Nepomniachtchi Clear 1st In London By Beating Struggling Carlsen

Winning his third game in a row against a struggling world champion, Ian Nepomniachtchi is the sole leader at the London Chess Classic with one round to go. Still under the weather, Magnus Carlsen got a nice position this time but miscalculated and blundered material.

“I have never beaten a healthy opponent” is a famous chess saying.

These days top grandmasters don’t like to use illness as an excuse, but Magnus Carlsen’s cold is so serious that it’s clearly affecting his play. Once again he calculated badly today, and this time it cost him the full point.

Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

Carlsen arrived a few minutes late for the round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

“I missed everything. There is not much else to say. I failed to predict a single one of his moves… You saw what happened,” Carlsen said with a hoarse voice in his daily interview with Maurice Ashley.

That interview had started a bit awkwardly off camera. Shortly before going live, Ashley wanted to adjust the champ’s collar, but Carlsen didn’t allow him and, according to Ashley, hit his hand away. Losing is one thing, but playing badly is even harder to accept for Carlsen.

Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein came to the tournament with his son

From what was an Exchange Slav by transposition, the world champion had built up an excellent position with attacking chances towards the enemy king.

On move 25 Carlsen missed a promising bishop sacrifice on h6, which Anand spotted right away in the VIP room—prompting Nigel Short to call him “VishyZero!” But even without the sacrifice, White was still clearly better.

But then, a few moves later, Carlsen miscalculated horribly.

“I just put the pawn en prise. I couldn’t see that he could take it until after I played it,” said Carlsen, who then missed the best chance to defend and quickly gave away more material.

Nepomniachtchi, who still hasn’t lost a classical game to Carlsen yet, explained: “Clearly Magnus is a little bit sick and this surely this disturbs his play. It’s hard, when you have this sore throat and so on. I mean, I know it from my experience, that you cannot show your best level when you’re fighting with some illness instead of fighting with your opponents.”

Also for Nepomniachtchi it took some time before he noticed that Carlsen’s 36.Qc6 here failed to 36…Qa4!-+.

Magnus Carlsen resigns vs Ian Nepomniachtchi, London 2017

A piece down, Carlsen had to resign. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Right after the game the players actually exchanged some smiles on stage; after all they go along very well. Perhaps Carlsen briefly saw the humor of it all, but when he left the stage towards the commentary room for his obligatory interview, he was put back into reality.

As always, Ashley ended his interview by asking about tomorrow’s game. Carlsen: “I don’t care at all. I have zero thoughts about the next game.”

Carlsen fumbled with the mic, ripped it off himself and walked off with his entourage.