Entries in Tal Memorial 2009 (13)
In the previous post I threatened to present some games from the last day of the Tal Memorial Blitz (which was also the blitz world championship); today, I make good on my threat. (Whether it was stronger than the execution, I don't know.) There's a bit of everything: in the openings, there are gaffes, one-upsmanship and at least one big novelty. There are thrilling middlegames and strategic ones in which there's a battle of plans, and even a few endings. Have a look, here.
Magnus Carlsen stayed hot through most of today's final 14 rounds, and won the Tal Memorial Blitz, which was also the World Blitz Championship this year, with a fine score of 31 out of 42, three full points ahead of world champ Viswanathan Anand. It didn't hurt that he defeated Anand in their individual game, but he was pretty dominant even aside from that game. It was a very good result for both players. For Carlsen, it's further evidence that he's as real as it gets; his rivals aren't going to pinch themselves and wake up to find out he's not there. He's there, and the title is unlikely to stay out of his hands for very long. For Anand, resting on his laurels as always (not getting into the action like Topalov), it's also a good result that should help both his confidence and his sharpness as he continues his preparation for Chaos and son.
In a mild surprise, Sergey Karjakin finished third with 25 points, three points behind Anand but just half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik started the day on fire, winning five straight to close on the leaders and to come within half a point of Karjakin. In his sixth game (round 34) he had White against Morozevich and seemed to be playing real chess (i.e. using serious openings and actual preparation), and had his opponent on the ropes for a long time. When Morozevich finally scraped out a draw, it seemed to take all the air out of Kramnik, whose subsequent results were horrible: loss, draw, loss, loss, draw, loss. After another draw, he finally found a victim - Karpov - and maintained fourth place. What's amazing is that at the end of that terrible sequence, he still finished just half a point behind Karjakin!
Svidler, Ponomariov and Grischuk finished a further point back, and as the drop to the next group was a point and a half this seems like a good place to stop listing results. Other results worthy of note in an unfortunate way: Ivanchuk, who won the blitz title two years ago and came in second last year by half a point, finished 15th this time around with 19.5-22.5. Less surprisingly, but a little sad after his great play the first day, was Karpov's 16th place finish with 19 points. The women did even worse: Judit Polgar was 19th with 17 points, and Kosteniuk came in last with 12.5, two and a half points below the next-to-last place finisher. Considering her rating, it was a good score, and she can boast of wins against Carlsen, Anand, Aronian and Karpov, among others. She had a nice run at the end of yesterday's rounds, but today was a disaster: she drew in round 29 (today's first round), but then lost 11 in a row. (Full results here.)
There were lots of good and interesting games, of course, and I'll try to present some later tonight. If there were any especially good games you've seen, please paste the PGN in the comments to this post or the one I hope to present later tonight.
After 14 more rounds, the Tal Memorial Blitz is 2/3 over. Magnus Carlsen had the hot hand today, going a drawless 11-3, and now lead Anand by a point. Generally speaking, it was a good day for Kramnik, though he lost to both Carlsen and Anand, and an even better day for Karjakin, who is in third place. As for Karpov, he sunk like a stone in the remaining seven rounds of the first cycle, drawing three and losing four. His results in the first seven rounds of the second half have been better - 50%.
So far I've only seen the games of the big three (Carlsen, Anand [but just a handful of his games] and Kramnik), so it's only their games I can refer you to. Carlsen's losses to Ivanchuk and Morozevich were interesting (I'd even call the latter game surreal, while the former was a case of an attack gone bad). Among his wins, his victory over Kramnik is worth a look, and the end of his game with Svidler was seen by many spectators as mysterious - could it be that Svidler (again) resigned in a drawn position? (He did this once in a real tournament against Kramnik, in an opposite-colored bishop ending, which was an ironic complement to his offering Anand a draw when Svidler was winning by force in a pawns vs. knight ending.) In fact Carlsen was winning, in nice style.
Among Kramnik's games, the battle with Mamedyarov was spectacular, while the Naiditsch game showed an attack gone awry (like the Carlsen loss to Ivanchuk mentioned above). Finally, Kramnik's draw against Leko in the final game of the day was perplexing, in that I can't understand what has happened to Leko's oustanding technique. His loss to Carlsen in the real tournament was mind-boggling, considering his abilities, and this was another major lapse. Hopefully it's just a bad run or a little lapse in confidence, and he'll return to his best chess soon.
Leading Standings after 28 of 42 Rounds:
1. Carlsen 21
2. Anand 20
3. Karjakin 18.5
4-5. Kramnik, Svidler 16.5
6-7. Ponomariov, Grischuk 16
Full standings here.
It looks like the recent practice has done served Anatoly Karpov well! But first, let's give Viswanathan Anand his props. After 14 of 21 rounds the world champion has a fantastic score of 12 points, with nary a loss thus far. It's not as important as the slow tournament that just finished, but it's at the very least a nice consolation prize.
Two points behind - and with his game against Anand yet to come - is Magnus Carlsen. He has lost three games (including a shocker to tailender Alexandra Kosteniuk), but aside from some early problems and a round 14 loss to...Karpov!, he has played very well.
