Malcolm Pein on…Nepo and the Gnats
It took a swarm of mosquitos to settle the semi-final first set of the FTX Crypto Cup. There had been three draws before Nepo, playing from the Russian countryside, was visibly distracted in game four and blundered.
Nepo, Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger, has already suffered one mishap in a previous Meltwater Tour event when his cat decided to get up close and personal during play. Nepo said: “In the last game I didn’t care about winning at all, I just didn’t want to get eaten by mosquitoes! I have never seen such a big amount in one place!” The buzzing of the insects was clearly audible via Nepo’s microphone.
While Nepo may be cursing his luck, he did miss a great opportunity in game three when he failed to notice that So had blundered a piece. In the other semifinal, Teimour Radjabov produced an opening novelty to defeat Magnus Carlsen in game four and draw the set 2-2.
Action From the Play-off
The first game of the quarter-final play-off:
M. Carlsen – H. Nakamura
Queen’s Gambit Declined 5+3
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Be2 dxc4 8.0–0 Nb6 (A familiar battleground. After 8…a6 9.a4 Nd5 10.Bg3 c5 11.Bxc4 cxd4 12.exd4 N7b6 Black went on to win in Carlsen- Nakamura Lindores Abbey, Chess24 2020; After 8…c5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Bxc4 a6 11.Ng5 b5 12.Bxe6! Carlsen won at the same event) 9.a4 (9.Qc2 Nfd5 10.Bg3 c5 11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.Rfd1 White was slightly better and won in Carlsen-Nakamura, Magnus Carlsen Invitational, chess24 2020) 9…a5 10.e4 c5 (10…Bb4 pressuring e4 was better or 10…Ne8 preparing f7-f5, c7-c6 and Ne8–c7 to secure the d5 square was playable and if 11.e5 f5) 11.Nb5 Ne8 12.dxc5 Nd7 (Better to suffer in the endgame after 12…Qxd1 13.Rfxd1 Bxc5 14.Ne5) 13.Bxc4 Bxc5 14.Qc2 Qe7 15.e5 (White has more space, development and mobility. Nakamura tries to close lines on the kingside but the resulting weaknesses are fatal)
15…h6 16.Rad1 Nb6 17.Ba2! Nd5 18.Bb1 f5 19.exf6 Nexf6 20.Be5 Bd7? 21.Bxf6
Test Your Strength
How would you answer 21…Nxf6, 21…Rxf6 or 21…Qxf6?
21…gxf6 22.Rfe1 Qg7? 23.Qxc5 1–0
Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.
21…Nxf6 22.Rxd7 Qxd7 23.Qxc5; 21…Rxf6 22.Qh7+ and Ne5 or 21…Qxf6 22.Qxc5.