Tournament on Saturday — the other player is, of course, sole leader Richard Rapport. Nepo’s first-round game against Sergey Karjakin had to be postponed after the World Championship challenger had to delay his flight to Stavanger due to visa issues. The 3 points granted for the victory prompted Nepo to climb to sole second place in the standings table.

The all-Russian clash saw Karjakin playing the Berlin Defence with black. Two excellently prepared players, the compatriots followed 15 moves of a game Karjakin recently played against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave at the World Cup in Sochi.


MVL went for 16.g4 here, and that game was drawn after 35 moves. Nepo deviated with 16.Nce4, a move he had prepared at home, since after 16...c5 he spent less than a minute on the good-looking 17.Nf6


Karjakin apparently did not go over this move before the game, as he thought for over 20 minutes before playing 17...Bxa2. The engines consider 17...Bc4 to be the best alternative, while 17...gxf6 is also playable — the idea behind the temporary sacrifice is that White has 18.Nxe6 in this case, with a discovered attack against the rook on h6.

In the post-game interview, Nepo told the story behind the Nf6 idea, noting that his second Vladimir Potkin “was very excited about this move”, not because it is somehow immediately winning but because it is very difficult to face such a manoeuvre over the board.

After Karjakin’s capture on a2, Nepo immediately responded with 18.b3. The World Championship challenger pointed out that his preparation ended there, as he considered that White was simply winning.


Indeed, the position was clearly favourable, but the conversion was by no means trivial. Nepo needed 20 more moves to convert his position into a win. 

The 31-year-old grandmaster from Bryansk is now in sole second place, 1½ points behind Rapport, whom he will face with the white pieces on Sunday.


Replay all the tournament’s games with computer analysis at

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin

The all-Russian (postponed) confrontation | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after Round 4

Player Games Points
Richard Rapport 4
Ian Nepomniactchi 4 7
Magnus Carlsen 4 6
Sergey Karjakin 4 4
Alireza Firouzja 4 3
Aryan Tari 4 3


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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