Dortmund 2018 Won By Nepo

Finishing with two White wins Nepomniachtchi won the tournament with an impressive 5/7. One of those White wins was against the over-ambitious (as usual) Kramnik.

Funny thing this Kramnik style. So pleasurable to watch, but if you root for him, as I often do, it hurts to see him become so unstable. Botvinnik used to talk about the necessity for “self-programming” after a certain age and by that he meant taking advantages of the accumulated experience in order to compensate for the loss of calculating power and energy. This is what Anand is trying to do and more or less successfully.

Kramnik, on the other hand, is doing completely the opposite. He’s trying to fight the younger players on their territory – getting a game out of the opening, thus expending energy from the early stages of the game, and then being as aggressive as possible, relying on his calculational abilities and energy levels, both of which are clearly inferior when compared to the younger players. He may be enjoying chess playing like this, but his results will unavoidably become only worse.

As I don’t see Kramnik change his approach I think his days in the Top 10 are numbered and that number is pretty low. Of course, this depends on the next tournament he plays, but each tournament is just another realistic opportunity to lose points and fall lower.

Here’s that game with Nepomniachtchi.

Nepo wasn’t without the usual winner’s luck. In the next round he escaped from a lost position to Duda.

In the last round Nepo demolished Meier’s super-solid French and won irrelevant of the results of the other games.

After losing to Kovalev, Giri made a nice comeback, winning twice with the Black pieces. He beat out-of-form Nisipeanu in a Najdorf and he beat his recent boss Kramnik. Perhaps it is more precise to say Kramnik committed a hara-kiri with his absurd winning attempts, but that doesn’t diminish Giri’s merit.

Giri even could have finished clear second had he won a winning position against Duda in the last round, but it wasn’t to be. Both players finished shared second with 4/7.

This leaves the unsung hero of the tournament, the Aeroflot qualifier and rating outsider Vladislav Kovalev. He beat Giri with Black and almost beat Kramnik with White in the last round. Need I say Kramnik blundered terribly in an equal position? Undefeated 4/7 and a shared second is an incredible result for Kovalev, but I don’t see him getting more elite-level invitations as a result of this success. Elite tournaments are not really a meritocracy, even though Spassky once said that chess is a meritocracy. Chess may be, but getting into those closed circles requires much more than just good play.

To finish, here’s that Kramnik blunder in the last round.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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