[Event "FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2022"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.06.21"] [Round "4"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2766"] [BlackElo "2793"] [Annotator "samsh"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2022.??.??"] {The fourth round of the Candidates Tournament saw Ian Nepomniatchtchi score a big point. He was the only guy with serious chances on the day—at some point, Caruana had to find some only moves to hold on, but they were not too difficult and he managed without major trouble.} 1. e4 c5 {Props to Firouzja for willingly entering super sharp territory. This is the attitude needed to win an event like this one, even if it backfired in this particular game.} 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 Be7 9. Qd2 O-O 10. O-O-O Nbd7 11. g4 b5 12. g5 {All of this has been seen many times before, and it is one of the biggest mainlines of the Najdorf. Now, in modern times, people have been trying …Nh5 here, with interesting complications to follow—I played this move myself once against Areschenko in a tiebreak game at last year's World Cup. But, Firouzja goes for the old mainline.} b4 $6 { Objectively, there is nothing wrong with this move, but in practice, it strikes me as a poor choice. Black's position is very hard to play and one missed detail in preparation review, or one mistake over the board, can lead to an immediate disaster. I actually had this position myself last year against Duda, and he went down even harder than Firouzja did. Somehow it feels like the choice is impractical, even if it doubtlessly holds objectively.} ( 12... Nh5 {This has been the main move as of late. As far as I am aware, Black's position is supposed to be okay.}) 13. Ne2 Ne8 14. f4 a5 15. f5 Bc4 $5 {A very rare move, which Firouzja quickly blitzed out, surely indicating he was still in his preparation.} (15... a4 {This is the main move by a wide margin, and nowadays people are trying fxe6. This was my choice in the aforementioned game with Duda.}) 16. Kb1 (16. Ng3 $5 {This is the main move in ICCF, and was the mainline of my own analysis from when I last covered 15... Bc4 many years ago. It is a hard move to play since the knight gets sidelined on a1, but as far as I know, White is supposed to be better.} Bxf1 17. Rhxf1 a4 18. Na1 {White's knight on a1 is dreadful, but the rest of his position is fantastic. I'm sure Firouzja had gone into some detail on this position and had some plans in mind to fight for equality. But, this is why the line is so impractical for Black. When my machine offers +0.7 in this position, it's certainly potentially possible to find ideas and analyze it out to something defensible. But there will be a ton of analysis and memorization, which leads you to not covering the less computer-approved moves like 16.Kb1 followed by f5-f6 later on in as much detail as is necessary to handle a position like this one.}) 16... a4 17. Nbc1 d5 18. f6 $1 {This is surely the most challenging move. Black is okay but has to defend very carefully.} (18. exd5 $2 {Patzer sees pawn, patzer takes pawn. White has absolutely no time for this and Black gets a lot of counterplay. Only an absolute idiot with no chess education or understanding whatsoever would ever play such a move, as we see in the following encounter.} Nd6 19. f6 gxf6 20. gxf6 Nxf6 21. Bh6 Kh8 22. Bxf8 Qxf8 23. Bg2 Rb8 24. Qe3 Ng4 25. Qg3 h5 26. h3 Nf5 27. Qf3 Nge3 28. Ng3 Nxg3 29. Qxe3 Qg7 30. Rhe1 Bd6 31. Nd3 f6 32. b3 Bb5 33. Bh1 h4 34. Nc5 axb3 35. axb3 f5 36. Ne6 Qf6 37. Qf2 Be8 38. Rd3 f4 39. Be4 Bh5 40. Qa7 Nxe4 41. Rxe4 Bg6 42. Rc4 Bxd3 43. cxd3 Qg6 44. Qd7 Qxd3+ 45. Kb2 Rg8 46. Rc8 Qd2+ 47. Rc2 Qxd5 48. Qf7 Rg2 49. Qh5+ Kg8 50. Qe8+ Kh7 51. Qf7+ Kh8 52. Qe8+ Kh7 53. Qh5+ { 1/2-1/2 (53) Rensch,D (2413) -Mohandesi,S (2164) Tempe 2012}) 18... gxf6 19. gxf6 {Firouzja started burning time here. His position is not bad yet, but it is difficult to play.