Magnus Carlsen - Ian Nepomniachtchi

Round 10
Tata Steel 2011


Once again Tata Steel Chess tournament will have not one, but three games commented on simultaneously! Live commentary of Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi, Anand - Shirov, and Tkachiev - Wesley So will start at 13:30 CET.

Live commentary will be provided by GM Christian Bauer, author of the book Play the Scandinavian, the U18 top player of Spain IM Alexander Ipatov (interview with him here), and the international coach and winner of many tournaments IM Miodrag Perunovic (more info here).

For the past year IM Ipatov and IM Perunovic are also successful coaches of U1800-U2400 players via internet and live training. If you want to get in touch with them, send them a message here

1.e4 c5 Sicilian again on the board at Tata Steel

2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Another Najdorf for Magnus Carlsen and not surprisingly he employs yet another line

7... Be7 8.O-O O-O 9.Kh1 Nc6 10.f4 b5 now I am not sure if ...b4 is a real threat already, since after 11...b4 12.Nd5 Nxe4 13.Bf3 f5 Black must be careful about the long diagonal a8-h1

11.Be3 Bb7 12.a4 exf4 now that White has spent a tempo moving his Bc1-Bc3 Black releases the tension, by doing so he gain a nice outpost at e5

13.Rxf4 Ne5 The main fight is going around d5 and e5 squares + Black has to care about d6 pawn while White has to defend e4 one, but also gives the d4 one. The same structure appeared in the game of match Karpov-Polugaevsky in 70s of the last century.

What happens now in case White grabs the b5 pawn? Then Black would play ...Ng6 and e4 falls too. f2-f4 it's a typical idea in Sicilian and weakness of e4 as well.Instead of this White has a pressure on d and f files. Another way of treating this kind of pawn-structure would have been f2-f3, next Rf2, Bf1 and Rd2, but White must be sure that ...d6-d5 is impossible in this case.

Looking at the time spent by the players we can make a conclusion that this position is better known for Nepomniachtchi, but we also have to note he is one of the most quick players in the world.

14.Qd4 Nc6 15.Qd2 Ne5 not easy to deal with ...b4 now as after the jump Nd5 Nxd5 exd5 Bg5 would be quite good for Black. Nepomniachtchi can be satisfied with his opening, not to mention his half an hour time advantage.

16.Qd4 Nc6 17.Qd2 Ne5 It must be hard psychologically for Carlsen because he needs to win to be in contention for 1st. He is behind on the clock with no good alternative.

18.axb5 A brave decision by Carlsen! any options for Black now

18... axb5 19.Re1 Many options for Black now I like ...Ng6 and then ...Nxe4 then Black may hope to set the battery Qb7-Be4 and he could aslo dispose of ...Nh4 in some cases...

19... Ng6 20.Rff1 b4 now 21.Nd5 Nxd5 22.exd5 Bf6 seems fine for Black

21.Nd5 Nxe4 The choice of Nepomniachtchi is enough for a comfortable game apparently

22.Nxe7 Ipatov: White had 22.Qd4!? instead of 22.Nxe7+,probably,it was better to not open diagonal h1-a8 for Bishop b7

22... Qxe7 23.Qxb4 Nh4 ...Ng3 may be a threat if 25.hxg3 Bxg2+ 26.Kh2 Qxe3 or Bxf1. But since Carlsen will obviously defend this g2 spot, still Carlsen has taken some risks a perhaps for no good reason and he might have problems on the h1-a8 diagonal. Objectively White's prospects don't seem too great here even if he survives the assault.

24.Bf3 Nxf3 Now White doesn't have a defender on light squares because Ian took the Bishop on f3. It's very unpleasant to play this position with White,no targets to attack + the h1-a8 diagonal is very weak

25.gxf3 Qd7

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26.Bf4 GM Bauer: if Nepo has to find 26...Ra4 27.Qb6 g5 in order to retain his edge he may well fail

26... Ra4 27.Qb6 Nf6 28.Qxd6 Qg4 29.Nd4 Very well calculated by Carlsen, impressive defense 29. ... Bxf3+ 30. Rxf3 Rxd4 31. Qxd4 Qxf3+ 32. Kg1 Qg4+ 33. Kh1 Qc8 34. c4 Rd8 35. Qc3 Qc6+ At the same time news is coming, Nakamura won his game against Vachier Lagrave, while Anand enjoys comfortable advantage against Shirov.

Another continuation can be 29. ... Rxd4 30. Qxd4 Bxf3+ 31. Rxf3 Qxf3+ 32. Kg1 Qg4+ 33. Kh1 Qc8 34. Qf2 Qb7+. The difference in the eval comes from Carlsen having 2 pawn islands and an open king. It is not easy task to coordinate the pieces in such situation, so far Carlsen is doing the best he can.

