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    Entries in Tal Memorial 2012 (14)

    Tuesday
    Jun192012

    Tal Memorial, Round 9: Carlsen Wins the Game and the Tournament

    What a crazy event the 2012 Tal Memorial was! It seemed that practically the whole field led at one moment or another, and by the end the only predictor of success was playing against one of the leaders. Alexander Morozevich and Vladimir Kramnik both collapsed at the end of the tournament, and they were replaced by Fabiano Caruana going into the last round just in time for him to lose to Levon Aronian.

    The event was so topsy-turvy that Luke McShane, the lowest-rated player and until the last couple of rounds mired in either last or next to last (where he finished), would have WON the tournament on tiebreaks had he beaten Magnus Carlsen! McShane's play was uncharacteristically solid in this last game, but having ceded the initiative to Carlsen when the latter played 21...a5 he went for a positionally unjustified attack in pending time trouble with 27.Rde1? Carlsen took the material, beat off the attack, and collected the point and tournament victory once the players passed the time control on move 40.

    Caruana would have clinched first place on tiebreaks with a draw, no matter what happened in the other games, but with Black even against a somewhat out of form Aronian that was not a guaranteed result. Aronian chose the 3.f3 Anti-Gruenfeld line that gave Boris Gelfand some trouble in a couple of games with Viswanathan Anand in their world championship match, and it looks like there's plenty of scope here to keep causing Black some trouble. Caruana's preparation was insufficiently broad, and Aronian acquired a significant advantage by the opening's end.

    The other three games were drawn: Hikaru Nakamura didn't manage to get anything from a Rossolimo Sicilian against Teimour Radjabov and was even a little worse, but Radjabov preferred to play solidly than take serious risks and the game finished peacefully. Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Morozevich were not discouraged by their failures the last few rounds and played a long, hard-fought game. Kramnik had some chances to win - as he did in many games in the event - but couldn't bring home the full point. Finally, Alexander Grischuk had good winning chances with Black in a Saemisch King's Indian against Evgeny Tomashevsky, but the former's extra pawn proved insufficient for more than the more pleasant side of a draw.

    Final Standings:

    • 1. Carlsen 5.5 (out of 9)
    • 2-3. Caruana, Radjabov 5 (in that order, on tiebreaks; likewise for the next two score groups)
    • 4-7. Kramnik, Morozevich, Aronian, Grischuk 4.5
    • 8-9. McShane, Nakamura 4
    • 10. Tomashevsky 3.5

    Monday
    Jun182012

    Tal Memorial, Round 8: Caruana Alone in First With One Round to Go (Updated: Carlsen Wins The Tournament)

    There have been many exciting games and interesting rounds at the Tal Memorial this year, but round 8 was probably the craziest. Five players entered the round tied for first, but four fell back.

    Alexander Morozevich started the event on fire with 4/5, and it could have been 4.5 or even a perfect 5/5. In rounds 6 and 7 he suffered completely unnecessary losses, but in round 8 a resurgent Luke McShane beat him soundly; there was no question of good fortune this time around.

    Vladimir Kramnik had also enjoyed the lead the past two rounds, but he was handled surprisingly easily by Fabiano Caruana (send him back!). Caruana played the Scotch, Kramnik sacrificed a pawn at some point for play, and Caruana simply took it and neutralized Black's compensation. Eventually Kramnik blundered and resigned, but by then Caruana's winning chances were extremely high.

    Magnus Carlsen pushed Evgeny Tomashevsky in the first part of the game, but most observers thought Tomashevsky had the better chances at the start of the bishop (Carlsen) vs. knight (Tomashevsky) ending. Carlsen apparently didn't think much of that assessment, but whatever its truth he did manage to pose his opponent some serious problems. He came close to pulling it off, but Tomashevsky found the only move when he needed to and the game finished as a draw. Teimour Radjabov also drew (against Levon Aronian), and thereby kept within half a point of the lead, with Carlsen, behind Caruana.

    Finally, Alexander Grischuk won convincingly on the white side of a Sicilian Dragon against Hikaru Nakamura, eliminating the American from the race for first.

