In a game that was over almost before it began, Ian Nepomniachtchi, the newly-crowned Russian Champion, suffered an opening disaster against Levon Aronian, and was instantly lost on move 10. He struggled on to move 26 – his erstwhile trainer Sergey Shipov could barely watch – but the outcome was never in doubt.
Shipov’s original commentary in Russian can be found at Crestbook. Update: I’ve now added an extra note at the very end of this commentary where Shipov explains exactly what went wrong – he talked to Nepomniachtchi via Skype after the game.
GM Sergey Shipov’s live commentary on:
Tata Steel Chess 2011, Rd 4
LEVON ARONIAN – IAN NEPOMNIACHTCHI
Good afternoon, dear friends! This is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov at your service, commentating on the 4th round game chosen by the public. It’s good to see my student Ian Nepomniachtchi under the spotlights – in fact he’s had a whole regiment of teachers, but I’ve still had a hand in it… The guy’s growing up, getting stronger, making good on the promise he showed in his youth. Becoming a man. A fighter! The main thing now for Ian is not to pay any attention to the bronze sheen of authority figures. He has to play them, as he plays the others – according to the position and for a win. And he shouldn’t take pleasure in draws as though they’re manna from heaven. You only become a champion if you really, really want it, and you’re not satisfied with second or third place. All the causes – both of future success and possible failure – are hidden within yourself. In your consciousness and mentality. Overcoming yourself (fear, doubts, settling for the bird in the hand, not two in the bush) – means overcoming others. I hope Ian can beat everyone, including himself! I’m also rooting for Levon – as a good friend and an admirer of his talent. If I had my way there’d be 1.5 points up for grabs in this encounter. One could win, but the other wouldn’t lose. By the way, if the game turns out really bright and engaging then that’s what happens. Besides the sporting result the players also earn creative laurels. That’s in the form of the love of the public, and future tournament invitations. Well, let’s hope for a good game!
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 The Grunfeld Defence – nothing else was to be expected. The youngsters have now firmly settled in the crater of that volcano…
4. Bf4 Bg7 5. e3 A cunning move order – White is maintaining the knight on g1 for now. The c4 and d4 pawns are already defended. White is ready to exchange twice on d5 and pluck the ripe fruit on c7.
5…o-o Ian has no objections.
[There would be fundamentally different play after 5…c5, which has been seen before.]
6. Rc1 But Levon, as it turns out, didn’t want to take the bait.
[After 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Nxd5 Qxd5 8.Bxc7 Na6 9.Bxa6 Qxg2 10.Qf3 Qxf3 11.Nxf3 bxa6 12.Rc1 you get a theoretical and problematic endgame that some analyticians have analysed in enormous detail.]
A fresh jet in the muddy waters of theory. Black tries to force the exchange of pawns on d5. The idea in itself is quite old – it was played by the young Korchnoi in 1958. But it’s simply that since then it’s been used very rarely. Interest in the move was reawoken when it was played by Carlsen against Wang Yue in the 2009 Nanjing tournament. And people have followed…
[The most popular continuation is 6…c5 7. dxc5 Be6]
[Rarer is the solid 6…c6. There are also other lines…]
7. Qb3 White maintains the tension in the centre and at the same time threatens the b7-pawn. Real “Grunfelders” at times ignore such threats…
[In that same game the leader of the Chinese team took fright and played 7.c5 and, of course, didn’t get an advantage. Quite the contrary, in fact:
7…c6 8.Bd3 Bg4 9.Qc2 Nfd7 10.Bxb8 Nxb8 11.h3 Bc8 12.f4 b6 13.Na4 e5! 14.dxe5 f6 15.exf6 Qxf6 and Black got powerful pressure for the pawn, Wang Yue, M. Carlsen, Nanjing 2009.]
[And here’s the original source game:
7.Nf3 dxc4! 8.Ng5 Nd5 9.Nxe6 fxe6 10.Bg3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 b5 12.Be2 Nd7 13.h4 e5 14.h5 exd4 15.cxd4 g5 16.h6 Bf6 17.Bg4 c5 – and in a sharp game the sides proved to be equally matched, G. Borisenko – V. Korchnoi, Sochi 1958.]
7…c5 Exactly! That’s the good old Grunfeld we all know and love. Maximum risk for both yourself and your opponent! The first to play this way was another of my students – Volodya Belov.
[Also played here was the modest
7…b6, for example, in the encounter L’Ami (the same one who’s playing in this tournament) – K. Sasikiran, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010, there followed
8.Nf3 c5 9.dxc5 Na6 (an interesting idea compensating for Black’s shy 7th move)
10.c6 Nc5 11.Qd1 dxc4 12.Qxd8 Rfxd8 13.Nd4 Nd5 (in the spirit of Korchnoi)
14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Bxc4 Bxc3+ 16.bxc3 Nxf4 17.exf4 Rac8 and there was an approximately equal ending.]
8. Qxb7 Aronian’s going by the principle: take what’s on offer!
8…cxd4 Nepomniachtchi is slightly altering the positional features I mentioned. It’s a novelty! One which was, I hope, prepared at home.
[In the encounter G. Sargissian – V. Belov, Moscow 2010, they played
(on 9.Qxa8 there’s
9…axb6 10.Nf3 Nc6 11.dxc5 bxc5 12.Ne5 Nxe5 13.Bxe5 dxc4 14.Be2 Nd7 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.O-O Rfb8 17.Rc2 Ne5 18.Ra1 Nd3 19.Bxd3 and in light of the coming exchange of pawns on the queenside the players agreed to a draw.]
