Malcolm Pein takes a look at Nepomniachtchi’s deep preparation in today’s Daily Telegraph column and offers two positions on which to test your strength.
Malcolm Pein on…Nepomniachtchi’s Deep Preparation
Ian Nepomniachtchi considered missing the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, with the resumption of the Candidates tournament just over a month away. The Russian number one easily qualified for the last eight of the $200,000 online tournament and, in the knockout phase, defeated Hikaru Nakamura with victory in the second set 2.5-0.5, after the first set was drawn.
Nepo revealed some deep opening preparation that might have come in handy at the Candidates.
Vladimir Kramnik’s games against Garry Kasparov in 2000, and subsequent tournament practice, suggested that Black has almost unlimited time to manoeuvre on the first two ranks and gradually connect the rooks, such is the immense solidity of his position.
Nepo’s energetic play creates too many threats and Black is never able to free himself and resigns with two pieces on their original squares.
I. Nepomniachtchi – H. Nakamura
Set 1 Game 2
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 Ke8 10.h3 Be6 (Nakamura switched in game 4 and held the draw after 10…h5 11.Bf4 Be7 12.Rad1 Nh4 13.Nxh4 Bxh4) 11.g4 Ne7 12.Nd4 Bd7 13.f4 h5 14.f5 hxg4 15.e6! (Improving on 15.hxg4 Rh4 when Black is fine) 15…fxe6 16.fxe6 Bc8 17.Bg5 gxh3 18.Kh2! (The computer finds this move instantly. 18.Rf7? allows 18…c5 19.Ndb5 Bxe6 while 18.Ne4 h2+ 19.Kh1 b6 planning Bb7 is playable for Black after 20.Rf7 c5 21.Bxe7 cxd4! 22.Bxf8 Rxf8 23.Ng5 when Black has an unravelling manoeuvre that is supremely contorted, even by the standards of the Berlin Endgame with 23…Rb8 24.Kxh2 Rb7 25.Kg3 c5)
18…Ng6 19.Ne4 Rh5 (19…Be7 20.Nf5 Bxe6 21.Nxe7 Nxe7 22.Nc5 followed by Rae1 wins) 20.Rg1!! (20.Rad1 Bd6+ 21.Nxd6+ cxd6 22.Rf5 Nf8 is classic Berlin Endgame play, Black is better as e6 falls and his king survives) 20…a6 21.Rad1 Everyone has come to the party.
Test Your Strength
For today’s first puzzle, how would you answer 21…c5 from the board above?
21…Ne7 (Preventing Nf5, Black curls up into a ball in Berlin Endgame style but he has lost too much time) 22.Rdf1! c5 23.Rxf8+ 1–0 23.Rxf8+ Kxf8 24.Bxe7+ Kxe7 25.Rxg7+ Kd8 26.Nf6 Re5 is today’s second puzzle, see board below.
Test Your Strength
White to play and mate in three moves
Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answers.
Answer 1: 21…c5? 22.Nb5! axb5 23.Rd8#.
Answer 2: 27.e7+ Rxe7 28.Rg8+ Re8 29.Rxe8#.