Speedy Nepomniachtchi Grabs Lead At European Championship

Speedy Nepomniachtchi Grabs Lead At European Championship

Playing fast in all his games, on Wednesday GM Ian Nepomniachtchi became the sole leader at the European Championship in Jerusalem.

The Russian GM might not remember everything (as his surname suggests), but he surely knows how to play strong chess — and fast!

Like Vishy Anand in his younger years, Nepomniachtchi is using very little time on the clock in Jerusalem. And it works.

After eight rounds, with three to go, the 24-year-old grandmaster is the sole leader with 6.5 points. No fewer than 13 players are trailing him by half a point.

Let's pick up the tournament where we left it — after round four.

On the seventh day of the Hebrew calendar week, Saturday (Sabbath), the Israelis are resting. That's why the two rest days during the European Championship are scheduled on Saturdays. On the first, an excursion to Masada and the Dead Sea was organized.

With three guides (two speaking English, one Russian for the many Russian participants), the chess players received a highly interesting and deeply impressive history lesson about the last stronghold of the Jews in the year 70. When the Romans finally managed to storm the mountain (after three years of siege), all 960 killed themselves before they arrived.

The ancient fortification of Masada. | Image Wikipedia.

After lunch, the trip continued to the famous Dead Sea, which happens to be Earth's lowest elevation on land. It's more famous for its very high salinity (34.2 percent in 2011), which makes it easy and fun to float in the water.

Sure, you can float in the Dead Sea, but so can a chess set!

On Sunday, the first day of the new month, it was time for chess again. In the fifth round the top boards saw a lot of draws: 13 out of the top 16.

GM Pavel Eljanov moved up in the standings after grinding down GM Karen Grigoryan in an ending. So did GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who beat GM Evgeny Romanov.

The game Bartel-Ducarmon saw a theme that also played a role in other games: a white knight moving to the eighth rank, thereby disconnecting the two black rooks.

In the same round, GM Francisco Vallejo Pons put his knight on e8 and this also decided the game immediately:

And, a few days later, GM David Navara followed the theme as well:

In round six, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi had reached board one, and he faced GM Anton Korobov. The Ukrainian GM was still the sole leader, despite a draw with Navara in the fifth round.

Nepomniachtchi had prepared well, and bashed out his moves, while Korobov was thinking a lot. At some point the Russian was more than 70 minutes up on the clock!

It was an impressive win, which follows below together with Nepomniachtchi's explanation taken from the daily live show produced by Chess.com (during the rounds you can watch it at Chess.com/TV):

GM David Navara had a good start, but in this sixth round he lost his first game. GM Mateusz Bartel, a good friend of his, managed to beat him for the first time — during the live broadcast it was discovered that these two players played their first game 20(!) years ago at an U10 European Championship!

That was a rather quiet and technical game, so it's high time for some spectacle. The game of the tournament, at least thus far, was without a doubt the following fantastic fight between GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and GM Ivan Bukavshin, where everything is hanging at move 19!

Suffering from a cold, Nisipeanu wasn't very confident before the game.

“But my head was working surprisingly well!” he said on his way to the studio where he explained the game:

The tournament is about the European title, but also about 23 qualifying spots for the next World Cup (in September in Baku, Azerbaijan).  It is also about local heroes who get a chance to play in a strong tournament!

The eighth round went especially well for the Israeli players, and now we can find e.g. GM Ilia Smirin and GM Ilya Rodshtein in the group behind Nepomniachtchi, and GM Emil Sutovsky half a point behind.

There have been several individual successes as well. For example the following in round seven:

And also today there was an upset like that. Fourteen-year-old David Gorodetsky defeated, no, crushed GM Artur Kogan in just 23 moves. Gorodetsky, who is a pupil of Alex Mikhalevski (the brother of Viktor), had beaten GM Dan Zoler earlier in the tournament. He had never won against a GM before.

Let's not forget GM Ian Nepomniachtchi's win in round eight, with which he grabbed the sole lead. Again playing fast, the Russian GM convincingly beat GM David Howell, playing the English against the Englishman:

The leader with three rounds go: Ian Nepomniachtchi. | Photo Yoav Nis.

The 2015 European Championship takes place February 24-March 8 in Jerusalem, Israel. It's a big, 11-round Swiss with 248 participants, including more than 100 GMs.

The tournament is covered live every day on Chess.com/TV with video commentary by GM Alon Greenfeld and GM Ronen Har-Zvi / GM Alik Gershon, except on rest days (Saturday, February 28 and Saturday, March 7).

2015 European Championship | Round 8 Standings (Top 30)

Rk. Title Name FED RtgI Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2714 6,5 2626 37,5 41,5
2 GM Korobov Anton UKR 2687 6 2648 39 43
3 GM Najer Evgeniy RUS 2634 6 2624 36,5 40,5
4 GM Navara David CZE 2735 6 2623 37,5 42
5 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2665 6 2620 36,5 40,5
6 GM Volokitin Andrei UKR 2646 6 2602 34,5 38
7 GM Sargissian Gabriel ARM 2668 6 2601 35 39
8 GM Smirin Ilia ISR 2650 6 2581 35 38,5
9 Iljiushenok Ilia RUS 2450 6 2571 34,5 37,5
10 GM Bartel Mateusz POL 2631 6 2566 34,5 38
11 GM Rodshtein Maxim ISR 2660 6 2547 32,5 36
12 GM Popov Ivan RUS 2639 6 2539 33,5 37,5
13 GM Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter GER 2654 6 2537 33,5 37,5
14 GM Khismatullin Denis RUS 2653 6 2522 32,5 36,5
15 GM Shimanov Aleksandr RUS 2594 5,5 2620 38 41
16 GM Eljanov Pavel UKR 2727 5,5 2612 37,5 41,5
17 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2695 5,5 2605 33,5 38
18 GM Moiseenko Alexander UKR 2695 5,5 2603 33,5 35,5
19 GM Sjugirov Sanan RUS 2678 5,5 2584 34,5 38,5
20 GM Bacrot Etienne FRA 2711 5,5 2581 33,5 37,5
21 GM Laznicka Viktor CZE 2670 5,5 2575 31 35
22 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2626 5,5 2573 36 40
23 GM Howell David W L ENG 2663 5,5 2572 35 39
24 GM Dubov Daniil RUS 2632 5,5 2564 35 39
25 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2660 5,5 2562 32,5 36,5
26 GM Cheparinov Ivan BUL 2681 5,5 2562 31 34
27 GM Khairullin Ildar RUS 2629 5,5 2556 31,5 35
28 GM Lupulescu Constantin ROU 2626 5,5 2546 35 38,5
29 GM Romanov Evgeny RUS 2625 5,5 2542 34 37
30 GM Kravtsiv Martyn UKR 2565 5,5 2520 32 34

(Full standings here.)

As said before, the top 23 players qualify for the World Cup in September in Baku, Azerbaijan. Note that the following participants in Jerusalem have already qualified: Nikita Vitiugov, David Navara, Pavel Eljanov, Hrant Melkumyan, Ivan Cheparinov, Sergei Zhigalko, Gabriel Sargissian, Alexander Motylev, Ivan Saric, Ilia Smirin, Constantin Lupulescu, Viorel Iordachescu, Dragan Solak and Samvel Ter-Sahakyan.

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