Ian Nepomniachtchi overcame Vishy Anand in the final game of Day 2 of the Levitov Chess Week to take the sole lead going into the final two rounds on Tuesday. Before that “it felt like Vishy was back to his best years” (Svidler) as he impressively outplayed Boris Gelfand and Vladimir Kramnik in a 3-game winning streak. For Big Vlad it was a day to forget, as the retired World Champion lost all three games.
The Levitov Chess Week tournament isn’t being broadcast live – the organiser Ilya Levitov wants to try getting back to the atmosphere when the audience didn’t immediate know more than the players – but you can replay all the games using the selector below:
And here’s 8-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler to take us through the highlights of Day 2:
There were competing narratives on Day 2, with Vishy at first building on his success in Paris to take control. The Sicilian Rossolimo in his first game against Boris Gelfand is described as, “quite significantly theoretically important” by Peter, and overall the game looked like total positional domination. Such domination often hinges on tactical details, however, and Peter points out a critical moment. After Vishy’s 22.g3 the move Boris would have liked to make is 22…Qh3?, when h4 is threatened and Black would be better…
…if not for 23.Qxd5!! exd5 24.Ng5 and the queen is trapped. The computer says that variation is only slightly worse than 22…Qe7, as played in the game, so it was no surprise when Vishy went on to win without any trouble whatsoever.
In the next round Anand beat his old rival Kramnik in what Svidler called, “a very nice and instructive victory”. Kramnik played the same Giuoco Piano setup that Grischuk had employed in what he thought was one of his best games ever against Fabiano Caruana in Paris last week, but found himself essentially a tempo down. Vishy used that to take over on the queenside, where his passed pawns supported by his knight and heavy pieces proved unstoppable.
Vishy went into the last round of the day as the sole leader, half a point ahead of Nepomniachtchi, but it was the young Russian who would win and overtake him. Once again Peter called it, “potentially something that people will look at from a theoretical viewpoint” as Vishy repeated a line he’d tried against Magnus Carlsen in their Armageddon game in the recent Norway Chess only to run into a novelty on move 10. What seemed a relatively innocuous ending proved very hard for Black to play, until we got a nice conclusion with 33.Rb1! Ba8:
Peter quoted the old wisdom that, “one of the biggest advantages of having two bishops is you can always give up one of them for more significant gains,” to introduce 34.Bxf6! Vishy resigned, since after 34…Rxf6 35.Rb8 the black bishop is trapped.
Nepo was in touching distance of the lead because he’d won his first game of the day, despite having found himself in the usually terminal situation of being a full pawn down for no compensation against Vladimir Kramnik. As Peter explained, however, “Ian is a very, very resourceful player and he spots little tactical ideas incredibly quickly”, with the first being the beautiful 22…Bxe5! 23.dxe5 f6!
The point is that 24.exd6? runs into 24…Qxe3+ 25.Kh1 (25.Rf2 Qxc1+ prolongs the game, but won’t change the outcome) 25…Rxh2+! 26.Kxh2 Rh8+ and mate next move.
Vladimir was still better after 24.Qc3, but the pressure was relentless, until 34…c3! was an unexpected knockout blow:
The former champion thought for over 6 minutes, but it’s already too late. After 35.Rxc3 Rd1+ 36.Kf2 Qd8! there was no refuge for the white king, which soon found itself in a mating net.
So with just two rounds to go the standings look as follows:
Nepomniachtchi has Black against Giri and White against Bareev to end his tournament. Once again the games aren’t being broadcast live, but we’ll add them here when they become available.
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