    So there's one round to go; here are the pairings:

    • Aronian - Caruana
    • Kramnik - Morozevich
    • Nakamura - Rajdabov
    • Tomashevsky - Grischuk
    • McShane - Carlsen

    [Update: Aronian beat Caruana, Radjabov was held to a draw by Nakamura and Carlsen beat McShane, so Magnus Carlsen has won the event, regardless of what happens in the Kramnik-Morozevich and Tomashevsky-Grischuk games.]

    Sunday
    Jun172012

    Tal Memorial, Round 7: Five Lead After Morozevich and Kramnik Lose

    It almost seems at this year's Tal Memorial that leading the tournament is bad for your subsequent play. Alexander Morozevich led entering round 6 and lost, when he was caught by Vladimir Kramnik. Both promptly lost in this round, and were caught by Teimour Radjabov (who co-led after round 4, if I recall correctly), Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen. All five players are on +1 with two rounds to go, and lead Hikaru Nakamura by a scanty half-point margin.

    Morozevich had Black against Evgeny Tomashevsky, and while Morozevich is the kind of player who presses with either color, the fact that it was against the tailender may have pushed him to go too far even by his own standards. Tomashevsky seemed amenable to a repetition before the time control, but Morozevich's 31...Ng7 indicated that he really wanted a decisive result. He got one alright, though it wasn't the one he wished for.

    Kramnik, also a co-leader, also lost with Black against one of the "lesser lights". In his case, however, it wasn't "suicide" but an earned victory by Luke McShane that took almost seven hours to achieve. The play wasn't perfect, but matters came down to McShane's having the far more dangerous passed pawn and having far more play against Kramnik's king than Kramnik enjoyed against McShane's.

    Had any one of Carlsen, Radjabov or Caruana won, that person would have enjoyed clear first. For Carlsen, it wasn't really a possibility. He was always defending against Hikaru Nakamura. The latter enjoyed a nagging pul in a Catalan, but it never turned into anything tangible. As for the other two, they played each other. Radjabov obtained a huge advantage straight out of the opening, but missed his best chance to win when he played 21.e6; 21.Rc7 puts Black at death's door. He missed that chance, and after another 42 moves of dour defense the young Italian pulled out the draw.

    Finally, Levon Aronian had to work to save a draw as White against Alexander Grischuk, due to the latter's terrific preparation.

    There are two rounds to go, and here's what we can look forward to in a few hours:

    Round 8 Pairings:

    • Carlsen (4) - Tomashevsky (2.5)
    • Radjabov (4) - Aronian (3)
    • Grischuk (3) - Nakamura (3.5)
    • Caruana (4) - Kramnik (4)
    • Morozevich (4) - McShane (3)

    Thursday
    Jun142012

    Tal Memorial, Round 6: Morozevich Loses, Co-Leads With Kramnik In A Tight Field

    Today's round at the Tal Memorial was huge for the standings. Alexander Morozevich entered the round a point clear of the field, facing the winless Hikaru Nakamura with the white pieces. A good place to be, and when Nakamura overlooked Morozevich's idea of 22.c6 Nb8 23.f5 it looked like things were going the leader's way. Nakamura thought for a very long time - around 50 minutes - and found the way to stay in the game and keep things unclear. Still, things weren't too bad until White played 38.Qd1??, a move described by a bitterly sarcastic Morozevich as a "study-like move", his self-mocking way of referring to what was perhaps the only losing move (that wasn't an overt blunder). After that everything worked like clockwork for Nakamura, and he won to get back on 50%.

    Meanwhile, Vladimir Kramnik defeated tailender Evgeny Tomashevsky to catch Morozevich in first at +2. It looked like Tomashevsky was going to achieve an easy draw in a quasi-Meran. But Kramnik managed to get a nibble with White, and that little bit grew and grew until by the end of the first time control he was winning. Kramnik has complained before about his fairly regular failures over the course of his career to win won endings, and after 42.h5+? it looked like the painting painter had a new "artwork" for his gallery. Fortunately for him, he was able to keep enough pressure on his opponent to push him into a second bout of time trouble, and the result was that Tomashevsky finally lost the game a second time with 68...Ke5?

