Aagaard on the Candidates - Round 14

For the fourteenth and final installment of his “Candidates Game of the Day” series, GM Jacob Aagaard has analyzed GM Ding Liren's victory over GM Ian Nepomniachtchi 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 13 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 "2021.04.27"] [Round "14.3"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2791"] [BlackElo "2789"] [Annotator "Aagaard"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 e6 4. e4 c5 5. d5 d6 {[#]} 6. Bd3 {Deviating from past Ding-Nepo battles in the KID.} (6. Nc3 exd5 7. cxd5 Bg7 8. Nge2 O-O 9. Ng3 a6 10. a4 Nbd7 11. Be2 Ne8 12. O-O Rb8 13. Re1 Nc7 (13... Bd4+ 14. Kh1 Qh4 15. Rf1 Ne5 (15... Ng7 $5) 16. f4 Ng4 17. Bxg4 Bxg4 18. Qe1 Nf6 (18... f5 $132) 19. e5 $1 $14 {Ding Liren – Nepomniachtchi, Internet 2019.}) 14. Bf4 Qe7 15. Qd2 Re8 16. a5 b5 17. axb6 Rxb6 $11 {Ding Liren – Nepomniachtchi, 2019.}) 6... Bg7 ({The sharp} 6... b5 $5 $146 {might be worth a try.}) 7. Ne2 exd5 8. cxd5 Nbd7 9. Nec3 $146 {Technically a novelty, but of course a very logical move.} a6 10. a4 {[#]} Nh5 $5 {Nepomniachtchi tries to exploit White's quirky bishop move with quick action on the dark squares of the kingside.} (10... O-O { was also reasonable.}) 11. O-O Bd4+ 12. Kh1 Ne5 13. Ne2 (13. Bc2 $5 O-O 14. Ne2 Qh4 {also provides Black with counterplay, even though it is possible White can apply a little pressure.}) 13... Qh4 $1 14. Nxd4 {[#]} Nxd3 $2 {A horrible mistake. Nepomniachtchi's main weakness is his impulsive and intuitive play. In a concrete position, this is not going to do him much good. Here simple calculation could have warned him.} (14... cxd4 15. Kg1 g5 $1 {with the idea .. .g5-g4-g3 would provide Black with sufficient counterplay.}) 15. Qxd3 Ng3+ 16. Kg1 Nxf1 17. Nc2 Nxh2 18. Qe3 $1 {[#] One can only guess that Nepomniachtchi had missed this idea. White is taking over the dark squares and in the long run winning the black knight.} O-O $6 {This goes down without resistance. But it was probably already too late anyway.} (18... g5 $5 {was necessary, but Black's position is immensely difficult all the same. White could develop his pieces, or go for a direct attack with:} 19. e5 $5 (19. Qxg5 $2 Nxf3+ 20. gxf3 Qxg5+ 21. Bxg5 Rg8 {is the tactical idea for Black's attempt to fight for the dark squares.}) 19... Bf5 20. exd6+ Kf8 21. Nba3 $1 Re8 22. Qf2 Qxf2+ 23. Kxf2 Rg8 24. Be3 {[#] White has an overwhelming advantage. For example:} Re5 25. b4 $1 Bxc2 26. Nxc2 c4 27. Rd1 {and it is hard to believe that Black will survive this endgame.}) 19. Qg5 Nxf3+ 20. gxf3 Qh3 21. Bf4 $1 {[#] Ding brings out his pieces and dominates on the dark squares. The game is over and White has many ways to win it.} Qxf3 22. Nd2 f6 {Black has no alternative to go for this lost endgame. After} (22... Qd3 23. Qf6 {White's attack plays itself. There are ideas with Bh6 and Bxd6 followed by Be5. For example:} Bg4 24. Re1 Rae8 25. Re3 Qxc2 26. Bh6 {with mate.}) 23. Qxg6+ hxg6 24. Nxf3 Bg4 25. Nd2 Be2 26. Kf2 Bd3 27. Ne1 c4 28. Bxd6 Rfe8 29. Nxd3 cxd3 30. Bc7 Kf7 31. Ra3 Rac8 32. d6 Ke6 33. Rxd3 Kd7 34. Nc4 Rxc7 {[#]} 35. Nb6+ {A final tactic. It was unnecessary, but a nice finish for Ding Liren, who had a tournament he would otherwise rather forget. While for Nepomniachtchi, it was the most horrible experience he could imagine as the Candidates. In chess history, we remember game 8 of the Anand - Gelfand match in Moscow, 2012, where Gelfand lost his lead by losing in 17 moves in the same variation...} 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
Round 10 - Nepomniachtchi - Alekseenko
Round 11 - Giri - Ding Liren
Round 12 - Caruana - Giri
Round 13 - Ding Liren - Alekseenko


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