[Event "FIDE World Chess Championship 2021"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.12.10"] [Round "11"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2782"] [BlackElo "2856"] [Annotator "samsh"] [PlyCount "98"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {Game 11 turned out to be the final encounter of the match. It looked very equal throughout until Nepo's sense of danger completely eluded him and the game ended in one move.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 {Unlike all of the previous games, Nepo chose the Italian. Hindsight is 20/20, but it looked to me like Magnus understood the resulting middlegame better.} Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d6 6. O-O a5 {The a7-a5 system is a very topical one, and is one of the big mainlines in the Italian today. The point is some prophylaxis against b2-b4, but I was a little puzzled by what happened next.} 7. Re1 Ba7 $5 {I had never seen this idea of playing a5 and then Ba7 before castling. I always thought one of the big points was to prevent b2-b4 so that the bishop can remain on c5 free of harassment, but it is a sensible waiting move.} 8. Na3 h6 {Now, I really dislike the idea Nepo came up with here. In general, the most ambitious thing White can do in the Italian is fight for d3-d4, turning the a7-bishop from a good piece into a bad piece. If White decides this cannot happen, Bc1-e3 is a sensible alternative, but I really think White should be taking back with the rook on e3 rather than the knight.} 9. Nc2 $6 (9. Nb5 {This surely must be more critical. White takes advantage of Black weakening the b5-square with a7-a5 and hits the bishop on a7 to win a tempo. After} Bb6 10. Be3 Bxe3 11. Rxe3 {This looks like a more ambitious way for White. The rook on e3 is better than a knight would be since the e4-pawn is well-supported, and d3-d4 is coming next. White looks a little better to me, though of course Black is still very solid.}) 9... O-O 10. Be3 Bxe3 11. Nxe3 Re8 {Now Black has a striaghtforward plan of Be6, taking back with the rook, and rerouting the c6-knight to g6. The pressure on the e4-pawn makes it very hard for White to advance d3-d4, and I don't see another credible plan.} 12. a4 Be6 13. Bxe6 Rxe6 14. Qb3 b6 15. Rad1 Ne7 {Of course. The knight heads for g6.} 16. h3 Qd7 { Now Black's position plays itself. Bring the rook to d8 or e8 as you see fit, knight to g6, and eventually push d5.} 17. Nh2 {This does not seem impressive, but I guess it makes some sense. bringing the knight to g4 to exchange for the f6-knight will make it easier to push d3-d4, but Black is well in time to get his peices ready to deal with it.} Rd8 18. Nhg4 {Now, Black should be at least a little careful. Allowing White to take on f6 and push d4 would give him a good position, but it's almost hard to suggest a move for Black that makes any sense at all other than the best one.} Nxg4 (18... Kh8 $2 {Some non-move like this would allow White to show his idea.} 19. Nxf6 Rxf6 20. d4 {This is indeed unpleasant for Black.}) 19. hxg4 d5 $1 {Black beats White to the punch and makes his break first. White was just too slow to get d3-d4 in before d6-d5, all because the knight on e3 was misplaced and the e4-pawn was loose.} 20. d4 { Now there is some minor showdown in the center, but it should all fizzle out easily enough.} exd4 $1 {Magnus had to see this Re4-f4 idea to justify this move, but it is hardly rocket science.} 21. exd5 {Now, Black cannot take back on d5 thanks to Rxd4, and he really should make sure the d-file remains closed, but this is not too hard to do.} (21. Rxd4 {This does not work too well. After} Rxe4 $1 {Black wins a pawn, and White needs to be precise to maintain the balance.}) 21... Re4 $1 {Good prophylaxis against Rxd4.} (21... Nxd5 $2 22. Rxd4 {Black loses material. The pin on the d-file is too powerful.}) 22. Qc2 ( 22. Rxd4 {This could still be played, but after} Rxd4 23. cxd4 {The d-file is closed, and Black can grab the pawn on d5. For example, after} Nxd5 24. Nxd5 Qxd5 25. Re8+ Kh7 26. Qc2+ g6 27. Rxd8 Qxd8 28. Qe4 {This appears to be a dead draw.}) 22... Rf4 {Now, the only explanation I have for the next move is that there are 2 versions of Nepo. He did not just blitz out g2-g3 without thinking and miss something obvious because he was not paying attention. He spent nine minutes, and still came up with a move that is very hard to understand from a player of his caliber. Sometimes he just seems to tilt really hard. I know from my own experience—I've played him twice. The first game I was on the black side of a Caro-Kann, and he played a fantastically energetic game. It was a wild fight with plenty of chances for both sides. He did not play perfectly, as nobody ever really does in super-complicated positions, but after a somewhat back and forth affair, he found a lot of best moves plenty of times, and eventually ground out a well-deserved win. The other time I played him, it was toward the end of a tournament, I guess he may have been struggling with stamina, and he played some d6/g6/a6/e6 setup, moving pawns around in the first few moves without developing his pieces, and I absolutely demolished him with almost no effort. It was a weird feeling afterward, that I had crushed a near-2800 so easily, and I can imagine this is probably how Magnus is feeling now. Every now and then, this seriously sub-optimal version of Nepo shows up, and unfortunately for him, it came at the worst possible time.