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Nepo's brilliancy!

by Sagar Shah - 06/05/2016

We realize that this is a newspage that deals with Indian chess players and Indian events. But once in while we see combinations that transcend the limitations of what we report on! On 5th of May 2016, Ian Nepomniachtchi executed a beautiful combination at the Russian Higher League 2016 against Sanan Sjugirov. The author of this line dissects this combination and shows how important it is to learn the basics of chess tactics. If your tactical roots are strong, such beautiful ideas are bound to occur in your games!

The First year B.Com exams were nearing and I was studying the intricacies of Accountancy with my good friend Vishvesh Kochrekar. After a hard day of trying to reconcile the bank statements with the cash book, we finally decided it was time to pull out the chess board. Vishvesh and I loved to play bullet and often we would indulge in speed chess for hours. That day before we started, Vishvesh told me that he would like to show me a trap which he had recently executed at a local tournament.

[White "Vishvesh's immortal trap!"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C06"]
[PlyCount "25"]
{Vishvesh began with the white pieces and played 1.e4} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2
Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ngf3 Be7 8. h4 $5 {Vishvesh loved to set
traps. Even though they might be objectively poor moves. The feeling of trapping
his opponent and scoring a quick win sometimes made him choose bad moves like
this one. h4 is clearly not doing much if the queen moved to b6. But what
would happen if Black castled?} O-O $4 {This is exactly what the h4 move was
aimed at. Look how the h1 rook gets into the game!} (8... Qb6 $1 {makes the h4
move look quite silly.}) 9. Bxh7+ $1 {Once you are proficient at the game of
chess these sacrificies do not come as a surprise. But for the uninitiated
this is a beautiful sequence of moves.} Kxh7 10. Ng5+ $1 Kg8 (10... Kh6 11.
Ndf3 $18 {And it is almost certain that on h6 the king is not going to last
long.}) (10... Bxg5 11. hxg5+ {And now you realize why h4 was played! It was
important to have the rook on h1.} Kg8 12. Qh5 f6 13. g6 $18) 11. Qh5 Bxg5 12.
hxg5 {There is a mate on the h-file and the only way to prevent it is to
create a luft on f7.} f5 13. g6 $1 {The door is slammed shut and White wins.}

The move that I would like to draw your special attention to is h2-h4. The general conditions for this combination to work are the rook being on h1, the bishop angling on h7 and the knight ready to jump to g5.

Vishvesh Kochrekar - the master of tricky chess!
Of course, the idea of my friend had a profound influence on me. I started looking at opportunities when I could make use of this idea of shoving my h-pawn forward. Although I can hardly remember using this idea in an over the board encounter, I did execute it with success in my blitz games on
No money for guessing what my next move was! Of course - h2-h4!
This is how the game panned out:
[Event "3 min, rated"]
[Site "Main Playing Hall"]
[Date "2015.10.06"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Sagar, Shah"]
[Black "Tantrum"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2075"]
[BlackElo "1994"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[EventDate "2015.10.06"]
[EventType "blitz"]

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e4 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. e5 Nfd7 6. d4 Nb6 7. Nf3 Be7 8.
Bd3 O-O 9. h4 c5 10. Bxh7+ Kh8 11. Ng5 cxd4 12. Qh5 Bg4 13. Qxg4 dxc3 14. Qh5
Bxg5 15. hxg5 {Tantrum poddaje siê (Lag: Av=0.58s, max=0.8s)} 1-0

Did you spot a defence for Black in the above game? As pointed to me by Vishvesh, after 10.Bxh7? Kxh7! 11.Ng5 Kg8! 12.Qh5 Bf5! would just win for Black!

The Russian connection!

On 5th of May 2016, Ian Nepomniachtchi was playing against Sanan Sjugirov at the Russian Higher League Team Championship in Sochi. Nepo had the white pieces. Let's go over the initial moves:

