Malcolm Pein on…The Fearless Nepo


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The chess world is already speculating about the outcome this year’s match for the World Chess Championship. In today’s Daily Telegraph column, Malcolm Pein highlights an important quality possessed by the challenger, as he looks at the fearless Nepomniachtchi.

Malcolm Pein on…The Fearless Nepo

The next challenger for the world title, Ian Nepomniachtchi, will give Magnus Carlsen a different challenge from his previous four title matches. The Russian GM plays a unique brand of chess, sometimes moving very quickly and he never backs down from complex variations if he cannot see a clear refutation.

As has been pointed out by Peter Svidler, amongst others, the Muscovite is not afraid of Carlsen. This is partly because they were both born in 1990 and, as contemporaries, they played in junior events when ‘Nepo’ had the better of it.

The challenger has also enjoyed a positive score against Carlsen in Classical chess in recent years. His victory from when they were children:

I. Nepomniachtchi – M. Carlsen
EU Ch. U12 Peniscola, 2002
Alekhine Defence

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 dxe5 5.Nxe5 g6 6.Bc4 c6 7.Nc3 Be6 8.0–0 Nd7 (8…Nxc3? 9.Bxe6 Nxd1 10.Bxf7#) 9.Qf3 Bg7 10.Re1 0–0 11.Qg3 Nxe5 12.dxe5 Nxc3 13.Qxc3 Bxc4 14.Qxc4 Qd5 Black enjoys a comfortable equality.

Fearless Nepo

15.Qe2 Rad8 16.Bg5 Qe6 17.Qe3 b6 18.a4 Rd5 19.Bf4 Qf5 20.Qe4 Qd7 (Black dominates the only open file and has an edge) 21.c3 Rd8 22.h3 Qe6 23.Qe2 Rd3 24.a5! b5 25.a6 c5 26.Qe4 Qd5 27.Qxd5 R3xd5 28.Ra5 c4 29.Kf1 e6 30.Be3 R8d7 31.Bd4 Bf8 32.Rb1! (White targets the b5 pawn again. Black should have settled for 32…Bc5 33.Rxb5 Bxd4 34.Rxd5 Rxd5 35.cxd4 Rxd4 =)

I. Nepomniachtchi – M. Carlsen

32…Be7 33.b3 Bd8?! (33…Bb4!?) 34.Ra2 Rxd4 (After 34…cxb3 35.Rxb3, Ra2–b2 follows, and Black struggles to hold b5 and a7) 35.cxd4 c3 36.b4 Bg5 37.Rd1 Rc7 38.Rc2 Be7 (38…Bd2 39.Ke2 Rd7 40.Rdxd2!)

Test Your Strength

I. Nepomniachtchi – M. Carlsen White to Play and Win

How did the fearless Nepo continue?

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

39.d5! (After 39.Rb1 Rc4 Black fights on) 39…Bxb4 40.d6 Rc8 41.Rb1 1–0

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