Tournament report

Nepo One Draw Away from Reaching the Candidates

Ian Nepomniachtchi won the first game against Wei Yi in the final match of Jerusalem Grand Prix. The Russian plays with White in the second game tomorrow and needs a draw to win the tournament and get a spot in the Candidates 2020.

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Yoav Evenstein, Consultant and Analyst in Evenovate and Tel Aviv University, made a first symbolic move in the first game of the final Wei Yi – Nepomniachtchi.

Both players were smiling when they saw 1.Nc3 on the board and a few seconds later playing White Wei Yi, chose 1.Nf3 instead. Four knights variation in English Opening was played in what turned to be the longest game of Jerusalem Grand Prix so far.

After quite a rare 12.Rb1 Ian chose 12…Qb4, proposing queen’s exchange. Even though It was the first key moment in the game, surprisingly it took Wei Yi record-breaking 53 minutes to play 13.Qd1, avoiding the exchange.

On 31st move the Chinese grandmaster had a choice to finish the game in a draw or to play on. Ian Nepomniachtchi expected his opponent to finish the game, thinking the position was balanced but with only a few seconds on his clock, Wei Yi refused to repeat the moves but was tempted to play a risky 32.Nb5. He entered a force double-edged line where every move could have been a decisive one. According to Wei Yi, he simply missed the strong idea of exchange sacrifice, followed with 32.Qb2.

Being short on time, Wei Yi didn’t find a precise 34.Ra1 and ended up in a difficult position where only Black was playing for a win. Ian Nepomniachtchi didn’t want to force the position and kept putting pressure on his opponent waiting for the best moment to push d4. White’s position collapsed in a few moves after Ian has finally played 84.d4. The only move 87.Qa3 could have given hopes for White to save the game. In the post-game interview, the Chinese grandmaster said he was not sure if he could have held his position by playing precisely but it was definitely hard to defend it for so long. The game finished after 96 moves.

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