Nepomniachtchi Wins Tal Memorial, Enters Top 10

Nepomniachtchi Wins Tal Memorial, Enters Top 10

| 23 | Chess Event Coverage

Ian Nepomniachtchi won clear first at the Tal Memorial with a draw as Black against Boris Gelfand. The final round proved to be anything but simple for "Nepo" as he struggled against Gelfand, who was close to tallying his first win of the event. It was only after the move 37.Ne5? that Nepo could begin to breathe easily.

Even after the majority of the danger had passed, clear victory was not assured as Anish Giri came within a hair's breadth of defeating Li Chao with the black pieces. As Giri said in the press conference, "At some point, I was thinking I'm going to win the tournament without any tie."

Although Giri and chess fans must have been disappointed to see the win elude Giri and obviate the need for a tiebreak match, both Nepo and Giri had great tournaments, and their reward is sharing the world number-10 spot! For Nepo, this is his first time entering the top 10 while for Giri, it's a well-deserved re-entrance.

Giri and Nepo share a live rating of 2766.8. Screenshot courtesy of

While some might have thought Gelfand would welcome a short draw, he was playing for more. Nepomniachtchi decided to take on an isolated queen's pawn. That decision may have been dubious in retrospect as Gelfand is famed for his positional skills, and he massaged the resulting positional advantage expertly.

Gelfand performed much better in the final three rounds. | Photo Eteri Kublashvii.

Giri's game against Li Chao was the most tense of the round. Giri rapidly acquired an advantage as Black, and after the game, Li Chao commented that despite a good result his preparation with White had generally been atrocious. His self-criticism is fair as he also struggled against Anand with White. Li Chao said that would be one thing to work on when he returns home. 

Both players were free with their comments in the post-mortem. Giri's miss was 41...Ne1! He spent 20 minutes on this move, and his thought processes were incredibly instructive and well-described in the commentary. He correctly identified the critical moment, saying, "it's clear that we are at the point where Black is either winning, or it's a draw. That's why I took my time.

"I was choosing here between 41...Ne3 or 41...f5, and I rejected Ne1 very, very quickly." Giri said that he missed both 44...Rc1 and 45...Kf4 in the game's lines. Seeing two lines for Black, he gave up on 41...Ne1 entirely and never returned.

Giri on the value of the good form that Nepo displayed.

In terms of on-the-board content, the game of the day was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik has been in great form, but today Mamedyarov was inspired and played many creative moves, especially 19.g4!? Accurate calculation brought home the full point once Mamedyarov got his c-pawn rolling.

"I am not very happy with my results, but my games [were] OK, because my opponents played very good. Ian and Vishy played against me fantastically, and I won two very good games." — Mamedyarov | Photo Eteri Kublashvii.

The big news in Viswanathan Anand vs Levon Aronian was that today was Aronian's birthday. Ծնունդդ շնորհավոր, Levon!

Anand's birthday gift to Aronian was an unbalanced but ultimately peaceful game. At different points, both Anand and Aronian believed they might have some advantage, but the game was never far from equality.

The final game, Evgeny Tomashevsky vs Peter Svidler, was a well-played draw. Tomashevsky did secure an advantage, but the principle of two weaknesses mandated that Tomashevsky create a second weakness (in addition to the d6-pawn) to target. It wasn't possible to do so, and solid defense from Svidler held with relative ease.

2016 Tal Memorial | Final Standings

# Fed Player Rtg Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Perf
1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2740 6 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 2887
2 Giri, Anish 2755 5.5 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 2840
3 Aronian, Levon 2795 5 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2799
4 Anand, Viswanathan 2776 5 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 2801
5 Svidler, Peter 2745 4.5 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2761
6 Li Chao 2746 4.5 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2761
7 Kramnik, Vladimir 2808 4.5 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 2754
8 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2761 4.5 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 2759
9 Tomashevsky, Evgeny 2731 3.5 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2683
10 Gelfand, Boris 2743 2 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 2541
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