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Home News Yang knows how to hold his punches: Potkin on Nepomnyashchiy’s haste, Ding Lizhen’s tricks and playing with an open fist

Yang knows how to hold his punches: Potkin on Nepomnyashchiy’s haste, Ding Lizhen’s tricks and playing with an open fist

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

How satisfied are Nepomnyashchy and the whole team with the way the match is going?

– First of all, it’s very good that Jan got ahead in the score and stabilized the game. Almost every game we see emotional swings, and they greatly influence the game and set the tone for the duels. That’s why it’s important that he managed to win game seven and tip the scales in his favor. As for the ninth game, the initiative belonged completely to our player, he controlled the situation. He could have struggled to win somewhere, but overall the draw was good from the point of view of the overall match.

I’m glad that Jan fights to the end, takes every chance. Even in the endgame, when there is very little material left. We all remember Jan’s famous endgame in the match between Russia and Germany at the European Team Championship in 2017. At that time he faced the experienced Georg Meyer, with two pawns left on the board against one, and Jan won. Dean also had to fight for this draw.

It was very convenient to have a day off after such a tense stretch, he had time to gain strength and energy. This is very important, because Ding Lizhen, having white pieces, always goes for an uncompromising fight, makes some surprises, trying to lure Yang to his own territory, where he would be more comfortable to play. So it’s important to approach this game with good emotions. It was noticeable that in the last few days Jan enjoyed the game and the positions he was able to achieve, so now it’s important to maintain that vector.

How well does the course of the struggle correspond to your plans and expectations? Sergei Shipov, for example, called it a cowboy shootout. .

– The match was bright and unpredictable. It was hard to imagine that there would be so many successful games and that both Din and Ian would put up a good fight, even when their positions didn’t allow it. This open-hearted attitude to play is a very interesting thing to see from both players right from the start. Both players are required to give their best every day. The Chinese player shows a very good game, a strong preparation. For example, in the French Defence he was very good in one piece and played his first line, but overall Yang kept his concentration from start to finish and showed more composure. You can see that for Dean this match is very important, he fights in every game.

What does your opponent surprise Nepomniyashchiy? Were there situations he wasn’t ready for?

– I must say that Ding Lizhen is using a very interesting strategy. He tries to lure Yang into the type of positions he’s more familiar with, in which he’s considered the best player in the world. There’s a lot of psychological warfare going on, which may not be visible from the outside. For example, remember Richard Rapport’s original idea in the second game, move h3. The main premise in that was not so much to surprise as to transfer the game to those positions which he knows better. Here it is an isolated pawn. And Jan at that moment reacted well and got an active game, more familiar to him. That is, this battle of concepts takes place during preparation, as well as at the board. It takes a lot of nervous energy and strength, and that’s partly why we see such a scattering of results.

– After his loss in the sixth game the Russian said it was the worst game of his life. Why was it so? .

– Jan is always self-critical and even after wins he wants more from himself. He really is an ambitious athlete in a good sense of the word and is always looking for ways to progress. It’s good that he perceives the situation that way. But it must be said that that game and the Chinese grandmaster played at a very high level. He got a familiar type of position – the same Carlsbad queenside gambit structure, only with a change of color, because he played it with white. You could see that at some point after a series of inaccuracies black knew what he had to do and played the game really well.

Jan had chances to make a draw, but on that day his opponent acted very well. Such moments happen, and the main thing is to accept it and come back the next day as if nothing had happened, because it’s not only important how you shoot, but also how you hold your shots. It’s good that Ian took the defeat, returned to the game the next day and won an important victory.

– Many grandmasters, commenting on the match, note that Nepomnyashchiy sometimes makes moves that are too impulsive and advise giving yourself time to think. Do you agree with the criticism?

– Jan’s quick play is his strength, which has helped him develop since he was a kid, and has always set him apart from other high-level chess players. He’s very quick to grasp and is able to see into a position in a fraction of a second what takes a lot longer for many. High speed of decision-making is Jan’s style. On the other hand, in some positions there is haste, but it must be said that it is not born out of nothing, but in the course of a titanic struggle.

My opponent creates problems, plays great, and spends certain stretches of the game on the first line, so that these mistakes appear out of necessity. They only accentuate the heat of the match. Of course, at such moments it would be desirable for Jan to play differently, but it’s a contest for the chess crown, and there’s enormous pressure! He has to overcome himself in many ways, both psychologically and chess-wise. Both lose, and it’s important who makes the fewest mistakes in the whole segment. The good thing is that Jan manages to play the last games in a cooler way, and maintains his concentration better than his opponent.

How difficult is it for you as a coach to maintain a balance of psychological preparation, because you need to avoid excessive pressure on the player, but also not to allow any slackness?

– It is important for a player to be in the rhythm of the game but tune in to each game individually, not thinking about the end result. Simply came to the table with a willingness to play white or black. And as quickly as possible he forgot what had happened on the previous days. The opponents did not spare each other. If in other matches there was a scouting battle, when 20 moves and a draw, then it doesn’t happen here. Every day you have to be ready for a serious fight, but you have to remember to enjoy the game and to rest and accumulate energy on the weekends.

There are five games left in the main stretch. Do you have a plan in place to play them without going to a tie-break? .

– Dean has a little more scope, since he has three white games to play. But anyway it is impossible to build a long-term strategy, we must play from game to game. Today we have a goal for tomorrow’s black game, and we need to prepare for it, play well, and then look at the situation from there.

Experts note that the Chinese chess player is losing in a struggle of nerves. Is it possible to play on his emotional instability? .

– The best recipe is always to play against the pieces. Yes, in that game, where Yang won the French Defence, his opponent was seriously nervous, especially when he had little time left. He was concentrating more on the clock than on his position, thinking about how to make his move quickly. But Ding Lizhen can be different, and we saw that the next day he came out and played very well with white. So no, you mustn’t tune in to the fact that the opponent may get nervous, and that will affect his decision making. You just have to act against the pieces, and if Dean suddenly gets nervous, just play calmly and bring the game to victory.

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