Ian Nepomniachtchi won to leapfrog Anish Giri, who lost, as the leader of the tournament on a day when four out of five games were decisive.
Round 6 of the Tal Memorial tournament on Sunday was full of action and it produced a new leader.
Anish Giri of the Netherlands, who led after Round 5, lost after he was outplayed by Levon Aronian of Armenia. Meanwhile, Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan to leapfrog Giri and take over sole possession of first place.
Nepomniachtchi has 4.5 points, Giri 4, and three other players — Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Viswanathan Anand of India — each have 3.5 points.
The tournament, which honors the eighth World Champion, is being held in the Museum of Russian Impressionism. It has a prize fund of $200,000, with $45,000 for first place.
Elite tournaments sometimes have a reputation of being a bit dull because there are often a high percentage of draws. But Round 6 was the antithesis of dull as four out of the five games ended decisively. It was almost five for five, but stubborn and accurate defense in an unpleasant endgame by Anand against Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia led to a draw.
Aronian’s win over Giri was the most important. Aronian had drawn his first five games, but I thought that he was playing pretty well. I even wrote that in my report on Round 5. In Round 6, he came up with an opening idea that I didn’t really understand, but he cruised to victory with it.
Levon Aronian vs. Anish Giri
Tal Memorial |Moscow |Round 6 |02 Oct 2016 |1-0
Be78. Be3!?This is very unusual
( 8. Nc3 )
( 8. a3 )
8... O-O9. Nbd2I have never seen this setup before. It really is begging Black to play Nd5 and take the bishop on e3. 9... Be6?!Losing the only chance to grab White's dark-squared bishop.
( 9... Nd5!This looks strong to me, and I would prefer Black's position. It would be interesting to know what Aronian had in mind if Black had played 9... Nd5. )
10. Rc1!Now Nd5 can always be well met by Bc5. 10... Qd711. a3Bh3?This seems to be a mistake.
( 11... f6Was solid and probably fine for Black. )
12. Bxh3!Qxh313. b4!Black's queen on h3 is not nearly as threatening as it might look at first glance. The knights are nowhere near g4, and White is ready to start advancing on the queenside. 13... Bd6
( 13... Qd7This might have been the lesser evil, but after 14. b5Na515. Bc5Black is undeniably worse. )
14. Qb3Black's pieces are uncoordinated, while White is ready to jump in with moves like Ne4, Nc5, b5, etc. 14... Ne715. d4!Opening the center before Black is ready to deal with it. 15... exd416. Bxd4Nc6Nc6-e7-c6 does not look great, but it is hard to recommend anything else.
( 16... Qg417. Rfd1With a nice edge for White. )
17. Ne4!Nxd418. Nxd4Qd719. Rfd1Black's position is already pretty hopeless. His center is gone and he will soon be saddled with several weak pawns. And his knight on b6 is a poor piece and likely will remain so for a long time. 19... Be5
( 19... Rfe8Might have been a bit better. 20. Qf3White has a clear edge. )
( 20... Bd621. Na5Was not much of an improvement for Black. )
21. Na5!I like this more than the engine's choice.
( 21. Nxe5Qxe522. Nc5The computer prefers this continuation, but I like Aronian's choice more. The engine's would have allowed Black to trade some pieces and pawns. )
21... Rb822. Nc5!The pawn on b7 cannot be saved 22... Qc823. Qf3!Maximum firepower achieved. The only way to save b7 is 23... c6But after 24. b5!Black's position is blown to shreds. 24... Bb2
( 24... cxb525. Nd7!Wins material )
25. bxc6!The sacrifice is only temporary 25... Bxc126. Rxc1Qc7Allowing a passed pawn on b7 destroys any hope Black had for saving the game. The rest requires no comment.
( 26... bxc6!27. Nxc6Re828. Nxb8Qxb8Black is down a pawn and has no compensation, but the position has been simplified a bit. If he can trade the a-pawns, the four pawns vs three pawns on the kingside might be a draw if the right pieces can be exchanged. I would expect White to win more often than not in such a position, but at least it would have given Black a fighting chance. )
Giri’s loss was a tough blow, but it was made worse by Nepomniatchi’s win over Mamedyarov, which catapulted the streaking Russian into sole possession of first place.
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Tal Memorial |Moscow |Round 6 |02 Oct 2016 |1-0
14. Nb3White chose the Italian opening and has a nice position, but it is nothing too special. However, Mamedyarov begins to make some strange-looking moves and Nepomniatchi is able to punish him. 14... Ne7?!
( 14... dxe4Looks more natural to me. After 15. dxe4Nh5!Black should be fine. I dont believe that these symmetrical positions can give White much of an edge, something I learned against Hikaru Nakamura at the 2015 World Cup where I failed to get an advantage. )
( 15... Nexd516. Rxe5And White is up a pawn. )
16. c4!Qd617. Nc5!White is not concerned about temporarily sacrificing a pawn. Black has no choice but to accept it as the rook on e6 is trapped. 17... Bxc518. bxc5Qxc519. Ba3!Qa520. d4!The point. White's play in the center will easily allow him to restore material equality and he will have a strong initiative. 20... Ng6
( 20... exd4?Would lose a piece 21. Rxe6fxe622. Bxe7 )
21. Bb2!Hitting e5 a second time 21... Rae8?!
( 21... exd4?Would cost Black a piece. 22. Rxe6 )
( 21... e4This was probably the most resilient continuation. 22. d5!Ree823. Nd2Qc524. Nxe4 )
22. Bc3!Qb623. Rab1!Qa7A sad necessity
( 23... Qc6?24. d5Wins material )
24. dxe5White has restored material equality and now Black's pieces are scattered an uncoordinated. 24... Nd725. Rbd1!Black had some pressure on the e-pawn, but since he can't take it, the knight has to retreat and the pressure is reduced. 25... Ndf8
26. h4!White now chases the other knight. Black's pieces
are being driven back. 26... Qc527. h5Ne728. Re4!Rc629. Nd4Qxc430. Nxc6Qxc631. Qd3Black does not have enough compensation for being down an exchange. 31... b532. axb5axb533. Bb4Qb734. Bxe7
( 34. e6!?This might have been even stronger )
34... Rxe735. Rd4!Rxe536. Rd8Material equality has again been restored, but White's pieces are super active. 36... Qc637. Qd7!Qc5?