Karpov's current status in third place (9 points) is amazing, given his horrible performances the last several years. Granted, it's only blitz and practically everyone is hiding their best weapons; even so, it's a great result. He lost one game, to Bareev, but has beaten Carlsen, Gashimov, Tkachiev, Gelfand and Mamedyarov. He has lots of tough opponents to face tomorrow, so it's possible he'll drop like a stone in the standings, but for now it's a pleasure to see him doing well.
Only half a point behind are Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk. Kramnik's main problem was his choice of 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.d4 Qd6, which cost him at least three games. Maybe the line is okay, but it doesn't look very "Kramniky". One of those losses was his first-ever loss to Judit Polgar, at least the first I'm aware of. It's only blitz, but still!
You can find the full crosstable here, but now let me discuss some games aside from the ones mentioned above that caught my eye. Anand won some nice games, of course, and I liked the end of his round 2 win over Ivanchuk and his round 8 victory over Svidler. Kramnik delivered a fine pasting to Aronian in round 5, complete with a nifty petit combination to end the game. Jakovenko-Kosteniuk (round 8) saw one of the most interesting Petroff lines, and the game might be theoretically significant. Those who play or face the Marshall line (3.Nxe5...6...Bd6) should have a look. In other interesting opening news, again with Kosteniuk as the victim, see her round 10 game with Ivanchuk when he pulled the old Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit out of his hat: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4!? Finally, Morozevich also took a trip to the museum, playing 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 at every opportunity. (The games can be replayed and downloaded here.)
UPDATE: It's a double round-robin that continues through Wednesday, so it's only the first cycle that ends after round 21.
Last rounds are often tedious, low-risk affairs, but today's finale at the Tal Memorial was just the opposite. Only two of the five games were drawn, and only one of the draws (Svidler-Gelfand) was forgettable. The remaining games were battles, three of them with real excitement.
Let's start with the game that decided first place. Ivanchuk gained an edge against Kramnik, and built up a serious kingside attack. Ivanchuk was never winning, as far as I can tell, but he was clearly better and seemed to miss a couple of good chances. Still, the position was very complicated and both players - especially Ivanchuk - were growing short of time. A single Ivanchuk inaccuracy was all Kramnik needed to hold the position, and Kramnik thereby won the tournament.
The reason is that while Anand could have tied him with a win, he had already lost - badly - to Aronian. It was a very strange game, in that Anand-Aronian followed Aronian-Movsesian, Nanjing 2008, and where Anand varied with a new move it was a big error. It's unlikely that Anand prepared it specifically for this game, but given the forcing nature of the play up to that point it would be surprising if he hadn't prepared it at some point. Whatever the story, the move was bad, Anand's position was bad, and his subsequent resourcefulness couldn't save him. Instead of tying for first or second, his 25 move loss dropped him into a tie for 4th and 5th with Aronian.
More butchery took place in Ponomariov-Morozevich. Morozevich came out of the opening with a decent position, but turned all his pieces into targets for tactics, and he went down in just 27 moves.
The other decisive game was more significant for the final standings and the world scene, however. Leko-Carlsen seemed to be heading for a draw, but under slight pressure in the ending Leko lost his head and the thread. After some errors, he lost a pawn, and then a sacrificed a second one to try to simplify the defense. It didn't work, and Carlsen won the rook + f & h pawn vs. rook ending; rightly so, as the defender's king was always stuck on the first rank.
This game meant a lot. First, after seven draws to start the tournament, his two consecutive wins left him tied with Ivanchuk for second place, half a point behind Kramnik. Second, he will apparently lead Topalov on the rating list, a point that will undoubtedly please Topalov and Danailov no end. More importantly - assuming he doesn't lose that status in London in December - he will be the youngest #1 ever, and the first from Western Europe.
1. Kramnik 6
2-3. Ivanchuk, Carlsen 5½
4-5. Aronian, Anand 5
6. Gelfand 4½
7. Ponomariov 4
8. Svidler 3½
9-10. Leko, Morozevich 3
Games, with my comments, here.
With one round to go, Kramnik continues to lead, as not only he but his closest pursuers Anand and Ivanchuk all drew their games. Only Carlsen won today - his first win of the tournament! - but he's a full point behind Kramnik.
Let's briefly review the games. Kramnik's effort against Leko was surprisingly lame. With White in a very theoretically worked out line of the Queen's Indian, Kramnik innovated on move 27 in a variation that had only produced draws in the earlier games. The new move was interesting, but only presented Leko with a single problem to solve, and he coped with it easily. It seems like a wasted game with the white pieces, but the truth may simply be that no one has an infinite supply of powerful novelties, and that was the best he had in that particular variation. Whatever the case, it was an easy day for Leko and gave Anand and Ivanchuk a golden opportunity to catch up.
That was unlikely to occur, however, as both players had Black. Against Gelfand's Catalan, Anand achieved a solid, Fort Knox-ish position that he held without difficulty, and Ivanchuk also managed to draw a Catalan, in this case against Aronian. Aronian gave him more difficulties than Gelfand did Anand, but never so many that the game left the drawing realm.