} Ndxf6 20. Ng3 Bxf1 $6 (20... Kh8 $1 {This seems like the cleanest route to equality. Get the king out of the kill zone $1 There is no reason to take on f1 and drag White's rook to a better square.}) 21. Rhxf1 a3 {The machine claims this is the best move by a wide margin. In a higher chess sense, I am sure this is true. But, that is a very, very bad sign for Black as now after the natural b2-b3, White's king is safe on the queenside and Black has no notable counterplay.} (21... Kh8 {Presumably Firouzja first considered this natural move but disliked} 22. Nd3 Nd6 23. Nxe5 $1 Ndxe4 24. Nxe4 Nxe4 25. Qg2 {[%csl Gc3] When White's control over the c3-square gives him an easily winning position. Including a4-a3 and b2-b3 for Black would make this variation work.}) 22. b3 Kh8 23. exd5 $1 {Now, the machine claims Black can keep things somewhat complicated (though he is still clearly worse) with the only move Qc7. Good luck finding that—in practice, this feels crazy difficult for a human to do.} (23. Nd3 Nd6 {Now this is not so clear anymore. The knight coming to c3 is pretty annoying.}) 23... Nd6 24. Qxb4 $1 {Nice and simple. White grabs the pawn, and since Black has played a4-a3 and White got b2-b3 in, he never has to worry in the slightest about the b-file. Black is absolutely busted and White has no shortage of ways to finish off the game.} Rc8 25. Bb6 $1 Qd7 26. Qe1 $1 {A rather sadistic move. Black is unable to protect e5. The rest requires no commentary.} Rb8 27. Ba5 Nc4 28. d6 Bd8 29. Bc3 Qe6 30. Nd3 Nd5 31. Nf4 Nxf4 32. Rxf4 f6 33. Qe2 Nb2 34. Rdf1 Re8 35. Rh4 f5 36. Rxh7+ {Totally unnecessary, but a nice way to finish off the game.} Kxh7 37. Qh5+ Kg8 (37... Qh6 38. Qxe8) 38. Nxf5 Bf6 39. Rg1+ {Firouzja threw in the towel. Nepo has been looking very good so far, but this is normal for him—he nearly always starts tournaments well. His biggest issue in the past has always been stamina, and I think last year he was very fortunate that the Candidates was two seven-round events (where he lost round seven both times) rather than one 14-rounder. Time will tell if he can buck this trend and keep up his good form deep into the tournament. While he is the early leader, it is still very early, and there has never been a single Candidates since it moved to this format when the winner went undefeated. So don't count out the guys at the bottom of the crosstable just yet. Before the tournament began, I always said that I don't believe there are any 2 players whose combined chances of winning exceed 50\%, and through four rounds, I am of the same opinion.} 1-0 [Event "Chess.com"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.06.21"] [Round "4"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2806"] [BlackElo "2783"] [Annotator "Rafael Leitao"] [PlyCount "127"] [EventDate "2022.??.??"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Qa4+ Nc6 6. e3 O-O 7. Qc2 Na5 $5 { A rare move in a well-known position. It was only played in a few blitz games. Again Caruana is the first to play a new idea in the opening. Black's plan is to attack the c4-pawn and force White to make a decision. If he takes on d5, then the c8-bishop gets freedom. If he advances, then Black can play b6 and break the pawn chain.} 8. c5 {The best.} b6 9. Bd2 (9. a3 {This is a natural move, but Black can pose a lot of problems with an interesting pawn sacrifice.} Bxc3+ 10. Qxc3 e5 $1 {I have no doubt Caruana had something like this in mind. This sacrifice is a typical way to open Black's pieces up in similar positions. } 11. Nxe5 Ne4 12. Qc2 Bf5 13. Bd3 bxc5 {with a good position for Black. For instance:} 14. dxc5 $2 Qf6 $1 15. Nf3 Nb3 $3 16. Qxb3 Nxc5 {and Black wins.}) 9... Nc4 {A new move.} (9... bxc5 10. a3 Bxc3 11. Bxc3 Nc6 12. dxc5 {was played in the online blitz game Santos Ruiz-Bluebaum. White is slightly better. }) 10. a3 Nxd2 11. Nxd2 Bxc3 12. Qxc3 a5 $1 {Hindering the b4-advance and preparing to exchange bishops.