Malcolm Pein on…Nepomniachtchi’s Ascent


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Today’s Daily Telegraph chess column presents a typically combative game as part of Ian Nepomniachtchi’s ascent to the lofty heights of World Number Three.

Malcolm Pein on…Nepomniachtchi’s Ascent

Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Sergey Karjakin in around two hours to take the sole lead in the Russian Championship Superfinal and supplant Ding Liren as world number three on the live rating list with a personal best of 2794.9.

Nepomniachtchi appeared well prepared for a line of the Nimzo Indian Defence that was seen in the first half of the Candidates tournament back in March, when Fabiano Caruana defeated Kirill Alekseenko after 15.Nb5 Re6?! 16.Bf4; Caruana proposed 15…Rb8 afterwards, which might be best, or 15…Qb6 16.Nc7 Bxd6 17.Nxa8 Rxa8 was a reasonable exchange sacrifice in Vidit-Karjakin, 2020.

I. Nepomniachtchi – S. Karjakin

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 d5 5.a3 Be7 6.e4 dxe4 7.fxe4 c5 8.d5 exd5 9.exd5 0–0 10.Be2 Re8 11.Nf3 Bg4 12.0–0 Nbd7 13.d6

Nepomniachtchi's Ascent

13…Bf8 14.h3 Bh5 15.Bf4 Qb6 16.b3 Rad8 (16…Re6 17.Ng5 Bxe2 18.Nxe2 Ree8 followed by h7–h6 and rook back to e6 and a7-a6 looks playable) 17.Ra2! h6 18.a4 Bxf3?! (Karjakin may have miscalculated in this complex position, 18…Qa5 19.Qd2 Qb6 attacking b3 and offering a repetition; 18…Qc6 and 18…a6 19.Rd2 Re6 were all possible) 19.Bxf3 Ne5 20.Nb5 Bxd6? (After 20…Nxf3+ 21.Qxf3 a6 22.a5 Qc6 23.Qxc6 bxc6 24.Nc7 should be a winning endgame, as a6 falls. Black had to dig in with 20…Rd7. Now his queen is sidelined) 21.a5 Qa6

I. Nepomniachtchi – S. Karjakin

22.Rd2! Nxf3+ (White wins material after 22…Be7 23.Bxe5; or 22…Re6 23.Bxe5) 23.Rxf3 Ne4 (23…Be7 24.Nc7) 24.Nxd6 Nxd2 25.Qxd2 Re6 26.Rd3 b6 27.Nf5 Rxd3 28.Qxd3 Qb7 (28…Qxa5 29.Ne7+! Rxe7 30.Qd8+) 29.Qd5! Qxd5 (29…Qc8 30.Be5) 30.cxd5 Re1+ 31.Kf2 Rd1

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Nepomniachtchi Wins

White to play and win

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32.Ke2! 1–0 If 32…Rxd5 33.Ne7+ so the d-pawn advances.

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