Every game was drawn in Round 7, so the standings did not change.

After the fireworks of Round 6, Round 7 of the Tal Memorial was very quiet. All the games were drawn, keeping the standings unchanged. Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia continues to lead, now with 5 points, while Anish Giri is still in second, with 4.5 points.

The elite tournament, which is named after 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.

Whereas in Round 6, the players who had White won almost every game, in Round 7, it was the players with Black who got the better of most of the opening battles. Still, there were some interesting moments in several of the games. For a little while, it looked as if Viswanathan Anand of India had good chances against Peter Svidler of Russia.

Viswanathan Anand vs. Peter Svidler
Tal Memorial | Moscow | Round 7 | 04 Oct 2016 | 1/2-1/2
Qe6 25. Qxh4! This might look like a strange decision - White exchanges a center pawn for a side pawn. But it makes a lot of sense. The queens are about to be traded, which makes outside pawns more important. And the Black central pawn mass also cannot easily advance
25... Ng6 26. Qg4 Qxe4
26... Qxg4!? 27. Nxg4 d5 This was also possible. Black would be down a pawn down after
28. f3 But
28... dxe4 29. Rxe4 f5 30. Rxe8 Rxe8 31. Ne3 f4 32. Nc4 Re2 And Black would have strong counterplay. This is how I prefer to play as opposed to what happened in the game, when Black was just a little worse and without counterplay.  )
27. Qxe4 Rxe4 28. Rd1! Rae8 29. Kf1! This move might look totally innocuous, but Black has some problems to solve. His queenside/center pawn mass is firmly blockaded on the light squares, his pawn on d6 is vulnerable, and his bishop is passive.
29... Be7?!
29... Nf4 Might have been stronger.  )
30. g3! White stops Black from playing Nf4 in the future.
30... Ne5 31. Nf5! Rc4? Asking for trouble
31... Bf8 Was better. Black would then be only a little worse after
32. Bf4  )
32. c3?
32. Rd2! This move looks simple and strong to me. White could follow up with Re2, b3, and Bb2, after which Black's position would be clearly worse.  )
32. Rxd6!? Is the computer's suggestion. It's probably fine, but I prefer Rd2.
32... Rxc2 33. Rxa6 Nc4 34. b3 Bf6 35. Rxf6 Nxa5 36. Bh6! And White would be much better. This line, suggested by the computer, is not what a human would play, but Rd2 looks simple enough to me  )
32... bxc3 33. bxc3 Rxc3 Black is now fine.
34. Nxd6 Bxd6 35. Rxd6 Nc4 36. Rxa6 Rc2 37. Rc6 Ree2 38. Be3 Nxe3+ 39. fxe3 Rh2 40. Kg1 Rcg2+ 41. Kf1 Rxg3 42. a6 Rxe3 43. Kg1 Rexh3 44. Ra4 Rh1+

I was very impressed by how Nepomniatchi played against Li Chao of China. In an unusual variation of the Grunfeld Defense, he played quickly and found the best way to equalize. I seriously doubt he had reviewed the line before the game, so he must have been confident enough with what he remembered.

Li Chao b vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi
Tal Memorial | Moscow | Round 7 | 04 Oct 2016 | 1/2-1/2
6. Na4 Bf5! I like this move a lot. Black prevents White from playing e4
7. Nh4 Bd7 The bishop retreats, but Black is ready for e4.
8. e4 e5! Initiating a forced series of moves.
8... Nb6 9. Nc5 This was not what Black wanted.  )
9. Nf3
9. exd5? Qxh4  )
9... exd4! 10. exd5 O-O Black is down a piece for the moment, but White is unable to prevent Qe8, winning the knight on a4.
11. Be2
11. Nc5? Qe7+ And White loses the knight and gets nothing for it.  )
11. b3? Re8+ 12. Be2 d3 And White loses the rook on a1  )
11... d3! 12. Qxd3
12. Bxd3 Qe8+ Wins the knight on a4  )
12... Bxa4 13. O-O c6 14. Qe4 Qe8! 15. Qxa4 Qxe2 Nepomniatchi had blitzed out his moves up to this point. His memory and confidence served him well and, indeed, Black is absolutely fine.
16. Qb3 Na6 17. Be3 Qxb2 18. Qxb2 Bxb2 19. Rab1 Ba3 20. Rxb7 cxd5 21. Rd1 Nc5 22. Rc7 Ne6 23. Rd7 Rfc8 24. h4 Bc5 25. Bxc5 Nxc5 26. R7xd5 And the next 25 moves did not meaningfully change anything.

The only other game that had some life to it was between Boris Gelfand of Israel and Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia. Gelfand, who had White, accepted a draw by repetition pretty early in the game instead of pressing on. Normally I would not expect such a decision from him, but after losing five games in a row, I can definitely understand why he made that decision. But if he had continued, he had a chance to make something happen:

Boris Gelfand vs. Evgeny Tomashevsky
Tal Memorial | Moscow | Round 7 | 04 Oct 2016 | 1/2-1/2
Qe8 White chooses to repeat moves at this point and allow a draw. True, Black's position is pretty solid, but I think White had plans at his disposal to take advantage of still having his bishop pair
23. Qe1 Rd7 24. Qd2
24. f3 Could have been interesting. White could follow up with Qf2 and h3, with the idea of trying to play e4.
24... Rdd8 25. Qf2 Rd7 26. h3 Rdd8 27. e4 And White is better. Black could play better moves than the ones that I suggested, but since he was content to play Rd7 and Rd8 over and over, White could at least have tried to make some progress.  )
24... Rdd8 25. Qe1 Rd7 26. Qd2 Rdd8

Nepomniatchi has White in Round 8, so if he is to be caught, I think it will happen in the last round.


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.