Karjakin Wins Tal Memorial Blitz Chess
Tal Memorial winners Sergey Karjakin (blitz) and Viswanathan Anand (rapid). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Karjakin Wins Tal Memorial Blitz Chess

Before they play 14 games over two-and-a-half weeks in the Candidates' Tournament, several would-be world championship challengers had their final warmup with 13 games in one day at the Tal Memorial Blitz.

In the preceding Tal Memorial Rapid, GM Sergey Karjakin was the only Russian out of six to finish in the top half of the 10-player field. In today's single-day Tal Memorial Blitz, played at 5+3, he led the Russian renaissance en route finishing 1.5 points clear of his competitors with 10.0/13.

The field expanded from 10 players to 14, with the extra quartet all Russian, but today the host nation had quantity and quality. Of the four non-Russians, only one could finish with a plus score (GM Hikaru Nakamura (8.5/13), second place).

hikaru nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Perhaps inspired by GM Magnus Carlsen's recent dalliances with offbeat openings in the PRO Chess League, Karjakin's tournament began with Larsen's opening. Then he went "full Duncan Suttles" and fianchettoed both bishops, only to give them both up for a stronger rook in the ending.

Then in a Candidates' Tournament prequel, Karjakin was doing fine battling GM Vladimir Kramnik's passed pawn, until he weakened his own structure. The loss was the only one on the tournament winner's card.

Game three was also "Classic Carlsen" from Karjakin as the Russian got something from nothing. A middlegame slip in a mostly symmetrical position brought down GM Vladislav Artemiev, one of the four players added to the expanded blitz field. The others were GMs Dmitry Andreikin, Vladimir Fedoseev, and Alexander Morozevich.

Vladislav Artemiev

Vladislav Artemiev. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Artemiev was the only one of the new lot to finish in the top half (7.0/13). That was quite a birthday present to himself. Born March 5, 1998, he is no longer a teenager as of today. You could say he was born to be a chess player—March 5 is the 64th day of the year.

Karjakin won his second in a row a round later, actually delivering a smothered mate on the board against Morozevich. Coupled with GM Alexander Grischuk's allowance of mate against GM Viswanathan Anand yesterday, that means both winners in Moscow got to be kids again and deliver checkmate.

The winner then drew Anand and beat GM Peter Svidler after his countryman miscalculated and self-trapped his own bishop.

Sergey Karjakin and Vishy Anand

Sergey Karjakin and Vishy Anand. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Round seven, though exactly halfway, proved to be the most important for the standings. Karjakin beat eventual runner-up Nakamura.

The Maroczy pawn structure arose from an obscure move order, but the pressure on Black's d-pawn wasn't the most salient feature. Instead, it was the Russian's "positional" clearance/discovered attack combo tactic 29. Nd5!

Karjakin played the same 4. Qxd4 system to win in round 8, his third in a row.

Nakamura tried to get back into it, even emulating Karjakin's opening choice from round one. Actually, the American is no stranger to the double-fianchetto as White. He's even used it in Olympiads.

In today's iteration Kramnik initially won a piece for four pawns, but then got his queen trapped. 29. Bf8 looks flashy, but the point is that anywhere along the diagonal wins the queen, and it is slightly better to "inconvenience" Black to capture it on f8.

Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik deep in thought vs. Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The two have a history of creative chess, with nearly 50 percent of their games producing a winner, even in classical. Nakamura once under-promoted against Kramnik at the Olympiad, so it's up for debate if today's rook-plus-six pawns for the queen was their strangest game of all time!

Nakamura then couldn't get any closer, ending with a trio of draws late in the day. Karjakin also had a brief drawing spell, then he put the tournament out of reach in rounds 11 and 12.

In the third-to-final round. GM Daniil Dubov didn't feel like defending R+N-vs.-R, but afterward he probably wished he had gone for it. Chess reporters are contractually required to mention that in 1996 GM Judit Polgar couldn't hold the same ending against GM Garry Kasparov, but since there are few other top-level examples, it seems to be the exception that proves the rule.

Karjakin sealed the win with a round to spare. Going back to 1. b3, he dispatched GM Boris Gelfand without a fight in 25 moves.

If you're still undecided on who has the edge going into the Candidates', and you're playing the momentum game, here's how the four Berlin invitees did in Moscow in their final tune-up: Karjakin third place rapid and first place blitz; GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov second place rapid and 12th place blitz; Kramnik eight place rapid and fifth place blitz; and Grischuk sixth place in both events.

2018 Tal Memorial Blitz | Final Standings

Rk. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Pts. TB1 TB2
1 GM Karjakin Sergey 2868 1 1 1 1 0 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 10,0 0,0 62,75
2 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2842 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 8,5 0,0 52,25
3 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2768 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 7,5 0,0 42,25
4 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2834 0 ½ ½ 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 ½ ½ 7,0 2,0 44,00
5 GM Grischuk Alexander 2846 0 0 ½ 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1 7,0 1,0 41,00
6 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2784 1 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 7,0 0,0 43,75
7 GM Dubov Daniil 2767 0 ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 6,5 0,5 41,25
8 GM Andreikin Dmitry 2828 ½ 0 1 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 6,5 0,5 38,75
9 GM Anand Viswanathan 2801 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ 6,0 0,5 38,00
10 GM Svidler Peter 2793 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 6,0 0,5 34,50
11 GM Morozevich Alexander 2663 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 0 5,0 1,5 32,00
12 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2688 ½ ½ 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 5,0 1,0 33,75
13 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2714 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 1 5,0 0,5 32,50
14 GM Gelfand Boris 2745 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 1 0 4,0 0,0 23,25

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