    The bad news for Morozevich is not just that he was caught by Kramnik, but that Magnus Carlsen, Teimour Radjabov and Fabiano Caruana are all just half a point behind. Carlsen had the easier time of it against Levon Aronian, but the latter's patient defense in the Berlin eventually led to a draw. Radjabov held against Alexander Grischuk in yet another 5.b3 Rossolimo - one of the variations suddenly made trendy by Anand-Gelfand. And Caruana gained his second win in his last three games with a win over Luke McShane. The evaluation swung back and forth from White (Caruana) having a winning advantage to unclear/equal, and after several swings landed for the last time in Caruana's favor.

    Tomorrow is a rest day, and Saturday the show looks like this:

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Radjabov (3.5) - Caruana (3.5) (With both leaders having comparatively easy pairings, in theory, will these two take a little extra risk to stay close?)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Grischuk (2.5) (Just playing out the tournament now, or will Aronian push on and attempt to avenge Kazan?)
    • Nakamura (3) - Carlsen (3.5) (The perennial grudge match!)
    • Tomashevsky (1.5) - Morozevich (4) (A fine opportunity for Morozevich to bounce back.)
    • McShane (2) - Kramnik (4) (Likewise, a nice chance for Kramnik to consolidate his position at the top.)

    Reminder: GM Ian Rogers' English-language commentary, which can be replayed on-demand, is here.

    Wednesday
    Jun132012

    Tal Memorial, Round 5: Morozevich Leads, Carlsen Gets His First Win

    Round 5 of the Tal Memorial was still another good one, and it saw a shakeup at the top. Coming into the round Alexander Morozevich and Teimour Radjabov were tied for first, and with Morozevich getting Black against Levon Aronian and Radjabov the white pieces against Magnus Carlsen one would think Radjabov would have the better chance to come out of the round on top. And early on, that guess looked good. Radjabov didn't get anything with the Scotch, but his position looked pretty safe, like a draw was the inevitable result. Morozevich, had an extra piece in exchange for a horde of pawns - four of them, mostly in the center.

    But then things changed. Carlsen finally got "his" kind of position, one where he could grind and grind, and he won the game a little at a time. Meanwhile, the Aronian-Morozevich contest was always very complicated, and in major time trouble Aronian was unable to negotiate the complications and the once thriving species of white pawns were soon an endangered species. Aronian made the time control, but the only effect was that it gave him time to resign.

    Carlsen thus caught Radjabov in a tie for second, a point behind Morozevich. It would have been a tie for third, had Vladimir Kramnik managed to defeat Hikaru Nakamura, but while he managed to obtain an edge with the black pieces it wasn't quite enough to gain serious winning chances. The post-mortem was amusing. Nakamura felt that he had been caught in some typical great Kramnik preparation, but through very hard work he managed to avoid defeat. Then Kramnik spoke and seemed to be having a little too much fun. First, he indicated that it wasn't prep at all - just old theory he didn't seem to remember perfectly either. Then he pointed out several ways Nakamura could have completely equalized, where if anything it would have been him (Kramnik) who had to show a little accuracy. Nakamura had a look at that point that seemed to me a combination of embarrassment and "How could I not have seen this?" Nakamura clearly isn't happy with his play these days, judging by his tweets, but (as I'm sure he knows very well) these kinds of off-days happen to everyones, even 2780s! Fortunately for him, he played well enough to hold the game. Maybe it's too late for him to win the tournament, but there's still time for him to do some damage to the leaders.

    Also suffering a lapse today, and also recovering, was Fabiano Caruana. Caruana had some fantastic preparation with Black in a Gruenfeld and obtained a big advantage against Alexander Grischuk. Had he played 19...Re8, he would have kept it and possibly gone on to win a truly great game; instead, he played 19...Qe7??, and after 20.Nc7 he was fortunate (and displayed some fortitude!) to still hold the draw.

    Finally, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Luke McShane drew a crazy game that would have received more attention - deservedly - if they had been doing a bit better in the tournament.

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Caruana (2.5) - McShane (2) (A good chance for Caruana to catch the chase pack.)
    • Kramnik (3) - Tomashevsky (1.5) (Kramnik must win to keep his hopes for first place alive.)
    • Morozevich (4) - Nakamura (2) (A win for either player will be huge.)
    • Carlsen (3) - Aronian (2) (With Aronian's indifferent form, this is a good chance for Carlsen to build on round 5's victory.)
    • Grischuk (2) - Radjabov (3) (Will Radjabov bounce back from today's mishap?)

