The American is not iron. Understanding how Ian Nepomniachtchi pulled out the game against Caruana

Dmitry Kryakvin

Dmitry Kryakvin

Ian Nepomniachtchi pulled out a game against Caruana

The Russian grandmaster had problems coming out of the opening, but he managed to make a draw in a difficult situation.

In the second round of the Candidates Chess Tournament, all the attention of Russian chess fans was riveted on the confrontation between the leaders: our Ian Nepomniachtchi and the American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana won their first games and on Saturday, June 18, they planned to build on their success.

The duel of leaders sounded the first wake-up call for the Russian grandmaster. Firstly, Caruana’s aggressive attitude and pressure showed up. It seems that Fabiano is ready to take any risk and play to win the tournament not only with white, but also with black! But the main thing is that the accuracy of Yang himself was not ideal when the opponents were not demoralized Ding Liren.

Fortunately, Nepomniachtchi, finding himself in a difficult situation, maintained tension, and it turned out that Fabiano was not made of iron either …

Candidates tournament – 2022. 2nd round Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) – Fabiano Caruana (USA)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. 0–0 d6 6. c3 a6 7. a4 Ba7 8. Re1 h6 9. Nbd2 g5 10. b4 Ng4
Aggressive novelty, after which Yang became thoughtful. More recently, 10… Ne7 11. Nf1 Ng6 12. Be3 Bxe3 13. Nxe3 g4 14. Nd2 h5 15. d4 h4 16. Qb3 (Nepomniachtchi – Grischuk, Internet, 2022) was played with a difficult fight, in which Ian won . Caruana seeks to collect a ball of pieces on the kingside and launch an attack on the white king. It looks very risky, and this is shown by computer analysis, but for the sake of victory, the American was ready for this!

11. Re2 Qf6 12. Qe1
Here 12. d4 exd4 13. e5 seemed to be very strong. – sacrificing a pawn and trying to use the position of the black king in the center of the board. However, even here the options are very complex – for sure, Fabiano analyzed the degree of his risk very deeply. Now, after a careful move with the queen, Caruana finishes development and continues to pile up his pieces opposite White’s castling position.

12… Qg7 13. Nf1 0–0 14. Ng3 Ne7 15. d4
Typical Nepomniachtchi! To cut through the tangle of problems, Jan, as in the duel with Dean, is ready to part with a pawn. Probably, the Russian didn’t like something like 15. Kh1 Ng6 16. Be3 Nf4 17. Rd2 h5 – Black is advancing and it’s more pleasant to play with them.

15… exd4 16. cxd4 Nc6 17. Ra3 Nxd4 18. Nxd4 Bxd4

19 h3
White has good compensation for the sacrificed pawn, and 19. Rd2!? – we urgently need to fight with a strong black bishop on the long diagonal, and then roll on the opponent’s king ourselves. For example, in the case of 19…c5 (19… Be5 20. h3 Nf6 21. Bb2) 20. bxc5 dxc5 21. h3 Ne5 22. Nh5 Qg6 23. Be2 White’s threats are dangerous enough that Caruana would have to be careful. A slight delay allowed the American to strengthen.

19… Ne5 20. Ba2 c5 21. bxc5 Bxc5
Possibly stronger is 21… d:c5, but Fabiano moved the bishop away from the white rooks.

22. Rb3 b5 23. Nf5 Qf6

24. Kh2
At a critical moment, White shows indecision and almost runs into problems. Stronger aggressive 24. h4! While Jan is looking for mating ideas, Caruana stocks up on pawns on the opposite flank.

24… bxa4 25. Rg3 Kh7 26. Qd1
The computer shows 26. f4 gxf4 27. Bxf4 Bxf5 28. Bxe5 Qxe5 29. exf5 Qf4, and promises a fantastic draw with 30. Bxf7!!! Rxf7 31. Re7 Ra7 32. f6! Qxf6 33. Qe4+ Kh8 34. Re8+ Rf8 35. Rf3! d5 36. Rxf8+ Bxf8 37. Rxf6 dxe4 38. Rxf8+ Kg7 39. Re8, but to calculate this is a daunting task! Jan does not force things and continues to circle the pieces around the black king, but it is clear that he lacks two pawns, and compensation at any moment can become very conditional.

26… Bd7 27. Rc2 Bxf5 28. exf5 Rab8 29. Qh5 Rg8 30. Bb2 Rge8
It is surprising that Caruana, a chess player with a huge arsenal of chess means of fighting for the initiative, did not play the typical exchange sacrifice 30… Rxb2! 31. Rxb2 a3, which ensured the security of the black castling position and left the American as the strongest side – Jan had an unpleasant fight for a draw. Instead, it followed

31. Bc1 Rg8 32. Bb2 Rge8 33. Bc1and all the Russian fans exhaled – a draw by repetition of moves!

On the other hand, such a result can cause annoyance for Black, and for Ian Nepomniachtchi, as always, it is very important to saddle his horse of luck in a tournament race. The intrigue remains, and there is no single leader in the Candidates Tournament yet, but the Russian shares the first place.


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