( 37... Qxd738. R1xd7And Black is tied down and probably cannot survive. )
( 37... Qc3!This was the only way to offer real resistance. Still after 38. Qd2White preserves excellent winning chances. ... )
38. Qc8White wins the knight on f8. The rest requires no comment. 38... Rxh539. Rxf8+Qxf840. Rd8Qxd841. Qxd8+Kh742. Qd7f643. Qxc7b444. Qc2+Kh845. Qc4Re546. g3Kh747. Kg2b348. Qxb3Kh849. Kh3Rh5+50. Kg4Rg5+51. Kh4Re552. f4Ra553. Qc3Rd554. Qb4
While the games in the fight for first place were what mattered most for the tournament standings, Kramnik opened with 1. e4 yet again, and yet again he stole the show. I’ve really been enjoying his experimentation with Fischer’s old “best by test” king’s pawn, and he has played some sparkling games recently. Round 6 was no exception as he defeated Boris Gelfand of Israel in a complicated Najdorf Sicilian.
Vladimir Kramnik vs. Boris Gelfand
Tal Memorial |Moscow |Round 6 |02 Oct 2016 |ECO: B96 |1-0
1. e4!Good move, Vladimir! 1... c52. Nf3d63. d4cxd44. Nxd4Nf65. Nc3a66. Bg5Kramnik does not shy away from the mainline of the Najdorf Sicilian, even against a known expert like Gelfand. 6... e67. f4Nbd7This is not a bad move, of course, but I never trusted the setup. In my opinion Black has better options.
( 7... h6Nowadays this is more commonly played 8. Bh4Qb6Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France has won many games from this position playing Black. )
8. Qe2Qc79. O-O-Ob510. a3Bb7?!I don't like this move. The White e-pawn is very well defended and the queen on c7 blocks Black from sacrificing the exchange by playing Rxc3 which is often an effective plan. In short, Black pieces are very productively arrayed.
( 10... Rb8!This would be my choice. I still prefer White's position, but after Black plays b4, he has some counterplay. )
11. g4!Kramnik is not shy about advancing his pawns. 11... Rc8
( 11... h6This looks more natural to me but after 12. Bxf6Nxf613. Bg2The advance e4-e5 will create problems for Black. )
12. Bxf6gxf6A sad necessity
( 12... Nxf613. g5Nd714. f5e515. Nb3This is an absolute disaster for Black. )
13. h4Qb614. Rh3!A typical Sicilian
move. White defends laterally along the third rank to prevent the exchange sacrifice of Rxc3 and also advances his own plans.
( 14. f5This is also possible and White seems to be better, but after 14... Rxc3!I think Black has a fair amount of counterplay )
14... h515. f5!Kramnik wastes no time opening the center and attacking the light squares
( 15. g5fxg516. hxg5Bg7Would have given Black a fair amount of counterplay. The bishop is pretty good on g7 )
15... e516. Nb3hxg417. Qxg4b418. axb4Qxb4Black has managed to avoid any immediate disasters and he has opened the queenside, but his position is still inferior. His dark-squared bishop is passive, the pawn on d6 is
backward, the d5 square is weak, and White has a passed h-pawn. 19. Kb1!Nb620. Qe2!White is putting his pieces on their best squares. I can't help but wonder if some more primitive and brute-force loving players who prefer to open with 1. e4 players would have tried to be a bit more violent, but Kramnik's play is crisp and clean. Even in sharp positions he often finds a very strong strategic path. 20... Bh6
( 20... Nc421. Qf2 )
21. Qf2Rc622. Na2!White turns his attention to the
queenside. 22... Qa4
( 22... Qxe4?23. Na5wins material )
23. Rc3!Ke724. Rxc6Qxc625. Na5!Qc726. Nxb7Qxb727. Nb4Black's light squares are chronically weak, his king is a little exposed, and some of his pawns are about to be picked off. 27... Rb828. Qxb6!simple and strong. Kramnik transitions into an ending that looks winning to me.
( 28. Bxa6The engine prefers this move, but I like the move played by Kramnik. 28... Qxe429. Nd5+!The point 29... Kf830. Nxf6!Qc631. Rg1 )
28... Qxb629. Nd5+Kf830. Nxb6Rxb631. c3!Stopping any ideas connected with Rb4. Material is equal but it feels like White is up a pawn because he has a passed pawn on h4 while Black's pawns on f7 and f6 are stuck. Black is also unable to prevent White from playing Kc2 and Ra1, winning the Black a-pawn. After that, it is more or less a mop-up operation. 31... Be332. Kc2Kg733. b4Kh634. Bc4Bf235. Rh1Rc636. Kb3Rb637. Kc2Rc638. Kd3Rc739. Bxa6Kh540. Bc4Ra741. Bd5Kh642. h5Bb643. Kc4Be344. Kb3Bb645. Rh2Be346. Re2Bb647. Ra2Rxa248. Kxa2Kxh549. Kb3Bf250. Ka4Kh651. Kb5Kg752. Kc6Kf853. b5Ke754. Kc7
Monday is a rest day in Moscow. I hope that the action picks up right where it left off with lots of decisive games in Round 7 on Tuesday.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 5 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players