The 12th game of the championship match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Liren Ding again reminded me of a roller coaster. Nepomniachtchi played with black, having a one-point advantage over Dean – 6:5. Before that, four games in a row ended in a draw. 1.5 points in the 12th and 13th games allowed Jan to win ahead of schedule. However, the match went in a completely different scenario.
Our chess player with black pieces had a noticeable advantage in the course of the game, which, according to a computer estimate, reached a maximum of -2.6. However, then with a series of fast inaccurate moves – from the 26th to the 30th – Nepomniachtchi drove himself into a dead end, from which there was no escape.
Dean won, the score in the match was equal – 6:6.
Now everything will be decided in the 13th and 14th games: tomorrow, April 27, Jan plays with white, and on Saturday, April 29, with black. If equality remains after them, the opponents will play rapid chess in a tie-break.
So what happened to Nepomniachtchi? Is it a nervous breakdown or a miscalculation? We are discussing with the grandmaster and coach of the Russian women’s team Sergei Rublevsky .
1. Nepomniachtchi forced Ding to castle short and seized the initiative in the game
It can be seen that Jan is well prepared in the opening. He gave up the tempo by not immediately placing his bishop on g4 and forced White to castle shortly. Ding seems to have underestimated this bishop, and White’s position rapidly deteriorated.
I can’t say that everything was decided here, but Jan’s position was noticeably better than White’s.
2. Nepomniachtchi made three moves in three minutes and collapsed the position
After the b4 move, Jan unexpectedly played very quickly and inaccurately. One after another, he made a series of reckless and bad moves that systematically turned the position from a stronger one to a losing one.
It seemed as if Ian was in a stupor – even the commentators of the match noticed this. There was no need to play fast, he had enough time. But Yang slapped one move after another, each of which was extremely unconvincing.
3. A yawn from Nepomniachtchi led to the victory of the Chinese
The move f5 is an obvious blunder, after which Ding only had to technically realize his advantage. A few moves later, Yang was forced to admit defeat.
So what happened to Nepomniachtchi?
Obviously, this is not a story about chess, but about nerves. Yang could not stand it purely psychologically. I remember when I myself played in knockout tournaments, this happened. The body could not withstand the stress and wanted to finish the game as soon as possible.
At such moments, you lost control and made inadequate moves. It didn’t matter what happened on the board, how the game ended, as long as it was all over. There was no energy even for emotions. This is pure physiology and psychology.
What’s next? Before Nepomniachtchi – champion’s choice
This defeat, of course, is very sensitive for Jan. Now the psychological advantage is on Dean’s side. On April 27, Nepomniachtchi will play with white, and in principle, considering how effectively Ian uses the white color in this match, nothing terrible happened. The score is equal – 6:6.
But here Jan’s team has to decide. Will Yang be able to recover in a day and come to his senses after such a game? Or maybe White should choose a dry line and draw everything? And hope that Dean doesn’t take too many risks in the final game either. Four more days will pass before the tie-break – enough time to forget everything and start again.
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