Aagaard on the Candidates - Round 10

For the tenth installment of his “Candidates Game of the Day” series, GM Jacob Aagaard has analyzed GM Ian Nepomniachtchi's important victory over GM Kirill Alekseenko as only he could – deeply, extensively, definitively. This is the analysis that the experts will be quoting tomorrow, and we have it exclusively here at Chess Life Online.




Fans of Aagaard's work may also want to check out his recap of Round 10 on the Killer Chess Training YouTube channel.




Below we provide Aagaard’s analysis in replayable format. For those who prefer paper, boards, and pieces, we have created a pdf version.

You can also check out an alternative replayable version posted in the ChessBase Cloud.


[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates Tournament"] [Site "chess24.com"] [Date "2021.04.21"] [Round "10.4"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Alekseenko, Kirill"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2789"] [BlackElo "2696"] [Annotator "Aagaard"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {Today's round was the least interesting of the tournament so far. Our game of the day is very one-sided, but because it put Nepomniachtchi a full point ahead of the field, so we should look at it.} 1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 e6 3. Bg2 d5 4. Nf3 dxc4 {[#] According to the "old way" (early 20th century!) way of thinking, this is a concession, giving White an additional centre pawn. As we shall see, this is not stupid at all: Black gets some activity in return, and so many of today's players are happy to make this trade.} 5. Qa4+ Nbd7 6. Qxc4 a6 7. Qc2 $1 {When this came into fashion, Black's life got a bit more difficult. In the old days, you played ... b5 with a tempo and ...Bb7 without problem. Without the queen on c4, this is not as easy.} c5 8. Nc3 {[#]} Be7 $6 {This looks like the most natural move in the world, but is just a mistake. Black can always and easily solve his problems on the kingside later. It is much harder to develop the queenside, as Alekseenko is soon to learn.} (8... Qc7 $1 {is the theoretical solution. Black is preparing ... b5.} 9. O-O b6 $1 (9... b5 10. a4 b4 11. Nd1 {, when the knight will soon appear on c4 is a bit unpleasant for Black.}) 10. d4 Bb7 {White can still create something though:} 11. Bf4 Bd6 12. Bxd6 Qxd6 13. Rfd1 O-O 14. e4 {White had the tiniest of pressures in Giri – Karjakin, Riga 2019.}) 9. O-O O-O 10. d4 cxd4 $2 {Another concession. It is both the most popular move, and a very bad one!} ({Black had to play} 10... b5 {, and see what happens. Here White has three options: [#]} 11. dxc5 (11. Ne5 $5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Nd5 13. Nxd5 $146 (13. Rd1 Bb7 $11 {with equality in Oparin – Vetoshko, Internet 2020.}) 13... exd5 14. Be3 Be6 15. Bxc5 $1 Qc7 16. b4 a5 17. Qd3 axb4 18. Bxe7 Qxe7 19. Bxd5 Rfd8 20. e4 {White is pressing a little bit, but Black should be fine with a few accurate moves.}) ({Strongest is therefore} 11. Ng5 $1 $146 Ra7 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Bf4 {, when the knight is ready to drop back to e4, with some pressure.}) 11... Bb7 12. b4 a5 13. Nxb5 Be4 14. Qb2 axb4 15. Nd6 Nxc5 $11 {was equal in Barros Rivadeneira – Vazquez, Guatape 2016.}) 11. Nxd4 Qc7 ({The difficulties Black faces can be seen in the following example:} 11... Bc5 12. Rd1 Qe7 13. h3 Rd8 14. Nb3 Bd6 15. Be3 Rb8 { [#] and at this point White chose to make a draw:} 16. Ba7 ({If he had instead played something along the lines of} 16. Rac1 h6 17. Qd2 Ne5 18. Bb6 Rd7 19. Na4 {, Black's position would getting near to collapse.}) 16... Ra8 17. Be3 Rb8 18. Ba7 $2 {and here Antoniewski – Papp, Slovakia 2015, was drawn.}) 12. Rd1 Rd8 $146 {An untested move, but not preparation.} 13. Be3 Nb6 (13... Ne5 { would be more natural, but White is ready for action. Probably Black was afraid of} 14. Na4 $1 Qxc2 15. Nxc2 Rxd1+ 16. Rxd1 {, when he has to play} Ned7 {, and he will never get the queenside developed.}) 14. Rac1 e5 {This is a bad move. Unfortunately, it is also the best possible move in the situation.} 15. Nf5 Bxf5 {Another concession. From here there is no return.} ({But after} 15... Bf8 {[#]} 16. Nxg7 $3 Kxg7 (16... Bxg7 17. Ne4 Rxd1+ 18. Qxd1 {and White wins.} ) 17. Qb3 Nbd7 $6 (17... Nc4 {is objectively best. But after} 18. Rxd8 Nxe3 19. Rxf8 {White ends a clear pawn up, with all his positional trumps intact.}) 18. Ne4 {White has a winning attack and can play it multiple ways.} Qb8 19. Nxf6 Kxf6 {[#]} 20. Bg5+ Kxg5 21. Qxf7 {with mate in the near future is a nice one.} Qa7 22. Rd6 Bxd6 23. Qg7+ Kf5 24. e4+ Ke6 25. Bh3#) 16. Qxf5 Nc4 17. Bg5 Rxd1+ 18. Nxd1 Rd8 {[#] The winning line here was not difficult.} (18... Qd8 { was a bit better, but still lost after} 19. Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Bxb7 {with a simple pawn up.}) 19. Bxf6 $1 Bxf6 20. Be4 {Black cannot defend the h7-square. White can now win many ways, and Nepomniachtchi chooses one of them.} Qa5 21. Nc3 Kf8 22. Nd5 b5 23. Qxh7 Rxd5 24. Bxd5 Qd2 25. Rxc4 bxc4 26. e4 (26. Qh8+ Ke7 27. Qa8 $1 {was a bit cleaner, but there is no real difference.}) 26... Qxb2 27. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Qc8 Qb6 29. Qxc4 Qb5 30. Qc7+ Qd7 31. Qc5+ {[#] White will pick up another pawn and the conversion will not be difficult.} 1-0 [/pgn]

Previous "Aagaard on the Candidates" installments:

Round 1 - Giri-Nepomniachtchi 
Round 2 - Caruana-Alekseenko 
Round 3 - Ding Liren-Caruana 
Round 4 - Vachier-Lagrave - Grischuk 
Round 5 - Nepomniachtchi - Wang Hao 
Round 6 - Nepomniachtchi - Ding Liren 
Round 7 - Vachier-Lagrave - Nepomniatchtchi
Round 8 - Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave
Round 9 - Giri - Wang Hao