    Tuesday
    Jun122012

    Last Week's ChessVideos Show: Highlights from the 2012 Tal Memorial Blitz

    Those of you who have been following the Tal Memorial will recall that the main event was preceded by a blitz tournament used to determine pairing numbers. The level of play was obviously lower than in the ongoing classical rounds, but there were still exciting, instructive and well-played games that merited a look; and so those games are the subject of this week's ChessVideos show. Magnus Carlsen's feature prominently, as do Vladimir Kramnik's battles against the Hippo and its near-relatives.

    As always, the show is free (free registration required) and available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Tuesday
    Jun122012

    Tal Memorial, Round 4: Mostly Draws

    Which is not to say that today's Tal Memorial games were uninteresting. The day's one decisive game was Caruana-Tomashevsky, which got the young Italian (send him back!) back to 50%. Tomashevsky found an interesting pawn sac in an anti-Marshall, hoping to keep White's bishop entombed on b1 (and thereby the rook on a1 as well). It was an ingenious idea, but it didn't work out - or at least Black was unable to make it work. Maybe he didn't see the idea of 22.Be3 and 23.Nd2 coming, or maybe he just couldn't find anything to do about it. After 24.Nc4 Caruana's light-squared bishop would escape after 24...Bxc4 25.Qxc4, so Tomashevsky tried a desperate exchange sac to keep it caged. Ultimately, it didn't work either, and Black resigned a few moves later.

    The most significant game for the current standings was the battle of the co-leaders, Morozevich-Radjabov. White obtained a slight edge in an obscure line of the Open Ruy, but once Radjabov managed to exchange his slightly weak a-pawn while keeping Morozevich's potentially superior minor piece restricted it was time to call it a day.

    Had Kramnik won against Aronian, he would have joined Morozevich and Radjabov in first. He played the Scotch Four Knights, revisiting the opening from his victory in game 3 of his April match against Aronian. There Aronian played the rare 5...Bc5; this time he went for the main line with 5...Bb4. Commentators of that earlier game (myself included) wondered why Kramnik headed for such an insipid line; today, we got our answer. Instead of 10.Bg5, which had been played almost 6000 times in the database (and surely hundreds of thousands of times in other games), Kramnik chose 10.h3, which appears in only eight database games. But is it good? In the game it worked very well, and Kramnik obtained a comfortable edge. But during the game, I didn't understand why, after 10.h3 Re8 11.Qf3 c6 12.Bf4, Aronian chose the passive and awkward-looking 12...Bd7 rather than 12...Bd6. I just now consulted with my engine, and it too likes ...Bd6. Further, it has no interest whatsoever in Black's putting the light-squared bishop anywhere but e6. So I'm not sold on Kramnik's idea as the start of a new chapter in the biography of the Scotch Four Knights.

    Anyway, Black wound up slightly worse, but Kramnik was unable to find anything better than a doubled, non-passed extra pawn in an ending with queens and opposite-colored bishops. He doesn't seem to have extracted the maximum out of his advantage, but just how big his advantage was is unclear.

    The most exciting draw of the day - in fact, the most exciting game of the day, period - was Carlsen-Grischuk. Carlsen came out of the opening with a good position except for one little thing. The white bishop on g3 was stuck, a la the famous Winter-Capablanca game. As the time control neared, the play became wild. Both players felt they were better, and at least Carlsen afterward commented on just how complicated the position was - too complicated for him! Carlsen was sac'ing and attacking, while Grischuk was on the verge of consolidating his extra material but never quite able to do so. In the end, at the end of the time control, the players repeated the position and called it a day.

    Finally, the last game to finish, as usual, was Nakamura's. He was significantly worse out of the opening against McShane, but defended well and by the end of the time control reached a superior but drawn rook ending. After move 43 the stage was set: Black (Nakamura) had a rook and three (f, g and h) pawns, McShane a rook and two (g and h) pawns. This is a much easier ending to hold than the typical rook and four vs. rook and three ending, but Nakamura gave it his best shot, continuing to move 79 before forcing stalemate.

