Ian Nepomniachtchi took a step closer to a place in the 2020 Candidates tournaments.
He has won the first match of the semi-finals against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave at the FIDE Jerusalem Grand Prix. The Russian Grandmasters needs to past his French rival in the second game and go on to win the tournament to leapfrog the latter in the overall standings.
Vachier-Lagravewill start the second classical of the semi-finals with White.
In the first match, Nepomniachtchi came well-prepared against 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.
Chinese grandmaster Wei Yi, on the other hand, was totally unprepared for his game against David Navarra. Wei Yi 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”.