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Bruce Pandolfini: Nepo Might Win the Match

Bruce Pandolfini is the world’s most experienced chess coach and incidentally the man who came up with the title for ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, the book that was repurposed into the eponymous Netflix Series.

When Pandolfini appeared in the Breakdown Live Studio by World Chess to discuss the Candidates Tournament, he shared his take on the upcoming Championship Match: “It’s hard to stay at the top for so long – even for a brilliant mind like Carlsen”.

Magnus Carlsen will have to defend his title against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi — a formidable opponent, according to Carlsen.

 No comments    169   22 h   Main feature   Match 2021   Nepo   Video

A Look Back at How Another Russian Became The Challenger (a Film)

Back in 2016, Sergey Karjakin, the Russian grandmaster, won the Candidates Tournament and earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen. Karjakin lost the match on tie-breaks but became one of the most recognized players in the sport. We made a film about the Candidates Tournament — you can watch it now to look at what it was like.

 No comments    148   4 d   Karjakin   Main feature   Video

Looking Back at the Recent Space Chess Game

Sergey Karjakin is playing against the cosmonauts

On June 9 of 2020, the second ever chess match between Space and Earth took place in the main hall of the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics. The event has been co-organized by the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics, Roscosmos, the Russian State Corporation, the Chess Federation of Russia, and the social network VKontakte. The game took place online on FIDE Online Arena.

The match featured pilot-cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and test-cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, who delivered the battle from aboard the International Space Station. Representing team Earth was Sergey Karjakin – a rapid and blitz world champion, and two-time winner of the world team championships as part of the Russian team. He played the game in the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics.

The match was timed precisely to the half-century anniversary of the first Space to Earth game of chess played on June 9, 1970. Not unlike 50 years ago, the first move advantage belonged to the space crew.

The game ended in a draw. The VKontakte platform gathered more than 800,000 people to watch the match broadcast.

Mr. Ivanishin has noted that it was a great honor for cosmonauts to hold their ground against a grandmaster.

Sergey Karjakin has shared his impressions of the game: “In this game, my emotions ran higher than in any game played by me in the world championship match. This is because when you play against team Space, you have no idea what to expect. The game was very interesting and sharp, and, at the same time, quite a correct one in terms of chess content. I do not think the opponents have made any mistakes; therefore, a draw is a natural outcome. A human brain seems to function extremely well in space. They say, space brings people together. As we have seen today, chess can indeed help people of various professions reach each other even across space. Therefore, let us organize such matches more frequently than on a once-per-50-year basis.

A well-known TV presenter and sports commentator Dmitry Guberniev and head of the Museum’s press service Daria Chudnaya were hosts of the program. Greetings were sent by the Minister of Sports of the Russian Federation Oleg Matytsin, Director General of the Roscosmos State Corporation Dmitry Rogozin, and the Museum of Cosmonautics Director Natalya Artyukhina. A video was shown during the stream with a story about the legendary Space Chess set and an interview with the many-time world champion Anatoly Karpov.

You can watch the match commented in the English language on the YouTube channels of Roscosmos and FIDE.

The anniversary match has become the culmination of celebrations dedicated to the legendary chess game.

 No comments    144   4 d   Karjakin   Main feature   Space

Candidates Round 13 — Nepo is the next challenger

Nepomniachtchi qualified for the World Chess Championship match against Carlsen with a draw in Round 13. With one more round to go, the Russian Grandmaster granted his spot at the World Championship in November, after his draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and after Giri’s defeat from Grischuk. Anish Giri was half a point away from Nepomniachtchi in R12, but after the outcome of R13, the one point difference between the two Grandmasters is decisive.

Ian Nepomniachtchi will play in the Championship Match. Photo by Lennart Ootes/FIDE

Results R13:

White Result Black
Wang Hao 0-1 Fabiano Caruana
Nepomniachtchi ½-½ Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Kirill Alekseenko 0-1 Ding Liren
Alexander Grischuk 1-0 Anish Giri

Yesterday, the atmosphere was heavy for players and fans. We were switching games every 5 minutes, analyzing both Nepo’s and Giri’s single moves, and waiting patiently for these pivot results.

At Nepo’s game everything was going smoothly and a draw seemed right around the corner, until a pawn sacrifice by MVL spiced things up. The position turned from questionable for Black to a very interesting one, with some complications. “It’s not easy but at least I got some sort of fighting game,” said Vachier-Lagrave.

On the other hand, Giri’s game was not that promising. As early as move 14...h5, showed that Giri’s confidence was about to be demolished. His need for winning chances, left Anish with a poor judgement and a rather thankless position by move 27.

Afterwards Grischuk stated: “My plan was to play like a terrorist, to terrorize him with a draw and if he goes for a worse position then I will play. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. If he had played for equality I would just try to force a draw and most likely succeed.”

Later that day and after both games results, Magnus congratulated his friend, with his own unique way!

He also stated: “It’s very interesting. He’s a very, very strong opponent. Somebody who also plays very aggressively, and usually gives his opponents chances as well. In that sense, there is every chance there’s going to be an exciting match”

Second consecutive loss for Wang Hao

Caruana was mathematically out of the assertion of the challenger’s position, but this doesn’t mean that his chess doesn’t amaze us! After a great game, and a crucial mistake from Wang on move 40, Fabiano got a desirable win, and moved closer to the Top 3.