} 13. Rc1 Ba6 14. cxb6 cxb6 15. Bxa6 Rxa6 16. O-O Ra8 {One could say that White is slightly better since he has the c-file. But the computer neutralizes this very easily. Generally, it's necessary to sacrifice the b6-pawn.} 17. Qb3 (17. Qc7 Qxc7 18. Rxc7 Rfc8 19. Rfc1 Rxc7 20. Rxc7 Ne8 21. Rb7 Rc8 $1 {The typical sacrifice.} 22. Rxb6 Rc1+ 23. Nf1 h5 $1 { An important move to prevent the advance of White's kingside pawns. Black is very active and plans Kf8-e7-Nd6. The computer says it's just equal.}) 17... Rc8 {This move surprised me and most commentators. Caruana probably remembered from his analysis that the b6-pawn must be sacrificed and decided to do it straight away. It's not a bad move, but the computer claims 17...Qd7 was better.} (17... Qd7 18. Rc3 Rfc8 19. Rfc1 (19. Rxc8+ Qxc8 20. Qxb6 Rb8 21. Qxa5 Rxb2 22. Nf3 Ne4 {Again the sacrifice gives good compensation.}) 19... h6 { and Black will have no problems to hold.}) 18. Rxc8 Qxc8 19. Qxb6 a4 $1 { Of course White is a pawn up and slightly better, but Caruana has no problems demonstrating that it's not enough for a win.} 20. Qb4 Qc2 21. b3 axb3 22. Nxb3 Ne4 23. a4 Qc4 $1 {Exchanging pieces and going for a drawish rook ending.} 24. Qxc4 dxc4 25. Nc5 Nxc5 26. dxc5 Ra8 27. Rb1 Kf8 28. Rb4 c3 29. Rc4 Ke7 30. Kf1 c2 31. Rxc2 Rxa4 {The king is close to the c-pawn, so Ding Liren decides to abandon it and go for the kingside.} 32. Rb2 Ra7 33. Ke2 Kd7 34. Rb8 Rc7 35. Rh8 Ke7 36. Rxh7 g6 37. h4 Rxc5 {\"All rook endgames are drawn,[+] a wise man said many years ago. One could also say \"All rook endgames are equal, but some rook endgames are more equal than others.[+] Like this one.} 38. Rh8 f5 39. Rh7+ Kf6 40. Kf3 Rc4 41. g3 Ra4 42. Rd7 g5 $1 {Both players know there is nothing to be tried here, so they didn't spend much time on the next moves.} 43. hxg5+ Kxg5 44. Rd4 Ra3 45. g4 fxg4+ 46. Rxg4+ Kf6 47. Rf4+ Ke7 48. Kg4 Ra5 49. Rb4 Kf6 50. f4 Ra1 51. e4 Rg1+ 52. Kf3 Rf1+ 53. Ke3 Re1+ 54. Kf2 Ra1 55. Rb6 Kf7 56. Kf3 Ra3+ 57. Kg4 Ra1 58. f5 Rg1+ 59. Kf4 Rf1+ 60. Ke5 exf5 61. Rb7+ Kg6 62. Rb6+ Kf7 63. Rb7+ Kg6 64. Rb6+ 1/2-1/2 [Event "Chess.com"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.06.21"] [Round "4"] [White "Rapport, Richard"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2764"] [BlackElo "2760"] [Annotator "Rafael Leitao"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2022.??.??"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] {This was a well-played game and the position was always more or less equal.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. O-O ({After the game, Nakamura mentioned the following loss which got him to analyse these positions even more:} 6. Bg5 Bd6 7. Nbd2 Be6 8. d4 h6 9. Bh4 Bg4 10. O-O g5 11. Bg3 Nd7 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 Qe7 14. Nc4 exd4 15. Nxd6+ cxd6 16. Rad1 Ne5 17. Qf5 c5 18. c3 dxc3 19. Rxd6 Nc4 20. Qxc5 Nxd6 21. Bxd6 Qe6 22. Qb5+ Kd8 23. Be5 Re8 24. Qxb7 c2 25. Qc7# {1-0 Caruana-Nakamura, Chess.com Rapid Chess Championship 2022}) 6... Bd6 7. Bg5 {Rapport tries a similar strategy to the one Caruana used against the Berlin: a sideline that leads to a positional fight in the middlegame.} h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Be6 $5 {Already a new move. Nakamura sacrifices the e5-pawn.} (9... Qe7 {was played in an online blitz game Caruana-So, 2021.}) 10. Qd2 $1 {Rapport doesn't dare to accept the gift.} (10. Bxe5 $6 Bxe5 $1 11. Nxe5 Qd4 $1 12. Nf3 Qxb2 13. Nbd2 O-O-O {and Black regains the pawn and is slightly better.}) (10. Nxe5 {is critical, but it gives nothing.} h5 $1 11. Nf3 (11. h3 $6 Rg8 $1 {preparing to advance the pawns and start a strong attack.}) 11... Bxg3 12. fxg3 (12. hxg3 $6 h4 13. gxh4 gxh4 { Black is ready to move the queen, castle, and bring the rook to g8. Is a pawn worth all this trouble $2}) 12... g4 $1 13. Ng5 Qd4+ 14. Kh1 Qxb2 15. Nd2 O-O-O {with a roughly equal position.