Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: I Didn’t Want!

English writer Agatha Christie (1890-1976) captivated readers with her novels about detectives solving puzzling mysteries. In 1926, Christie herself became the subject of a real-life mystery when she disappeared for 11 days. After discovered 200 miles from where she abandoned her car, she claimed to do not remember where she had been or what had happened during that 11-day period.

Certainly, that is not what happened to the Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in the prestigious Sinquefield Cup (Saint Louis, 2019) but in some respect, discordant coordination between mind and hand happened to him.

He was playing against French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 10 and the following position appeared on the board after Vachier-Lagrave played his move 20…Ke7

Nepomniachtchi explained after the game that he intended to play 21.Nc6 but instead he moved the knight to d7. Why? It’s not clear.

As pointed out Vachier-Lagrave, Nepomniachtchi’s strategy in the tournament was to think less and put clock pressure on his opponents:

“He’s been putting pressure on time against all his opponents. Against Levon he won like this, but he had an interesting idea in the opening. Against Wesley, he definitely won like this.

You know, yesterday I was pretty pissed about my play, so I’m looking at Ian, he’s winning all his games, he’s playing so fast…and then I look at his game and I see it’s mistake after mistake so I thought: let’s not be confused by his quick play and let’s punish his mistakes!”

Nepomniachtchi’s body language after his blunder shows his thoughts. His wry smile denotes that he did something silly.

In fact, it’s not the first time in this tournament that the Russian GM makes such blunder. Remember that in round 1, he ruined a drawing position against Anand.

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