[Black’s initiative was very strong after 9. Qxa8 dxc3]
Another bold move. Going against the mould, Black is happy to exchange queens. After all it won’t be easy for White in the endgame. The a8-rook will enter play dramatically, and the centre will come under pressure from Black… True, I’m a little worried by the capture on a8. Will Black manage to trap the white queen there? In the line played by Volodya Belov – without an exchange on d4 – it’s done with Nb8-d7. But here…
10. Qxa8 By the way, about that rook! What can you play here? Unfortunately, after 10…Nbd7 there’s the terrifyingly strong reply 11. c5!… What’s going on, my friends?? Has Ian really gone banally wrong by including the exchange? Unfortunately the queen can’t be caught now – coconuts won’t grow! [Translator’s note: from the song “The Island of Misfortune” in the cult Soviet comedy, “The Diamond Arm” – “crocodiles can’t be caught, coconuts won’t grow”.] I won’t go back and add question marks in hindsight, but 8…cxd4? deserves one. That was a note from a different opera. Our young champion mixed everything up. After the exchange on d4 things were already bad. On 9…Nbd7, saving the rook, 10. c5! is extremely unpleasant. I’m in shock…
10…Nh5 Played exclusively in order not to resign immediately, in the first ten moves. I can just imagine how Ian’s feeling now…
[The apparently active 10…Qxb2 was just as fruitless. The most forceful reply is 11. cxd5 Ng4 12. Be2 and Black’s attack ends before it’s begun.]
11. c5 Levon is harsh, but just.
11…Qxb2 12. Bd2! A safe, solid move.
[Black would regain some hopes after 12. Be3 Bxd4!]
For someone a rook up, a pawn is no loss. White should develop quickly and withdraw his ravenous queen from the corner. There’s no prospect of making a game of it.
13. Nf3 Nd7 Alas, only an attack, not a capture.
14. Qxf8+ A logical desire to simplify the situation as much as possible.
[Also good were 14. Qxa7, and 14. Qc6]
14…Kxf8 15. Nxd4 Black has pitifully few pieces left.
15…Nxc5 16. Rb1 Qa3 White is two moves short of completing his development. Then it’ll be time for the straightforward conversion of his advantage.
17. Be2 There it is – the first move. All that’s left is castling.
17…Nf4 A harmless trick. White isn’t obliged to take the offering.
18. 0-0 Nxe2+ 19. Ncxe2
Levon’s got what he wanted – the position has been simplified and there are no longer any tactics. The horde of white pieces should deal with the remains of the black army without any problems.
[After 19…Qxa2 20.Bh6+ Ke8 21.Ra1! Qc4 22.Rfc1 Qb4 23.Rxa7 White’s threats are irresistible.]
20. Rb7 White’s moves are simple and natural. The whole crowd is going on the attack.
20…Qa6 21. Nxe6+ Qxe6 22. Nd4 It’s awkward for me to commentate on what’s going on and point out some clever variations. There’s not really any point.
22…Qg4 23. Rc1 I’ll simply give the time remaining – 1:21 – 0:55. More than enough.
23…f6 24. Be3 Nb6
25. h3 Qe4 26. Rcc7 The decisive infiltration. You can’t hold back the white rooks. BLACK RESIGNED.
This was an opening accident. Nepomniachtchi simply mixed up his moves! A bitter and annoying loss – but it’s also very useful for the future. I can only repeat what I said in the introduction about the internal cause of any result. Ian needs to take a responsible approach to making known moves. He needs to spend a couple of seconds longer on each move, maintaining concentration instead of relaxing. Now, though, he should rest and get away from today’s incident. And, when it comes down to it, has anything terrible happened to Ian, if you look at his start as a whole? Not at all! He won a drawn ending against Wang Hao and lost… something he didn’t need to lose, against Aronian. Now Nepomniachtchi is on 50%, and that’s a good starting point for the coming struggle. I wish our favourite spiritual strength! It’s a test of his maturity and strength of character. I’m sure that the new Russian Champion will be able to meet that challenge – the title obliges him to now. Keep it together, Ian! We’re rooting for you… Working for you, dear spectators, on this bitter evening, has been Grandmaster Sergey Shipov. Tomorrow we’ll all have a rest, and on the 20th January at the usual time we’ll meet for the 5th round. All the best!
P.S. Today is a holiday for us (in Russia) – Epiphany Eve. High time to dive into an ice-hole – to wash away your sins and become someone else. Which I wish for all of us.
1 – 0
Game viewer by Chess Tempo
UPDATE: In his video round-up of the day’s games Shipov revealed that Nepomniachtchi had decided to “improve” on the previous move 8…Qb6, by playing 8…cxd4?? (Shipov’s question marks). His idea was that after 10. Qxa8 Nbd7 11. c5 he could play 11…Qxb2, and both the queen and the c1-rook would be under attack. Alas, the fly in the ointment was that the exchange of pawns also meant the c1-rook is now protected by the f4-bishop – and Black’s completely lost.
Nepomniachtchi said he came up with the novelty at the board, which Shipov called a “methodological mistake” (especially in an opening as sharp as the Grunfeld!). The video below should start at the point where Shipov is demonstrating 11…Qxb2, but obviously you can also watch all 41 minutes of analysis. The only proviso is that Shipov is, of course, speaking Russian!:
I’ll be translating Shipov’s commentary on Round 5, LIVE, at 13:30 CET, Thursday 20 January, here: http://www.chessintranslation.com/live-game/