}) (10. Nbd2 Nd7) 10... Nd7 11. d4 f6 {The same piece setup Nakamura used in his first-round game against Caruana. But there White had an unpleasant knight on a5.} 12. Qc3 $1 {Forcing Black to release the tension.} exd4 13. Nxd4 Qe7 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 (14... cxd6 $2 {This seems like a natural move, but it's a mistake. Actually, I think doubled pawns are overestimated as a problem by most chess players. Black's pawn structure is actually much worse after this move.} 15. Qa5 $1 {With a clear advantage for White. Black's king has no safe place to go.}) 15. Nxe6 Qxe6 16. Qb3 $1 Nc5 17. Qxe6+ Nxe6 18. Rd1 {Black is too active and so the doubled pawns are not so much of a factor here. Of course, he can't just exchange all the pieces.} Ke7 19. Nd2 h5 $1 {Nakamura advances the kingside pawns to create active play.} 20. Nc4 g4 21. Rd2 Rad8 22. Rad1 Rxd2 23. Rxd2 Ng5 24. Na5 h4 (24... Nxe4 $4 25. Re2 f5 26. f3 {wins a piece.}) 25. Rd3 (25. Nxb7 $2 Rb8) 25... c5 $1 {Another strong move. White was threatening to take on b7 now.} (25... h3 $2 26. Nxb7 Rb8 27. Rb3) 26. h3 {A good move, giving air to the king and avoiding further advances by the opponent's pawns.} (26. Nxb7 $2 {This is no longer possible.} c4 27. Ra3 Rb8 28. Rxa7 Nxe4 {White's pieces are totally misplaced.}) 26... gxh3 27. gxh3 b6 28. Nc6+ Ke6 29. Nxa7 Ra8 (29... Nxe4 {was also good.} 30. Re3 Kf5 31. Nc6 Re8 {with equality.}) 30. Nb5 Rxa2 31. Nxc7+ Ke5 32. Nd5 Ra1+ 33. Kg2 Ne6 $1 (33... Nxe4 $6 34. Nxb6) 34. c4 (34. f3 $6 {Trying to hang on to the extra pawn is too optimistic. Only White can lose after} Rc1) 34... Re1 35. Re3 Rxe3 36. fxe3 {And now we get massive simplification and a draw.} Kxe4 37. Nxf6+ Kxe3 38. Nd5+ Kd3 39. Kf3 Kxc4 40. Nxb6+ Kb3 41. Nd7 Ng5+ 42. Kg4 Nxh3 43. Nxc5+ Kxb2 44. Kxh4 1/2-1/2 [Event "Chess.com"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.06.21"] [Round "4"] [White "Duda, Jan-Krzysztof"] [Black "Radjabov, Teimour"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2750"] [BlackElo "2753"] [Annotator "Rafael Leitao"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2022.??.??"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bg5 $5 {A sideline that will quickly bring a fresh position to the board.} h6 6. Bh4 d6 7. Nc3 Bd7 (7... g5 {This is a critical move and leads to a sharp game. Of course, Duda had this deeply prepared, and so Radjabov chooses a safer approach.}) 8. Na4 {A new move.} (8. Nd5 g5 {is good for Black.} 9. Nxg5 $2 Nxd5 10. Qh5 Qf6 $1 11. Nf3 Qg6 12. Qxg6 fxg6 13. exd5 Nb4 14. Bxd7+ Kxd7 {regaining the pawn with an excellent position.}) (8. O-O) 8... Bb4+ {This is difficult to understand. Why not Bb6 immediately $2 I don't see what Black wins by forcing the advance of White's pawns.} (8... Bb6) 9. c3 Ba5 10. b4 Bb6 11. O-O Ne7 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Bxd7+ Qxd7 14. Nh4 Rg8 15. Kh1 O-O-O (15... f5 {This also looks very natural.} 16. Nxb6 axb6 17. exf5 Nxf5 18. Nxf5 Qxf5 19. Qe2 {White doesn't have much here, although his king feels more comfortable. If Black castles there will always be some a4-a5 to worry about.}) 16. Nxb6+ axb6 17. Qf3 (17. a4 {This primitive advance creates more problems, but it always seems close to equality. } f5 (17... Qg4 {I guess this was the move Duda wanted to prevent.} 18. Qxg4+ Rxg4 19. g3 d5 20. f3 Rgg8 {White can still fight for an advantage in this endgame. His structure is better and he can prepare the f4-break at some point. }) 18. exf5 Nxf5 19. Nxf5 Qxf5 20. f3 {and White is more comfortable since his king is safer.}) 17... f5 $1 {Now Black equalizes.} 18. exf5 Rg5 19. a4 Nxf5 20. Nxf5 Qxf5 21. Qe3 Rdg8 22. Rg1 Qf4 23. Qxf4 exf4 24. Rae1 Re5 25. d4 Ree8 26. g3 Rxe1 27. Rxe1 fxg3 28. hxg3 Kd7 29. Kg2 {Both sides are just in time to attack each other's pawns.} Ra8 30. Rh1 Rxa4 31. Rxh6 c5 32. dxc5 bxc5 33. bxc5 dxc5 34. Rf6 Ke7 35. Rb6 Ra3 36. Rxb7+ Kf6 37. Kf3 Rxc3+ 38. Ke4 Rc4+ 39. Ke3 Rc3+ 40. Ke4 Rc4+ 41. Ke3 1/2-1/2