[Event "TCh-RUS Men 2016"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2016.05.05"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Sjugirov, Sanan"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2703"]
[BlackElo "2674"]
[PlyCount "18"]
[EventDate "2016.05.01"]
[WhiteTeam "SSM Legacy Square Capital Moscow"]
[BlackTeam "Zhiguli Samara region"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {The boring and dull Petroff Defence! Who would have
imagined that you would get to see one of the most brilliant combinations ever.
} 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. c4 (5. d4 {is the main move but c4 is played just
as often.}) 5... Be7 6. d4 O-O 7. Bd3 Ng5 $5 8. Nc3 (8. Nxg5 {is the main move.
And after} Bxg5 9. Qh5 Re8+ 10. Kd1 h6 (10... Bxc1 $5 11. Qxh7+ Kf8 12. Kxc1
Qg5+ $1 13. Kc2 Nc6 $15 {Black king is safe and White's monarch is in trouble.}
) 11. Bxg5 Qxg5 12. Qxg5 hxg5 $14 {Black is doing not so badly in this endgame.
}) 8... Bg4 {What could be more natural than to increase the pressure on the
f3 knight with a pin.} 9. Bxg5 Bxg5 {It's White to play. What would you do?} *

Nepomniachtchi - Sjugirov

It's White to play. What should he do?
Remember the examples of Vishvesh's idea of h4 and Bxh7+ which we discussed above. In case you haven't solved or you have tried hard and are about to give up, here is something to motivate you:
It is very rare to see a top player publicly expressing his pleasure over a combination that he has played
Solution: Nepomniachtchi snapped off the pawn on h7 with 10.Bxh7+! The deep point of the idea was that after 10...Kxh7 11.h4!! was the key idea. If the bishop moves from g5 then Ng5+ is a killer blow. After Bxg5 hxg5 we see the rook on h1 getting activated and next up is Qxg4. The idea is very similar to what we saw at the start of the article, only that the solution is much more imaginative and complex. After 11.h4 Black has the move but is completely powerless against White's idea.
The idea of h2-h4 is clear once you see it. But to imagine it from a distance is not so easy!
Here's how the game finished:
[Event "TCh-RUS Men 2016"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2016.05.05"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Sjugirov, Sanan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2703"]
[BlackElo "2674"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rn1q1rk1/ppp2ppp/3p4/6b1/2PP2b1/2NB1N2/PP3PPP/R2QK2R w KQ - 0 10"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2016.05.01"]

10. Bxh7+ $1 {Something similar to the Greek Gift.} Kxh7 11. h4 $3 {If the
bishop retreats Ng5+ is going to be an extremely strong move.} Bd2+ {Sjugirov
gives back the bishop. Maybe he was just shocked by the power of White's idea.}
(11... Bxf3 12. hxg5+ Kg8 13. Qxf3 $18) (11... Bh6 12. Ng5+ $1 Qxg5 13. hxg5
Bxd1 14. Rxd1 $16) (11... Re8+ 12. Kf1 {doesn't change the story.}) (11... Be7
12. Ng5+ Kg8 (12... Bxg5 13. hxg5+ $18) 13. Qxg4 $18) 12. Qxd2 Re8+ 13. Kf1
Bxf3 14. Qd3+ Kg8 15. Qxf3 $16 {White is just a pawn up and went on to easily
convert the game into a full point.} Nd7 16. Rd1 Qf6 17. Qxf6 Nxf6 18. f3 d5
19. c5 b6 20. cxb6 axb6 21. Kf2 b5 22. a3 b4 23. axb4 Rab8 24. b5 c6 25. Rhe1
cxb5 26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27. Rc1 Ra8 28. Nxb5 Ra4 29. Rc8+ Kh7 30. g4 Rb4 31. Nd6
Rxd4 32. Kg3 1-0
A beautiful combination by Ian Nepomniachtchi
The thing that we learn from this example is that basic tactical knowledge is extremely important. It is on the base of this knowledge that we can weave more complex ideas. Hence, even though the combination of h4 followed by Bxh7+, that was shown to me by Vishvesh, was quite simple, inverting the move order brings us to the Nepomniachtchi fireworks.
In order to strengthen your basics of tactical knowledge, these are the two things that I would recommend:
Powerplay 1 that deals with Mating Patterns by Daniel King
The famous chess trainer Daniel King deals with a lot of important basic mating patterns like the Greek Gift, Lasker's double bishop sacrifice, Lawnmower's mate etc. And he doesn't just scratch the surface but goes deep into it by explaining the various piece formations and possible defenses for the opponent.
You can order Powerplay 1 from ChessBase India for Rs.999/- by writing an email to 

Understanding Chess Tactics by Martin Weteschnik is one of the best chess books out there which deals with basic tactical patterns like Pin, Double Attack, Discovered Attack etc. The author goes into depths of how the pieces co-ordinate with each other to bring these tactics into effect. A must read for every serious chess player who wants to be stronger at tactics.

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