    Round 5 Pairings:

    • Grischuk (1.5) - Caruana (2)
    • Radjabov (3) - Carlsen (2)
    • Aronian (2) - Morozevich (3)
    • Nakamura (1.5) - Kramnik (2.5)
    • Tomashevsky (1) - McShane (1.5)
    Sunday
    Jun102012

    Tal Memorial, Day 3: Radjabov, Morozevich Share the Lead; McShane Upsets Aronian

    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)
    Saturday
    Jun092012

    Tal Memorial, Round 2: Radjabov Leads, Carlsen Escapes

    Teimour Radjabov hasn't been in any world championship matches or gotten too close yet, and while he was one of the youngest players ever to become a grandmaster his presence at #4 on the rating list is a little "sneaky". But there he is, past 2790, and for the moment he is the sole leader at the 2012 Tal Memorial.

    Today he defeated Luke McShane with the black pieces, taking advantage of his opponent's time pressure. Their game was a Rossolimo, but after 5.b3, as played twice by Viswanathan Anand in the world championship, Radjabov chose the older 5...d6 instead of Gelfand's 5...e5. The game was roughly balanced between McShane's better structure and Radjabov's bishop pair and kingside prospects, but more things could go wrong for McShane - and eventually they did. His last move before making the time control (40.Kh2) was an error, and Radjabov managed to capitalize.

    Radjabov was the only one of the first day's four winners to double up in round 2. Alexander Morozevich came close, however. His choice of the rare 11.Rc1 against Magnus Carlsen clearly took the Norwegian by surprise, and he immediately erred with 11...Nd7. One thing he may have overlooked was that after 12.Ne2 he couldn't play 12...Qxa2 (a capture that's generally common in this variation) on account of 13.Kd1!! Carlsen managed to escape - if "escape" is really the word - into a very bad endgame where White (Morozevich) had doubled rooks on the 7th rank while most of Black's remaining pieces were on or very near their home squares.

    Carlsen defended extremely well, but Morozevich was playing practically perfect chess for a long time. His 31.Re8 looked rather strange though - maybe he miscalculated something. After that Black got some breathing room, and then with 33...d4!? managed to activate his remaining pieces at the cost of a pawn. White could have kept some advantage with 40.Kxc4, not fearing 40...Rc8+ 41.Kb3 Rxc2 42.Kxc2 Kc6 on account of 43.Kd3! Kb5 44.Ke4! Kxa5 45.Kd5! Carlsen would have had to play something like 40...Rg5 instead, maintaining good drawing chances but maybe not yet a sure half a point. 40.Rxc4 was a clear mistake, but fortunately for Morozevich not a serious enough error to cost him the game - though it was close.

    Alexander Grischuk was another of yesterday's winners, but he was crushed on the black side of a Classical King's Indian, Bayonet Attack, by some superb preparation by Vladimir Kramnik. 13.Bg2 was either new or at least newish, and the plan with 19.Qa4 and 20.Rd1 put Black under all sorts of pressure. Grischuk used almost all his time trying to find a way out, but couldn't, and after Kramnik's deadly switchback 29.Qd1! Grischuk resigned with four seconds left on his clock.

    The other two games were drawn: Evgeny Tomashevsky was happy to get an easy draw with White against Levon Aronian, while Hikaru Nakamura tried with Black to draw blood from a stone against Fabiano Caruana. The game went 107 moves and almost seven hours, but while he did force Caruana to make some precise decisions at a few crucial moments Nakamura was never really close to a win.

    So Radjabov has two points while Aronian, Kramnik and Morozevich are just half a point behind. Carlsen has a point, and it's far from inconceivable that he could have had a bagel on the scoreboard instead. His opening play has been very shaky so far, but after that he has done very well to keep the practical pressure on his opponents. If he starts coming out of his openings in decent shape, he'll surely be a big factor, and soon.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    • Carlsen (1) - Caruana (.5)
    • Grischuk (1) - Morozevich (1.5)
    • Radjabov (2) - Kramnik (1.5)
    • Aronian (1.5) - McShane (0)
    • Nakamura (.5) - Tomashevsky (.5)
    Saturday
    Jun092012

    Tal Memorial: Live Commentary in English

    Thanks to Richard Judy for letting me (and thus all of you) know that there is live English-language commentary on the Tal Memorial, offered by GM Ian Rogers. Enjoy!