Super grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi’s favorite opening against the sicilian

Super grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi’s favorite opening against the sicilian

Written by: Emadeldin Teama

Grandmaster Ian is one of the highest rated players who still play 1-e4 with white as their main weapon.
He is a huge fan of the open Positions arising after the 1.e4 move and he is not afraid to meet any of black’s various defenses. In this article we will examine black most famous response to 1-e4 which is the Sicilian defense 1-c5!

The Sicilian defense main deep idea is quite simple and strategically sound. Black wants to exchange a wing pawn c5 with a center pawn d4.

Then he would want later to play d5 and exchange the white center e pawn with his d pawn leaving black with a position at which he has an extra center pawn and 4 against 3 on the kingside.

He hopes to convert this advantage to a full point creating an imbalanced position and getting the advantage in the endgame.

White has so many responses for this opening. There are so many sound Anti Sicilian systems such as the quiet venomous c3 Alapin Sicilian and the aggressive risky grand prix attack. However, these system are always ok for black if he knows exactly what to do.

Grandmaster Ian on the other Hand is not afraid of the Sicilian defense and he takes the challenge right on playing the main line. He goes deep into black ideas proving that he has a better position and showing his superiority over the black player!

Here we are going to show a couple of games for Ian. the first game shows how the young Ian dealt with black most aggressive variation in the Sicilian which is the Najdorf Sicilian and the other one is a very recent game against a very strong grandmaster who got crushed right after the opening phase!

In the first game Ian was only 16 years old playing against a higher rated grandmaster . he launched a strong attack on the black king.Black couldn’t find the most stubborn defense and couldn’t solve all the middle game problems and decided to Resign !

Here is our first game:

Ian Nepomniachtchi (2506) - Viacheslav Zakhartsov (2554)
Open Moscow RUS (6), 03.02.2006.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 characteristic of the Najdorf Sicilian

6.Be3 until now Ian prefers this move which is not the main line, however it has a lot of venom in it and has a great score against strong players which shows how deep Ian preparations are!

6..e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0–0–0 very aggressive line that rarely ends in draws you either win or die here!

10..Rc8 11.Kb1 Be7 12.Nd5 Nxd5 13.exd5 Bf5 14.Bd3 Bxd3 15.Qxd3 Bg5 16.Bf2 Qc7 17.c3 very simple yet useful move. White simply closes the black counter play on c file for now. He is aware of the b5 b4 push, however his attack on the kingside and center is much more effective!

17…g6 18.h4 Bh6 19.Rhe1 Kf8 20.Re4 Kg7 21.g4 hxg4 22.fxg4 Bf4 23.Rf1 Rcf8 24.h5

opening up the kingside

here it starts. The black king suddenly isn’t safe anywhere.

24..Qd8 25.Qe2 g5 a very good move from black actually. He is trying to close the kingside and to limit white aggression there.

26. Rb4 Alright, the King side temporary closed so lets attack the queenside! **26..b5 27.a4 Nf6 28.axb5 Nxd5 29.bxa6!! ignoring the exchange threatened creating two passed pawns on the queenside and making a mess in the position where white play is easier in the time pressure as he would just push the passed pawns!

Nxb4 30.cxb4 d5 31.Bc5 Re8 32.a7 Qd7 33.Qa6 the simple b5-b6 would win easily too

33..d4 34.b5 d3 35.h6+ time is getting low for both players.whit is going for the scary confusing play on the kindside,However like we said the 35-..b6 wins the game as he would lose probably one of his rooks for one of the passed pawns , for example

[35.b6 d2 36.Nxd2 Qxd2 37.b7! Qd5 38.h6+ Rxh6?? 39.Qb5 Rhh8 40.Bf8+]

35…Kh7 36.Qf6 Rhg8 37.b6 e4 38.Qd4 Qxd4 black resigned here although there might be a small chance of a draw with e3 later on. Yet it is hard to believe black would survive this on the queenside as the white pawns are far more advanced! 1–0 here is a link of the game on lichess

In our next very recent game, Ian faces the Sicilian defense again. It shows how rich Ian repertoire really is. This recent 2021 game was played in Paris against the famous grandmaster Etienne Bacrot . he got destroyed in 24 moves only!

Ian Nepomniachtchi [2778] - Etienne Bacrot[2673]:
GCT Paris Rapid & Blitz (2021) (rapid).

1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ playing the canal attack also known as Moscow variation in the Sicilian defense. It is a simple respectable anti Sicilian system specific against the Sicilian dragon and the Sicilian Nijdorf . White Aims to castle first control the center and then start a kingside attack or a central bind depending on black responses.

3..Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0–0 Nf6 6.Re1 Nc6 7.c3 e6 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4 taking over the center, white king is safe. He would wanna complete his development and then launch a kingside attack!

10.d5 good move from black. He aims to counter play in the center and undermine white control there. That is why white is almost force to close the center if he hopes to get any advantage

10.e5 Ne4 11.Nbd2 very good strategy! Exchange the black most active peace for a knight that was doing nothing!

11-..Nxd2 12.Bxd2 a5 13.Rc1 a4 14.a3 Be7 15.h4 0–0 16.Rc3!

rook lift

a multi-purpose move, White has the option of rook swing to attack the kingside in addition to the other option of doubling rooks on the c open file. He can even triple control it with the help of the queen if he needs to.

16..Rfc8 natural response from black, challenging the open file preparing to move the knight perhaps all around the white queenside

17.Rd3 very useful move. White already decided he would attack on the kingside , so he take the burden of protecting the center off the knight, assigning this task to the rook temporary in order to make use of the fact that the rook left the kingside and there are so many soft spots to exploit around black king!

17..b5 18.Ng5 h6 19.Nh3 Kh8 20.Qg4 f5 black panicked due to the speed of white pieces in creating mating threats around his king, so he tried to defend actively. This turns out to be a severe mistake !

21. Qg6 Bxh4?? Losing time in a crucial position. Black had to play the passive looking Bf8 to secure all the squares around his king. This move just helps white opening the h file as well!!

22. Qh5 Bd8 23.Bxh6 gxh6 24.Rg3 black resigned, there is no defense to the Qxh6 mate for example Qh7 gets mated in two after Qe8+ Qg8 only move then Qxg8 mate. Another try would be Bg5 but then Nxg5 and white is still going to mate black king or win the queen at least!

Overall, it seems like Ian has a very very deep preparation against the Sicilian. He is not afraid to play the main lines and at the same time he is excellent at playing anti Sicilian systems. It would be very difficult for the Carlsen team to prepare against Ian Nepomniachtchi for the world champion match.I believe that we are going to witness a real fight specially in the classical games and there will be alot of surprises awaiting us in this match!