Shocking Collapse by Nepo Gives Carlsen Two Point Lead

It’s Sunday Funday indeed for GM Magnus Carlsen, who has won a second game at the 2021 FIDE World Championship to take a two-point lead (5-3) in the match.

But this victory has as much to do with his challenger’s incomprehensible play as it does with Carlsen’s strength.


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After a relatively quiet opening, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi made a series of stunning decisions, giving up a pawn for nebulous compensation and then eschewing the key tactical variation underpinning the sacrifice, all the while spending almost no time at the board.

The game began calmly enough as a Petroff Defense. Nepo unleased the first surprise with 9. ... h5, a move that the Twitterati liked, as did (apparently) neural net engines.

But almost immediately he seemed to err with 10. Qe1+ Kf8, putting the king on a tough square and burdening himself with poor piece coordination. By move 17 Carlsen already had a very promising position.

After the inexplicable 21. ... b5? 22. Qa3+ Kg8 23. Qxa7 Carlsen had both the pawn and compensation, and when Nepomniachtchi passed up the expected 23. ... Bxh3 — possibly in light of 24. Qxf7+ Qxf7 25. Re8+ Kh7 26. Bxf5 Bf5 and now 27. Bg8+ Kg6 when the h6-rook is a bit stuck — the wheels very quickly came off the black position.

The pain felt by the always demonstrative challenger was all too apparent.


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Soon Nepomniachtchi was reduced to playing for a thankless queen and pawn ending with 25. ... Be6, and the position devolved from there. Soon some commentators — ok, one commentator — were openly wondering why the Russian had not resigned.


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Nepomniachtchi threw in the towel on the 46th move, and one hopes that with the rest day tomorrow, he can steel himself after this collapse and make the remainder of the match competitive.

GM Alexander Shabalov is today’s guest annotator. He does not mince his words!

Monday sees a rest day for the competitors, with the ninth round of the 2021 FIDE World Championship on Tuesday beginning at 7:30 Eastern.

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