Malcolm Pein on…Nepo’s Lead

World title challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi was the early pacesetter when the third leg of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour began in Zagreb, Croatia. The second Rapid & Blitz event of the series is a 10-player all-play-all that includes former world champions Vishy Anand and Garry Kasparov.

Anand plays both disciplines, with Kasparov, 58, limiting himself to the 18 games of Blitz. Local star Ivan Saric played the Rapid in Kasparov’s place and really impressed over the first two days, defeating Anish Giri and Nepomniachtchi to secure a positive score of 3.5/6, equal second with Anand and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

I. Nepomniachtchi – A. Korobov
French Defence 25+10

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Be7 8.Qd2 0–0 9.Bd3 c4 10.Bf1!? (A novelty, 10.Be2 is standard)

I. Nepomniachtchi – A. Korobov Novelty

10…b5 11.Ne2 (11.Nxb5 Rb8 12.Nc3 Rxb2 accelerates Black’s play) 11…f5 12.h3 b4 13.c3 Rb8 14.g4 bxc3 15.bxc3 Ba3 (White’s opening has not been a success) 16.Bg2 Rb2 17.Qd1 Qa5 18.0–0 Nb6 19.Bd2 Bd7 20.gxf5 Rxf5 21.Ng3 Rf8 22.Ng5 h6 (Calling the bluff, but 22…Nxd4! was very strong, White looks busted) 23.Nxe6 Bxe6 24.f5 Nxd4 (Better 24…Bd7 25.e6 Nxd4) 25.fxe6 Rxf1+? (By giving White a tempo to move the knight to f1 defending the bishop on d2, Black frees the white queen for action) 26.Nxf1 Nxe6

I. Nepomniachtchi – A. Korobov White Gains the Initiative

27.Qg4! Kf7 28.Kh1 Ke7 29.Be1 Qb5! (Exchanging rooks is right) 30.Rd1 d4!? (30…Rb1 was safer) 31.Ng3 (31.cxd4 Nd5 32.Qf3 c3 33.Qxd5? Qxd5 34.Bxd5 c2 35.Rc1 Nxd4 wins for Black) 31…d3 32. Nf5+ Kf7? (Wrong way, 32…Kf8! and if 33.Nxh6? Rxg2 34.Kxg2 Qd5+ wins) 33.Bh4 Rxg2

Test Your Strength

I. Nepomniachtchi – A. Korobov White to Play and Force Checkmate

White to play and force mate

Highlight the pace below this line to reveal the answer.

34.Nxh6+! 1–0 In view of 34…gxh6 35.Rf1+ Ke8 36.Qxe6+ Be7 37.Qxe7#.

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