Nepomniachtchi Nearing 2800 In Croatia Grand Chess Tour
"It's game on," says Magnus Carlsen as Nepomniachtchi starts strong. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi Nearing 2800 In Croatia Grand Chess Tour

SamCopeland
NM SamCopeland
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28 | Chess Event Coverage

Thirteen players in chess history have crossed the 2800 rating barrier. Could Ian Nepomniachtchi become the 14th?

The Russian star won his third consecutive game in Zagreb, reaching a 3/3 score by defeating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with the black pieces in the Croatia Grand Chess Tour.

"Nepo" has been in incredible form, also winning the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow. He's elevated his rating to 2790, a personal high, and is 10 difficult points away from the historic 2800 mark.

Nepomniachtchi's win was the result of a King's Indian Attack-type assault against Mamedyarov's kingside. The cramping pawn on e4 made it difficult for defenders to aid the white monarch, and Nepo's advance of the h-pawn proved decisive.

Whereas Carlsen's resurgent rating and form may be attributable to high accuracy and clean play with a dash of sacrifice, Nepo's current form most reminds one of Mikhail Tal's famous quote: “You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.” All three of his Zagreb games have been enterprising and thrilling.

The other game that held great interest for viewers was the always-anticipated match between Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen. Despite the high tension, their prior 15 classical games were drawn, and today continued that streak.

After an exciting middlegame, Caruana did push Carlsen about in the endgame a bit, achieving the classic "moral victory," but the position was never objectively more than a draw as the a-pawn Caruana needed to win with was of the wrong color.

No "dead fish" handshakes for these two fierce competitors. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

One beautiful line did stay behind the scenes. Can you find Black's win (pointed out in the commentary by Alejandro Ramirez) in this spectacular variation?

The game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren would in analog times have been considered quite a thrilling contest and reams of analysis might have been devoted to it (think Fischer vs. Tal, Leipzig 1960). In digital times, Stockfish tacitly acknowledged that the players' preparations were sound, and the sharp position was resolved with a perpetual. Kibitzers in Twitch were quick to congratulate the players on their memories.

Ding Liren, Grand Chess Tour
The face of a man well-prepared for battle. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

The remaining games were drawn without great incident. Only Sergey Karjakin managed to secure a tangible advantage by nabbing a pawn from Hikaru Nakamura, but the resulting endgame was no exception to the "all rook endgames are drawn" mantra.


An off-the-board note was Anish Giri's 25th birthday. While his stressless draw against Wesley So might be seen as a personal birthday gift of a day off (or at least a half-day, which is what Chess.com staffers receive), he did note to future opponents that he is happy to accept belated over-the-board birthday gifts.

2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour | Round 3 Results and Standings
Grand Chess Tour Croatia Round 3 Standings
Grand Chess Tour Croatia Standings
Graphic: Spectrum Studios.
The 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour takes place June 26 to July 8 at the Novinarski Dom in Zagreb, Croatia. This is one of the two classical events on the tour this year. The time control is a new one, with 130 minutes for each player with a 30-second delay from move one.

The games start at 4:30 pm local time (CEST), which is 10:30 am Eastern and 7:30 am Pacific. You can follow the games here as part of our live portal with daily commentary by GM Robert Hess.

Watch GCT Croatia Round 2 Commentary from GMHess on www.twitch.tv

Round three coverage by GM Robert Hess.

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