The other draw, Morozevich-Svidler, was a bit more lively, but there too no player ever enjoyed a winning advantage. That leaves our one decisive game of the day: Carlsen-Ponomariov, which was a nice, sharp, English Attack that probably came out of Kasparov's kitchen. Ponomariov went astray early and came under a withering attack. Surprisingly, Carlsen made what seems to be a very poor, temporizing move at one moment, when he could and should have pressed straight ahead with his attack. Ponomariov failed to take advantage of the momentary amnesty, and Carlsen finished him off in style. Overall, an excellent attacking game by Carlsen, with just the one (albeit serious) error.
One round to go!
Standings After Round 8:
1. Kramnik 5½
2-3. Anand, Ivanchuk 5
4. Carlsen 4½
5-6. Gelfand, Aronian 4
7-10. Ponomariov, Leko, Morozevich, Svidler 3
Final Round Pairings:
Ivanchuk - Kramnik (Perfect! The winner wins the tournament.)
Anand - Aronian
Svidler - Gelfand
Ponomariov - Morozevich
Leko - Carlsen
Games, with my comments, here.
Not much changed today, as four of the five games were drawn - and generally dull draws at that. The one winner was Vassily Ivanchuk, whose win over Boris Gelfand puts him in a tie for second with Viswanathan Anand, half a point behind Kramnik.
Round 7 Results:
Anand - Morozevich ½-½
Ivanchuk - Gelfand 1-0
Aronian - Kramnik ½-½
Ponomariov - Leko ½-½
Svidler - Carlsen ½-½
Standings After Round 7:
1. Kramnik 5
2-3. Anand, Ivanchuk 4½
4-6. Carlsen, Gelfand, Aronian 3½
7. Ponomariov 3
8-10. Morozevich, Svidler, Leko 2½
Round 8 Pairings:
Kramnik - Leko
Carlsen - Ponomariov
Morozevich - Svidler
Gelfand - Anand
Aronian - Ivanchuk
It looks like being an ex-champion has worked out for Vladimir Kramnik. Over the past year or so, with the exception of the first half of the match with Anand, Kramnik has probably played the best chess in the world. (Carlsen's performance in China was by a long way the best single performance, but overall it seems to me Kramnik has had the best last year or so.) Maybe it's a full return to health from his earlier problems, or marriage and fatherhood, or a renewed sense of ambition, but whatever the explanation his chess and fighting spirit have really perked up.
He needed it today, as Ponomariov made him sweat it out in a harrowing game. With White against the Ragozin System, Kramnik responded well to a novelty and gained a winning advantage in the early middlegame. The position was incredibly sharp, however, and after a long think Kramnik chose a second-best continuation. The position remained a complete mess, and Ponomariov again went wrong - but so did Kramnik. This pattern continued for a long time, even into an ending where Kramnik's extra exchange was well matched by Ponomariov's bishop pair and connected queenside passers. Neither man handled the situation perfectly, and at one moment Ponomariov missed a shot that would have given him an advantage. Generally speaking, though, the pattern of Kramnik being better and getting, then squandering, serious winning chances continued for a long time. Still, he plugged and plugged away, and by move 60 he finally achieved a clear technical win. Even that wasn't a cakewalk, but on move 81 Ponomariov at last gave up, and Kramnik regained solo first.
Had Anand defeated Carlsen, then they would have remained tied, but he only managed to draw. (Perhaps he was resting on his laurels?) It wasn't for lack of effort, though, the previous parenthetical joke notwithstanding. In a Ragozin - or was it an abortive Vienna Variation? - Anand, with Black, enjoyed a queenside initiative and was about to collect all his opponent's pawns, but Carlsen managed to whip up enough counterplay to hold the draw.
If Aronian had won, he'd have caught Anand in second, but he lost to Gelfand. In a battle of two Semi-Slav specialists, Aronian innovated first in a position where Black had gone 0 for 3; after his novelty, it was 0 for 4. Aronian slips back to 50%, and now it's Gelfand who is in third.
Tied for third, that is, because Ivanchuk also won with Black. His victim was Morozevich, whom he outplayed in a Modern Benoni (by transposition). "Moro" allowed Black's queenside expansion with ...b5, but didn't achieve compensation anywhere else. In fact, Ivanchuk gradually achieved complete domination, and needed only to make the time control without blundering. He made it, and his opponent resigned several moves later.
The last game was Leko-Svidler. Leko gained an edge, but couldn't do anything with it and a draw was agreed just after the time control.
Standings After Round 6:
1. Kramnik 4½
2. Anand 4
3-4. Gelfand, Ivanchuk 3½
5-6. Carlsen, Aronian 3
7. Ponomariov 2½
8-10. Morozevich, Leko, Svidler 2
Round 7 Pairings:
Aronian - Kramnik
Ivanchuk - Gelfand
Anand - Morozevich
Svidler - Carlsen
Ponomariov - Leko
The games, with my comments, are here.