Ian Nepomniachtchi outplayed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the first game of the match that will determine who will get a spot in the Candidates tournament 2020. As a result, the Russian player grabbed the lead and, to level the score, the French grandmaster has to win with White in the second classical game. The first game of the second semifinal, Wei Yi vs David Navara, ended in a draw.
Ian Nepomniachtchi came well-prepared against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s Grünfeld and surprised his opponent with a rare move 8.Be3. “It’s nothing serious but it worked out pretty well. He chose an interesting way but strategically it’s very dangerous,” commented Ian after the game. Maxime spent 20 minutes and decided to grab the bishop on e3, letting his opponent get a strong center instead. The French grandmaster considered to go for a long defense, but could not stop being true to himself and chose to complicate the position by playing 14…b5. According to Ian, the game would have continued if Maxime played 19…c5, sacrificing another pawn to open the position. It turned out that Maxime was tempted to play the force line starting with 21…Be5 and missed a very strong 24.Ne4 at the end of the variation.
If Maxime fails to level the score tomorrow, he is out of the tournament and Nepomniachtchi would have the qualification for the Candidates on his own hands. The Russian would also need to win the final to leap over Vachier-Lagrave in the overall standings.
A funny accident happened in the game Wei Yi – David Navara. The Chinese grandmaster came to the game, thinking he plays with Black – a real nightmare for any chess player! Playing without any preparation, he spent a lot of time at the opening and came out with some original ideas. David Navara managed to equalize the position and even got some minor chances in the rook endgame. Wei Yi was defending precisely and the players continued the game “to the naked kings”.
The second games of the semifinals start on December 18. Tune in at 3pm (GMT+2) for the second game:
Vachier-Lagrave – Nepomniachtchi
Navara – Wei Yi