World Championship Game 10: Nepo safely draws, keeps the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/23/2023 – With four games to go, Ian Nepomniachtchi continues to have a 1-point lead at the World Championship match in Astana. Nepo, playing black, surprised Ding Liren out of an English Opening, and had little trouble defending the slightly inferior position that ensued. The Russian GM will get the white pieces in Monday’s game 11. | Photo: FIDE / David Llada

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“Like a world champion”

Find expert commentary — video and game annotations — by well-known coach and author IM Robert Ris at the end of the article.

World Championship matches are often associated with very measured battles between two players who have worked intensely on a couple of trusty opening systems.

That is not always the case, though, as was proven in the first half of this year’s confrontation in Astana. Diverse openings followed by dramatic sequences were the norm rather than the exception in the first eight games of the match facing Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren. Things have settled a bit in the last two encounters, though.

While Nepo was the one putting pressure (with white) on Friday, now it was Ding who obtained a small edge with the white pieces. However, Nepo had an easier time in defence. After surprising his opponent in the opening — which, in turn, shocked many of the commentators — the Russian grandmaster never seemed to be much worried about dealing with an endgame position in which his opponent had an extra pawn.

Ding tried to create winning chances as best he could, but Black was never in real danger of losing. A tweet by Anish Giri was a good description of Nepo’s plaay:

A couple of meltdowns in this match have reminded us of the Nepo who collapsed horribly back in 2021 against Magnus Carlsen, but at this point he appears to be more serene than his opponent.

In his first outing at a match for the title, Ding is certainly feeling the pressure. The last two games, however, make us think that both contenders have cooled down and are ready to have a more traditional elite-GM confrontation in the remainder of the match. Except that there are only four games to go. And the pressure can only increase from now on.

Having a 1-point lead feels a lot like having an extra pawn at this juncture. As the end of the match approaches, Nepo’s chances to win look more and more auspicious, especially after his showing in Sunday’s game 10.

Ding Liren

Still four games to go | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

A forcing (defensive) move

Fabiano Caruana, who is commentating the games for, referred to the fact that Ding had been surprised by 9...Bc5 as “pretty bad news”. Although the bishop retreat is not the main continuation, entering this line without analysing this specific variation is shocking at the super-elite level — and especially in a World Championship match.


9...Ba5 is the most frequent continuation, as it keeps threatening the capture on c3. However, both 9...Bc5 and 9...Be7 are logical as well. Ding spent 11 minutes on 10.Qg3, as he explored the differences with the retreat to a5, which he surely had extremely well-prepared. Nepo explained in the post-game press conference:

The ...Bc5 idea is quite a rare move. I believe it is an interesting move that can solve a lot of problems there and force the game.

Nepo’s strategy worked wonders, as he confidently entered the following rook and bishop endgame a pawn down.


Black proved he had more than enough compensation due to the doubled pawns on the c-file. Ding tried his best, but Nepo was accurate in defence.


34...Bb3, for example, was a clean path towards a drawn, simplified position. The contenders agreed to split the point after 45 moves, when only kings were left on the board.

Multiple world champion Vishy Anand assessed the situation.

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris - Video and annotated game



FIDE World Chess Championship 2023

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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.