A strategic game

Alekseenko played against Ding Liren on R13, which didn’t leave him with the result he wished for. Kirill came from half a point in three games and Liren from an impressive win against Grischuk in R12, which seemed to have played a role in both players’ psychology.

The game had a strategic character, but Alekseenko rushed his decision at a critical position, and went from winning the game in one move to losing the game on the same move.

WGM Dina Belenkaya and GM Ernesto Inarkiev hosted the  Candidates Breakdown Studio, and commented on the pivotal games of R13 with NM Bruce Pandolfini.

Standings after R12:

# Player Position
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi
2 Anish Giri
3 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 7
4 Fabiano Caruana 7
5 Alexander Grischuk
6 Ding Liren 6
7 Wang Hao 5
8 Kirill Alekseenko

Pairings R13:

Caruana – Grischuk
Giri – Alekseenko
Ding – Nepomniachtchi
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Wang

 No comments    441   9 d   Candidates 2021   Match 2021   Nepo

Candidates Round 12 — The “other” won again

Cover by Lennart Ootes/FIDE

Round 12 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament is over, and there were 4 decisive games! It’s very rare to have so many decisive games at such a high level, but for the players, it’s a must-win situation, which usually results in a decisive game, one way or the other.

The highlight of Round 12 was Giri’s win with Black against Fabiano Caruana, but also Nepo’s win against Wang Hao, which keeps him at the top of The Candidates with 8 points. Also, MVL achieved his first win at the second part of the tournament against Alekseenko, and Grischuk and Liren played the original Queen’s Gambit line, with Liren winning the game.

Results of Round 12:

Caruana 0–1 Giri
Ding Liren 1–0 Grischuk
Vachier-Lagrave 1–0 Alekseenko
Wang Hao 0–1 Nepomniachtchi

The “other” won #2 with Black

Photo by Lennart Ootes/FIDE

Anish Giri shined again with a masterful performance against Caruana. During the game, Anish tried to complicate things in order to get the lead, but Caruana equalized the position with his flexible and quiet moves. In the middlegame though, Fabi was conquered by an optimistic vibe, destroyed his queen’s side pawn structure for an important central square, which put him into a very unpleasant position after Giri’s exceptional defense.

At one point Caruana seemed very off on the chessboard and after an inaccuracy, Giri finished the game, winning with Black the World’s No.2!

Earlier this month, chesscom didn’t even put Anish on its poll for winning the tournament, and referred to him as the “other”, but as it turns out Giri is going for the win! As Boris Gelfand stated at the BREAKDOWN LIVE SHOW with WGM Dina Belenkaya and GM Ernesto Inarkiev: “Anish represents a combination of great positional and dynamic abilities”, which finds us totally aligned.

Also, GM Michael Adams commented on Anish’s game against Caruana, and he gladly said that he would be very happy to have played such a game with Black, because it’s a very high quality performance!

Watch Michael’s comments on the game below.

A win for a win

Photo by Lennart Ootes/FIDE

Ian Nepomniachtchi stays at the top after his win against Wang Hao, but as he stated at the Press Conference, he thinks that the situation of the tournament after R12 is still very complex. We can understand his worries, taking into account that Anish Giri seems to have a great tournament so far, and they are only half a point away with 2 more rounds to go.

The game between these Top Grandmasters was very interesting, with Nepo playing the Petrov Defense, an opening that he is not so skilled at. After many exchanges forced by Wang Hao, he couldn’t achieve an equal position, even though there were some opportunities. After the end of the game, Wang Hao admitted that: “After 40 moves I started to play like a 2200 player.”

First win for MVL at the resume of the Candidates

Photo by Lennart Ootes/FIDE

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is having a hard tournament so far, which is such a pity after his impressive performance at the 1st half of the Candidates. On R12 though he played a great game against Kirill Alekseenko, with 3.f3 against the Caro-Kann Defense.

The game was very well controlled by Maxime, who was feeling very comfortable with his position, carefully watching for any tactical counterplay for Black, and slowly gaining advantage during the game. After the positive outcome of his game, he stated that his goal for the next two rounds is to play two good games.

An original Queen’s Gambit

Photo by Lennart Ootes/FIDE

At the game between Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk, a very interesting line of the Queen’s Gambit was played, with Grischuk struggling to pull it off as Black. Later in the game, Alexander sacrificed two pawns in order to create a more complicated position but Liren stayed calm and turned the situation in his favor, ending up winning the game.

Live Breakdown with special guests WGM Dana Reizniece-Ozola & GM Michael Adams

WGM Dina Belenkaya and GM Ernesto Inarkiev, as every day at 5 pm GMT, hosted the Breakdown Studio, and commented on the decisive games of the round with WGM Dana Reizniece-Ozola & GM Michael Adams

Watch the breoadcast below.

Standings after R12:

# Player Position
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 8
2 Anish Giri
3 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
4 Fabiano Caruana 6
5 Alexander Grischuk
6-7 Wang Hao, Ding Liren 5
8 Kirill Alekseenko

#Pairings R13:

Wang Hao – Fabiano Caruana
Nepomniachtchi – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Kirill Alekseenko – Ding Liren
Alexander Grischuk – Anish Giri

 No comments    309   9 d   Candidates 2021
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