CBM 203 Revisited: Nepo in action and Carlsen’s Achilles’ Heel
Review by Nagesh Havanur
In no more than ten days the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi will be under way. While a lot has been written on the world champion, relatively less has been written on the challenger. A recent issue of ChessBase Magazine offered a Nepomniachtchi Special focusing on his games, style, and virtuosity in every department of the game. It also dealt with the play of the world champion, especially, his performance in the world Cup. While he did shine in some games, he lost the critical encounter with Duda and bowed out of the event. That raises some serious questions.
CBM 203 Revisited Review by Nagesh Havanur
In chess as in life you can’t win everything. Ask Magnus, he knows. He has won every single title in chess, but not the World Cup. Time and again it has eluded him no matter how he tried. That’s what happened in Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi. The ascent was slippery even as he beat Wojtaszek, Esipenko and Bacrot in succession. Then came the duel with Duda. Three tough draws followed by the fourth that became the decisive battle.
FIDE Official Site/Photo/Anastasiia Korolkova
For starters, everything appeared OK. Magnus was playing his favourite Bb5 line against Duda’s Sicilian. Then the tide turned against him in the middlegame. He still had chances of survival in the endgame. However, a disaster was waiting for him. This game has been commented on by quite a few experts. Among them I have found the analysis of its final phase by Karsten Müller on this page valuable. I have also considered the annotations by the winner himself in New in Chess Magazine.
Here is the game:
Magnus Carlsen- Jan-Krzysztof Duda, World Cup, 2021
A game that raises quite a few questions about Carlsen’s play. Few can beat him in slow maneuvering play. However, this kind of play has its flipside. His preparation of such positions in the middlegame is at times over elaborate and takes too much time. Meanwhile the opponent’s counterplay takes shape and turns the tide in his favor. That’s what happened here. If at all, Carlsen’s play has an Achilles’ heel, this is it. Now no one is more aware of it than Carlsen himself. He would do all that he can to avoid this happening in the coming world championship match. That brings us to the challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Ian, the Enigma
This issue offers a Nepomniachtchi Special. The main section has 21 annotated games, and the names of opponents reads like the Who’s who in modern chess, Kasparov, Gelfand, Aronian, Nakamura and Carlsen of course, to mention a few.
For starters, we can look at the following encounter with one of the greatest players of all time:
Garry Kasparov-Ian Nepomniachtchi, St. Louis Chess Club Rapid 2017
A battle of generations!
Among other games in this Nepo Special the following contest deserves special mention:
Ian Nepomniachtchi-Magnus Carlsen, Legends of Chess 2020
A sparkling miniature!
In fairness to Carlsen he did go on to win the tournament ahead of Nepomniachtchi and everyone else.
Apart from these 21 annotated games there are also 17 tests of skill based on Nepo’s positional judgement and strategy followed by 13 exercises on his endgame play by Karsten Mûller.
Nepo has had an eventful chess career and there are more than 2500 games in MegaBase alone. While Carlsen remains the favorite, Nepo represents a serious challenge in the forthcoming world championship match. More on this in my next review.
Opening videos and surveys
There are 3 opening videos in this issue. The first features a lecture on the Sicilian Richter Rauser Variation by Mihail Marin. The second offers an exposition on the Catalan by Jan Werle. The third is an introduction to the Nimzo-Larsen Attack by Daniel King. Take your pick.
Apart from these videos there are 9 opening surveys ranging from the Caro-Kann to the Grûnfeld. Nimzo-Indian fans should check out the All-in-one the survey on the Saemisch Variation (4.f3).
Besides opening surveys, this issue has standard features on tactics, strategy, and the endgame.
The main database of the issue has 1218 recent games of which 29 are deeply annotated.
Commentators include Anish Giri, Nikita Vitiugov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov among others. Major contributions are made by Adhiban Baskaran (6 games) and Michal Krasenkow (5 games).
It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the sections on opening theory and training.
Well, practice makes perfect.
1) As is known, Duda won the World Cup, eliminating Grischuk, Carlsen and Karjakin in succession. Remaining unbeaten in the entire event he had appeared invincible. Then reaction set in. He lost the Quarter Final Match to Magnus in Aimchess US Rapid Tournament and succumbed again to the world champion’s onslaught in the Meltwater Final competition. But then he is young and for the young there is always a tomorrow.
Indeed, if you look at his games from the World Cup in this issue, you can see his talent yourself.
2)As of now, two books have appeared on Ian Nepomniachtchi:
Nail it like Nepo by Zenon Franco, Elk and Ruby Publishing House.2021
Nepomniachtchi Move by Move by Cyrus Lakdawala, EveryMan Chess.2021
There is general info. on Nepomniactchi’s own web site:
3) Interview with Nepomniachtchi after his victory in the Candidates’ Tournament
4)More info. on this DVD is here:
Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as “chessbibliophile”) is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for more than three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography, and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for nearly three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.