29... Rxd4 30.Qxd4 Bxf3 31.Rxf3 Qxf3+ 32.Kg1 Qg4+ 33.Kh1 Qc8 Nepomniachtchi plays for the victory! With the white king wide open he has a perpetual in hand and is trying to find a winning continuation. The issues are quite clear : without Queens White would just win, but given his naked King Magnus has to be cautious in the middlegame

34.Qf2 34...Qb7+ seems natural now, but after 35.Kg1 Qxb2 36.Be5 Qb4 37.Bxf6 gxf6 it should be draw. After 34...Qb7+ 35.Qg2 Qxb2 36.Be5 Re8?? due to 37.Rg1+-

34... Qb7 35.Kg1 Ne4 Nepo avoids the draw after Qxb2, but now Carlsen can solidify his position and even think about advancing the queenside pawns.

36.Qd4 Re8 37.Re2 h6 GM Bauer: Black plans ...Re6-g6, but obviously White can play Rg2 first, then an idea for Black is just to advance his kindside pawns

38.h3 Re6 39.Kh2 Following the same idea, Kh7, f5, or g5 are options.

39... f5 40.b4 With just a few seconds on the clock Carlsen looks for drastic mesures. 40....Kh7 is my guess, in order to avoid a Queens' swap after40...g5 41.Qd8+ next 42.Qc7+. White's situation is delicate. True, he has a long-term (well, after 40 moves a middle-term) advantage, but the attack on his King is the dominant factor

40... Kh7 after a later ....g7-g5 White could only dream on Bc1-b2. since he would experience problems after Bc1 Qc7. All in all, I'd say Carlsen might hold with perfect play.

41.Re3 GMChristianBauer: although material is level Stockfish evaluates the position as clearly in Black's favour. JoonaKiiski (Stockfish developer): Stockfish sees that white's king is very exposed. I think that is the main reason why it prefers black so strongly.

41... Rg6 Nepo doesn't wat to burn all the bridges yet and rather than ...g5 he goes for the less radical ...Rg6. The advantage of such an approach is that his own King remains safer. The drawback that Black may need his pawns for the assault in order to shake the Bf4 first, the enemy King then.

42.Re2 Qb5 43.Re1 43. ... Qa6 44. Qe3 Rc6 45. Qd3 Qb6 46. Re2 Rg6 maintaining the pressure on the king

43... Rc6 Chance for Carlsen to reduce the pressure and even to sacrifice R for N and pawn for activity.

44.Rxe4 fxe4 45.Qxe4+ Rg6 46.Bg3 the Rook is temporary pinned, probably h4 for White and h5 for Black will be inserted. White King is still in danger, but Black isn't entirely comfortable either. On various attempts to unpin the Rook, backrank checks might follow. White can also think about carefully pushing the pawns, but the downside is that his Queen is confined to the b1=h7 diagonal for the time being.

46... Qd7 47.h4 h5 this seems winning for Black if he proceeds carefully. After the exchange of Queens the white passed pawns should be hard to push, so that Black would have time to advance with his King. FMGuntramHainke: The following could happen: Black exchanges queens, wins both the b- and c-pawn and exchanges his g-pawn for the white h-pawn, then we have the ending of Shirov-Grischchuk. RobertHoudart (Houdini programmer): if White can push the b-pawn to b6 and protect it with Bf2, it's difficult for Black to make progress.

48.c4 Carlsen with a little over 1 min on the clock, Nepomniachtchi with more than 1 hour.

48... Qd2 49.Kh3 Qc3 50.Qf4 Qxb4 The most natural and the strongest move.

51.Qf5 Qxc4 52.Qxh5 Rh6 Black's king is still safe 53. Qf3 Rf6 54. Qh5+ Kg8 55. Qe8+ Rf8

53.Qf3 Qe6+ 54.Kh2 Rf6 55.Qd3+ Rf5 56.Qc2 In a blitz manner Carlsen keeps the status quo and avoids exchanges.

56... Qd5 57.Bf2 Kh6 Best option for Nepo, put the king into action.

58.Be3 Kh5 is a possibility 58. ... Kh5 59. Bf2 Qf3 60. Bg3 g6 61. Qb2 Qe4

58... Kg6 59.Bf2 Kf6 60.Bg3 Rf1 would be very useful for Black, but White can give many check on the c-file

60... Rf1 61.Bf2 Now the problem for White is that after Ra1 (idea Ra2), Qc3+ black has countercheck Qe5+, forcing the exchange of the Queens

61... Rd1 The threat is Rd2, so White has to move the Bishop (e3, e1), but Rd3! comes in, with idea Qe5+ and Qe4+ squeezing the net around the White King.

62.Qc3+ Qe5+ 63.Qxe5+ Kxe5 64.h5 If White puts the Bishop on g5, Black will muscle his way to bring the King to g4 and Rook to h3 and then take on h4 - the pawn ending is winning in all lines thanks to the extra tempo from the g7-pawn.

64... Kf6 65.Bh4+ Kf5 66.Be7 Rd7 And Carlsen resigned. Excellent technique by the young Russian and European champion to skillfully convert the difficult game into full point. Thank you all for following Chessdom/Chessbomb live coverage, see you Friday 13:30 CET. 0-1