} 23. g3 $4 {Not only does this move lose violently, it absolutely forces Black to play the winning continuation since everything else is tantamount to resigning.} (23. Rxd4 {This is just a draw.} Rxd4 24. cxd4 Nxd5 25. Nxd5 Qxd5 26. Qxc7 Qxd4 27. b3 {There's not much to say here. 13 more moves to reach move 40.}) 23... dxe3 {Of course. Moving the rook would allow Rxd4.} 24. gxf4 Qxg4+ 25. Kh1 {This move makes g2-g3 even harder to understand. It allows Black to make a draw immediately with perpetual check. This being the case, why not just go Rxd4 and make the draw without allowing Black extra options? Even if you have not thought about this position for half a second, it should be immediately clear from first glance that Black has a very dangerous attack and possibly could have a better move than forcing a draw. According to my machine, there are nine winning moves.} (25. Kf1 Qh3+ 26. Ke2 exf2 27. Rf1 Nf5 {White is demolished.}) 25... Qh3+ 26. Kg1 {From this point on, Magnus could have found easier wins in multiple places, but the final result was certainly never in doubt.} Nf5 (26... exf2+ 27. Qxf2 Rd6 {This would have ended the match immediately.}) 27. d6 {The best practical chance, but it's certainly over.} Nh4 28. fxe3 Qg3+ 29. Kf1 Nf3 {Now, White is absurdly lucky to have not gotten mated and to be able to bail out into an endgame, but the ending is absolutely lost, so he can't really count his blessings.} 30. Qf2 Qh3+ $1 { The last important move.} (30... Qxf2+ $2 {This would be a grave error. After} 31. Kxf2 Nxe1 32. dxc7 $1 {White wins.}) 31. Qg2 Qxg2+ 32. Kxg2 Nxe1+ {Now, this move comes with check, so White cannot take on c7.} 33. Rxe1 Rxd6 { Black is a clean pawn up and has full control over the only open file. It will take a little work to finish the game off and he certainly could have won faster when White's king was getting thrashed, but it should be routine enough. } 34. Kf3 Rd2 35. Rb1 {A very sad move, but what choice was there?} (35. b4 axb4 36. cxb4 Ra2 {Black wins a second pawn.}) 35... g6 36. b4 axb4 37. Rxb4 { White can now imagine going Rb4-c4, aiming to provoke c7-c5, and then a4-a5 comes and White can start trading stuff. Black's next move prevents this idea.} Ra2 {Now a4-a5 will never come, the rook is stuck defending the a4-pawn, and Black can bring his king to the center and start pushing his passed h-pawn.} 38. Ke4 {Now White has a simple plan. Ke4-d5-c6-xc7-xb6 and go promote the a-pawn. The problem is Black's h-pawn is much faster.} h5 39. Kd5 Rc2 {This did not feel entirely necessary, but it doesn't spoil anything.} (39... h4 { Black wins the race by something like 6 tempi. It helps to have an extra pawn! He had a passed pawn right from the start of the endgame, while White has to spend ages bringing his king all the way to c6 and c7 and b6 to finally get a passer of his own.} 40. f5 {This is the best try, getting the rook behind the h-pawn.} (40. Kc6 h3 41. Kxc7 h2 42. Rb1 f6 {The g-pawn is coming.}) 40... h3 41. Rh4 h2 {The g-pawn comes next and White is done for.}) 40. Rb3 h4 {Move 40 is reached. Magnus has all the time in the world, and he easily wins the pawn race.} 41. Kc6 h3 42. Kxc7 h2 43. Rb1 Rxc3+ {I actually really dislike this decision. It is not enough to not win the game, but it really feels like it is going in the wrong direction.} (43... f6 {Why not just shove the g-pawn straight to g2?} 44. Kxb6 g5) 44. Kxb6 $1 (44. Kb7 {Avoiding taking the pawn does not help. After} Rxe3 45. Rh1 Re4 $1 {White is relieved of his a-pawn, and Black wins the game routinely on the kingside.}) 44... Rb3+ 45. Rxb3 h1=Q 46. a5 {Now, this a-pawn is coming, and it will be very annoying to stop. The rook and king coordinate well, and I could imagine an accident happening. Black's king is a long way away from the action and he does not have any passed pawns of his own yet. Still, it should win without a ton of trouble.} Qe4 47. Ka7 $1 {The rook comes to a square like b6, and a6 comes after... I would be worried with Black here.} Qe7+ 48. Ka8 {One can hope Magnus will play Qd8+ to fork the king and pawn. Of course, this is not a likely scenario.} Kg7 $1 {An excellent move. Black's king gets off the back rank so that Qd8+ becomes a threat.} (48... Qd8+ $2 49. Rb8 {Oops!}) 49. Rb6 (49. a6 Qe6 $1 { White loses his a6-pawn.}) 49... Qc5 {Nepo called it a day here, as after Ra6 Qb5, he will never be able to get his rook out of the way from in front of the a-pawn. It really felt like two matches were played. Nepo A played match one, and in my opinion, Nepo A is the second-best player in the world. Nepo B showed up for match two, and that was a farce. I really think if he can manage to consistently bring Nepo A to the board, he can be very ambitious about playing in another world championship match and giving Magnus a better fight someday. I'd like to thank Chess.com for inviting me to annotate the games—I certainly enjoyed it and did my very best to bring the most fair and objective analysis I could, void of any of my own personal biases, and covering the games exactly as I saw them. Until next time!} 0-1