Malcolm Pein on…Nepomniachtchi the Challenger
Russian number one Ian Nepomniachtchi will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title after he won the Candidates tournament with a round to spare on home soil at Ekaterinburg. The world number three is one of those born in the ‘golden year’ of 1990 that has produced many strong players including England’s David Howell and Carlsen himself.
Nepo comfortably kept Maxime Vachier-Lagrave at bay in the 13th round and watched as his nearest rival Anish Giri cracked under the pressure of needing a win to keep realistic chances of tournament victory alive. Giri’s opponent Alexander Grischuk took advantage of the situation and commented afterwards: “My plan was to play like a terrorist, to terrorise him withadrawandifhegoesfora worse position, then I will play. That’s pretty much exactly what happened”.
As soon as it was clear that Giri was lost, Nepo offered a draw from a position of strength, that was accepted. Nepo reached 8.5/13, with Giri on 7.5/13 and unable to overtake the victor in the final round due to an inferior tie-break. It turned out that Nepo’s gritty victory over Giri in round one, in March 2020, was ultimately decisive.
The World Championship Match
The world championship match will be staged in Dubai from November 24 to December 16. Carlsen commented: “He’s a very, very strong opponent. Somebody who also plays very aggressively, and usually gives his opponents chances as well. In that sense, there is every chance there’s going to be an exciting match”
There were two games in the 13th round where queen and bishop were too strong for queen and knight. Wang Hao – Caruana after 35.Rd1-e1?!
35…Qf4! (Exploiting the ‘one on one’ vulnerability of the rook on e1. If 36.Qxf4 Rxe1+) 36.Qd1 Bc2 37.Qa1 Re5 38.Rxe5 Qxe5 39.a5 Kg6 40.Kh1? (White can fight on after 40.f3 Bd3) 40…Be4 (Rounding up the d5 pawn) 41.d6 Bc6 42.Qb2 Qxd6 0–1
Test Your Strength
Alekseenko-Ding Liren, after 57.Qf4+
Which way should Black go?
Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.
57…Ke6! (57…Kg6 58.Qg4+ Kh7 59.Qf5+ draws after 59…Kh6 60.Qf4+, 59…g6 60.Qxf7+ and 59…Kg8 60.Qc8+) 58.Qe4+ Kd6 59.Qf4+ Kc5 60.Qe5+ Kxc4 61.Qe4+ Kb5 0-1 In view of 62.Qe5+ Ka4 63.Qe4+ Ka3 64.Qf3+ Kxa2 65.Qxf7+ Ka3 66.Qf8+ c5 or 66.Qf3+ Kb2.