Round 3 of the 2012 Tal Memorial wasn't as exciting as its predecessors, but it wasn't bad, either. Three games ended in fairly quick draws, though two of the three had their moments.
The least interesting game saw Magnus Carlsen play a sideline against Fabiano Caruana's Gruenfeld, get nothing at all, and in an equal and flat position the players cooperated to reach a hopelessly drawn pure opposite-colored bishop ending and draw by repetition - all in 30 moves. Carlsen continues to show absolutely nothing in his openings. It's true that he often doesn't strive for too much from his openings - just enough to get a position he can play - but he's not even getting that here. (Yet.)
A short and slightly strange draw (for the spectators) arose in Radjabov-Kramnik. A 4.d3 Berlin came to resemble (and maybe even transpose) to a slow Giuoco, and Radjabov seemed to be handling the middlegame better. Radjabov has won some very nice games with that approach - including in a tiebreak game against Kramnik last year in Kazan - and seemed to have his opponent slightly on the ropes. Black played a rather surprising exchange sacrifice that obviously alleviated White's pressure and gave him a pleasant-looking position, but the received wisdom among the commentariat was that Black's compensation was insufficient. Radjabov thought a while, and within two moves initiated a repetition, stating at the press conference that he didn't see any way to make progress. (It seems there's a reason the commentators are commentators and not players.)
The third draw saw Hikaru Nakamura trot out the King's Gambit against Evgeny Tomashevsky. He seemed to have a slight edge for a while, but by his 32nd move he should have repeated with 32.Qf1. After 32.Qf2 Black was a little better, but only trivially so after Nakamura swapped down to an opposite-colored bishop ending.
Finally, there were two decisive games, both noteworthy in their own right. The most impressive and most surprising one saw bottom seed and tailender Luke McShane beat - crush! - world #2 Levon Aronian, and with the black pieces at that. Without any special preparation, McShane decided upon a rare and speculative exchange sac in the opening: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 a6 5.Bg5!? dxc4 6.a4 h6 7.Bh4 b5!? 8.axb5 cxb5 9.Nxb5 axb5 10.Rxa8 Bb7 etc. Black has given up a full exchange, but for a lot of activity, great pieces and - what proved fatal in the game - a serious initiative against White's unhappy king. McShane spent a lot of time throughout the game, and it paid off.
Finally, Alexanders Grischuk and Morozevich played the sort of interesting and fighting chess you'd expect from them (at least when the former isn't in a Candidates event). Grischuk had the better of things in the second time control, but then he burned up a huge amount of time before deciding on a speculative sacrifice. It may have been perfectly sound, but with only a minute or so (plus 30-second increments) for the next 15 moves it was a very dubious decision, practically speaking, and he paid the price. Morozevich found some excellent defensive ideas, and once it wasn't clear who had the initiative Grischuk desperately needed more time on his clock. Lacking it, he erred and lost.
With the win, Morozevich caught Radjabov in first with 2.5/3, and could have been leading with 3/3 had he finished Carlsen off in round 2. Both are in fine shape heading into tomorrow's rest day, half a point ahead of Kramnik and a point or more ahead of the rest of the field. Their reward will be face off on Tuesday:
Round 4 Pairings:
- Caruana (1) - Tomashevsky (1)
- McShane (1) - Nakamura (1)
- Kramnik (2) - Aronian (1.5)
- Morozevich (2.5) - Radjabov (2.5)
- Carlsen (1.5) - Grischuk (1)