For the second day in a row, all the games were drawn. Ian Nepomniachtchi still leads with one round to go.

Things have cooled pretty quickly at the Tal Memorial in Moscow. After a number of decisive results in the earlier rounds, the last rounds have been filled with draws. 

With one round left to play, Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia leads with 5.5 points, trailed by Anish Giri of the Netherlands, who has 5 points. Levon Aronian of Armenia, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Viswanathan Anand of India are tied for third, each 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.

Despite all the draws in Round 8, the games were a little more interesting than in Round 7, in my opinion, and some players missed chances. Aronian let his advantage slip against Li Chao b of China:

Levon Aronian vs. Li Chao b
Tal Memorial | Moscow | Round 8 | 05 Oct 2016 | 1/2-1/2
bxc6 23. Rd2? This highly unusual position is difficult for Black, but 23. Rd2 was not the way to cause problems.
23. Qd4! Qxd4 24. Rxd4 g6 25. Rg5 Could have been dangerous for Black. Despite having an extra pawn, he would soon have had to deal with moves like Ra4, Rc4, Ra5, Rc5, etc. He would definitely lose at least, restoring material equality, and still have a lot of weaknesses.  )
23... g6 24. Rg4 Kg7 25. Rc4
25. Qxa7 I would have been tempted to take the pawn so that I could establish an outside passed pawn on the a-file.  )
25... Rd8?!
25... Re5! 26. Qxc6 Qg5! This allows Black good counterplay  )
26. Rf4! Qe6 27. Rfd4 White has a small edge with the open d-file, but it's not much.
27... Rb8 28. Rd7
28. Qc3 Might have been stronger  )
28... Qf6 29. b3 Rb7 30. Qe7 a5! Black prepares to play a4, aiming to trade queenside pawns and weaken White's pawn structure. Once the pawns were traded, most of the tension was gone and the game eventually wound down to a draw.
31. R2d4 Rf8 32. Ke2 Qxe7 33. Rxe7 Kf6 34. Ree4 Ra8 35. Rf4+ Ke7 36. Rfe4+ Kf6 37. Rf4+ Ke7 38. Rde4+ Kf8 39. Re6 g5 40. Rf3 g4 41. Rf4 Rb4 42. Ref6 Rxf4 43. Rxf4 h5 44. Rf5 a4 45. Rxh5 Ke7 46. b4 a3 47. Kd3 Rd8+ 48. Kc2 Ke6 49. Rc5 Rh8 50. Rxc6+ Ke5 51. Rxc7 Rxh2 52. Rxf7 g3 53. Kb3 Rxf2 54. Rg7 g2 55. Kxa3 Ke4 56. Rg3 Re2 57. Ka4 Rxa2+ 58. Kb5 Kd3 59. Kc6 Rc2+ 60. Kb6 Rf2

Kramnik also looked like he was going to pick up a full point against Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia, but it wasn’t to be.

Vladimir Kramnik vs. Evgeny Tomashevsky
Tal Memorial | Moscow | Round 8 | 05 Oct 2016 | 1/2-1/2
Kg7 Black played quite well to reach a pawn down endgame, though White still has some winning chances. But I do not understand Kramnik's next move.
49. Kf3? Why would White allow Black to play g4? This artificially isolates White's pawn on h5 and restricts his king.
49. Kh3! This would have prevented g4 because the king could then move to h4 and White would retain winning chances.  )
49... g4+! 50. Kg2 Rb6 51. Ne8+ Kh7 52. Ra5 Re6! 53. Nc7 Rf6 White will have a very hard time making progress. The h-pawn is firmly blockaded, g4 is well defended, and it will be very difficult to play f3.
54. Kf1 Rf5!? Unnecessary but certainly not wrong. The ending with just knights and pawns should be a draw.
55. Rd5 Rf6
55... Rxd5 56. Nxd5 Nf5 Black should be able to draw without much difficulty.
57. Ne3 Nxe3+! 58. fxe3 Kh6 59. Ke2 Kxh5 60. e4 Kg5 61. Ke3 Kf6 62. Kf4 Ke6 63. Kxg4 Ke5 With a drawn pawn ending  )
56. Rd7 Rf5 57. Nd5 Kg7 58. Nf4 Re5 59. Rd5 Re4 60. Ng2 Kf6 61. Ne3 Ra4 62. Ke2 Ra3 63. Rc5
63. f4! Was worth a try, though I believe Black could still draw.  )
63... Rb3 64. Nd5+ Kg7 65. Nc3 Rb6 66. Rg5+ Kf8 67. Re5 Kg7 68. Ke3 Rb3 69. Rc5 Rb2 70. Rg5+ Kf8 71. Rb5 Rc2 72. Ne4 Kg7 73. Rg5+ Kf8 It looks like White has made progress - his king is active and the Black pieces are not too impressively placed. But with both f7 and g4 firmly defended, it's had for White to make further progress.
74. Nf6 Rc3+ 75. Ke4 Rc4+ 76. Kd3 Ra4 77. Nh7+ Ke7 78. Re5+ Kd6 79. Rb5 Kc6 80. Rb8?
80. Rg5 And White could keep pressing. But after  )
80... Ra2! 81. Ke3 Ra5! the h-pawn is lost. The rest of the game was not interesting.
82. Nf6 Rf5 83. Ne4 Rxh5 84. Rd8 Kc7 85. Re8 Rf5 86. Rh8 Rf3+ 87. Kd4 Nf5+ 88. Ke5 Ne7 89. Rh7 Ng6+ 90. Kd4 Kd8 91. Ng5 Rxf2 92. Nxf7+ Ke8 93. Ng5 Rf5 94. Ne6 Rf7 95. Rh6 Ne7 96. Rh8+ Kd7 97. Nc5+ Kc7 98. Ra8 Nc6+ 99. Kc4 Rf1 100. Ne4 Rd1 101. Re8 Re1 102. Kd5 Rd1+ 103. Ke6 Rd8 104. Rxd8 Kxd8 105. Nc3 Nd4+ 106. Ke5 Nf3+ 107. Kf4 Nh2 108. Nd5

The final round is Thursday, and the tournament is really Nepomniatchi’s to lose. He faces Boris Gelfand of Israel, who has had a really tough time so far, losing five games. 


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 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.