From luck in chess | TIME ONLINE

From luck in chess | TIME ONLINE

Dice could help during a chess game if a player simply cannot choose between several good moves. Dice are of course prohibited; chess is not supposed to be a game of chance, but a measurement of mental powers.

Happiness plays a role in every tournament, growing from the inaccuracies and mistakes that one makes and which the other knows how to exploit. The sixth round of the Candidate tournaments in Ekaterinburg offers the most beautiful (and bitter) view.

In the pairing between the Russian Ian Nepomniaschtschi, nickname Nepo, and the Chinese Ding Liren, a considerable tension builds up in the middle game. Ding, who started the tournament as a favorite, felt no increased urge to draw after two defeats. Like all eight, he wants to win this tournament because only the winner receives the right to participate Magnus Carlsen to play the world title. So he has to score now.

It’s not that easy with the black stones; ambitious attempts quickly lead to the abyss at this level. Ding has an advanced pawn in the center, who divides the white position in half like a wedge. That’s fine, but the peasant has no peasants at his side, he is a lonely avant-garde, socially isolated, as you would say today, and thing must always keep an eye on him so that he is not lost. He also sends a second avant-garde, who is lurking at the white king position, to help set the mat at some point. This guy also tends to be weak.

The German
Grandmaster Niclas Huschenbeth shows the game of the day in his
Chess video: Ian Nepomniaschtschi beats Ding Liren.

Nepo, on the other hand, has a dangerous pawn on the sixth row, powerfully supported by its towers. Two fields ahead and he will transform into a lady. Nepo does a lot of things right, activates his characters, and at some point he sees the critical moment when he wants to turn his pressure into a victory.

Just then, Ding is thinking about his avant-garde on the white kingside. He pulls the lady out and threatens a mate in two moves. Nepo now has a choice. Does he give chess with a further pawn profit and complete disarmament? Or does he first secure – even with a pawn win – the long diagonal on which Black wants to lead his matt attack? Amateurs would give chess right away; Applying immediate compulsion is always fun. Great masters have caution in their blood.

Position after move 31, black queen from d7 to g4. Nepo has the choice: give chess to the queen on e8 – or take the pawn on d5 and secure the diagonal?
© chess24

So Nepo occupies the long diagonal. Is that luck or bad luck? And for whom? We’ll see it soon. Ding attacks the lady with his outer tower. The tower is not covered. The lady could take it. But then she would leave the long diagonal and Nepo would be mated in two moves. So the lady dodges, a sidestep along the diagonal. Thing considered. The situation is shitty, as they say in Mandarin. He pulls the tower again, attacks the lady again; now she gives up the chess she left out, and the black position flies completely apart.

Nepo still believes in his convincing victory in the subsequent video interview and visibly resists the black hammer train, about which he will be asked. But there’s no denying it: things that see everything else could have averted the end with a startling combination and reached a tie.

To do this, he would have had to find three moves, according to which he would have been materially at a loss, with an entire tower less. But miraculously, his threats against the white king would have been so strong that Nepo should have given all his advantage back. Would have! He didn’t see it.


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