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Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Richard Rapport
Norway Chess (2021) (armageddon), Stavanger NOR, rd 5, Sep-12
Scandinavian Defense: Classical Variation (B01)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-12-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: While I admire giving the Scandinavian a go against such a formidable opponent (it being one of my own main defenses to 1.e4), I’m confused by black’s willingness to give up the queen. Why not 20…Qc7 21.c4 Nxd2 22.Qxd2 bxc4 23.bxc4 Be4?
Sep-12-21  SChesshevsky: <...black's willingness to give up the queen. Why not 20...Qc7 etc?....>

Probably a smart practical GM call. Rapport knows he's worse. In the line 20...Qc7 21. c4 Nxd2 22. Qxd2 bxc4 23. bxc4 Be4, the B on e4 isn't very secure. After the natural 24. Re3, it's either ...Bh1 or ...Bh7. You'd rather not give up the a8 diagonal but ...Bh1 looks ugly. ...Bh7 may be useful but takes time and white is going to probably just open up the center pretty quickly with d5 exposing blacks king and get a strong Bg2. Not hard to imagine things could get pretty dicey fairly quickly.

In the other hand, with the Q sac, black probably foresees the Q vs R and B ending. Realizes he likely doesn't have full compensation but knows he's not going to get mated, lose more material than calculated, has a strong B, and only needs an armageddon draw.

Think a good practical choice.

Sep-13-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <SChesshevsky>

Thank you very much for the informative and thorough reply.

Sep-13-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: After analyzing the position some more after the line 20…Qc7 21.c4 Nxd2 22.Qxd2 bxc4 23.bxc4 Be4 24.Re3, I would play 24…Bh7 (as you mention …Bh1 feels unnatural). And if 25.Bg2 then 25…Rhd8 26.d5 Ke8 27.Qc3 Kf8 28.dxc6. Things don’t look optically good and black is obviously worse, but it’s not the end of the world (yet). It doesn’t seem like white has a move that just wins outright.
Sep-13-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: Also the endgame as it occurred in the actual game doesn’t seem particularly hopeful for black to me on second look. But maybe that’s because Nepo played it so precisely. Also this time control certainly doesn’t help in trying to accurately defend against a queen.
Sep-13-21  SChesshevsky: <...And if 25. Bg2 then...It doesn't seem like white has a move that just wins outright.>

25. Bg2 might be a little slow. It's probably 25. d5 that would be most worrying. You have to remember Black's probably calculating this out in deciding on 18...Qh2.

In that calculation, it doesn't feel too appetizing losing the two tempo bringing the back...Qc7 and further ...Bh7 to begin with. Then at 25. d5 there's probably just too much pressure and white choices to try to calculate and assess anything other than it could get very ugly at worst and white's still seriously better at best. If this was a classical time control game allowing deeper calculation, Rapport may have chosen differently.

<...the endgame as it occurred doesn't seem particularly hopeful for black...>

It's not. There's not sufficient compensation for the Queen. But the only real way for white to win is with a passed pawn. And it's not clear where that will come from. White will have to work at it. In the meantime, the black hope is to be able to liquidate the pawns and get to a straight Q vs R & B endgame. Problem is white has too many pawns, mostly fairly strong and black has weak b and somewhat weak g pawn which ties up his rook too much. Enough for Nepo to take advantage of.

Sep-14-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  0ZeR0: <25. Bg2 might be a little slow. It's probably 25. d5 that would be most worrying.>

So in our line if 25.d5 instead, then probably still 25...Rhd8 (seems to be the only good move)? After which follows: 26.Qd4 f6 (which feels terrible to have to play, but what else?) and what now? At this point things already feel really dicey and I would definitely not want to be black which seems to confirm your concerns with facing 25.d5.

<If this was a classical time control game allowing deeper calculation, Rapport may have chosen differently.>

Indeed. Now I'm having serious doubts myself about both my suggestion and what was actually played. This leads me to believe that the whole 18...Qh2 idea perhaps isn't the best to begin with.

<It's not... Enough for Nepo to take advantage of.>

Aye, it's quite instructive to witness too.

Sep-18-21
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: The fewer pieces on the board, the more likely the side with the queen gets to develop an active King in the ending. Black perhaps should have avoided middle game exchanges after the trade of Q for R + B. More pieces on the board helps corral the white King.

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