Mamedyarov Shines In Tal Memorial Blitz

Mamedyarov Shines In Tal Memorial Blitz

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

Today the Tal Memorial took off with what proved to be a one-man Shakhriyar Mamedyarov show. Azerbaijan's number-one grandmaster won the blitz opener with 7.5/9, two points more than runner-up Levon Aronian.

Mamedyarov setting up the pieces again after one of today's blitz games.

The Tal Memorial is a super tournament remembering the eighth world champion Mikhail Tal (1936-1992). The 10th edition started today and will continue until October 6 in Moscow's Museum of Russian Impressionism.

At a press conference earlier today, another world champion, Viswanathan Anand, shared his personal thoughts about his predecessor.

"Even though Mikhail Tal was only world champion for one year, I think he won more fans in that year than many others in their lifetime. He is obviously one of the most popular world champions ever. I have a personal connection as well in that I grew up in the Mikhail Tal Chess Club in my hometown of Chennai. I even had the privilege of playing him, and Boris Vasilievich [Spassky] was in the same tournament in Cannes, many years back. We were commentators once together, in Brussels, where I had a chance to meet him as well. He was one of the nicest people I've met. It's an honor. I am glad that his memory is being kept alive."

The tournament was attended by many chess celebrities including former world champions Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky. The latter was briefly given the mic at the press conference.

Boris Spassky behind Zurich organizer Oleg Skvortsov
and Skvortsov's wife Natalia. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

Sadly Spassky's anecdotes had to be interrupted to keep a tight schedule. The schedule turned out to be less tight when Vladimir Kramnik arrived late—his flight had been delayed. Luckily the 14th world champion did arrive, and after a half-hour delay, the tournament took off.

Like any player, Mamedyarov's play depends on his form. In his case, if the form is there, he transforms into one of the very best blitz players in the world. Today was such a day.

Only conceding draws to Anand, Anish Giri, and Peter Svidler, Mamedyarov impressed the field and the spectators with a 7.5/9 finish. That was a 3047 performance by the way—Note that we're looking at blitz ratings here. In that FIDE list, the Azerbaijani moved up 20 places and got himself into the world's top 10.

The new top 10 from the FIDE blitz live ratings. | Source: 2700chess.

Mamedyarov won a spectacular endgame against Aronian in round five. By this point, he was already leading and half a point ahead of his opponent.

The game showed once again how many mistakes are made in blitz. As a result, not everyone likes this format, but they seem to be a dying breed! It should be noted that in the final phase, both players were more or less playing on increment. 

Mamedyarov secured clear first when he drew his game in the penultimate round, but that didn't stop him from winning his last game. With only seconds on the clock for both players, he found the winning idea with ...Bh5+.

The players played alongside two works of Russian impressionism! | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

But yes, when you say blitz, you say blunders. Especially Giri, the youngest player in the field, had his share. After starting with three draws, including a game where he showed textbook defense (on increment!) in a rook and bishop versus rook endgame against Li Chao, the Dutch grandmaster lost two games in a row with just one horrible move. Against Ian Nepomniachtchi, the disaster was especially tough because it happened in a winning position.

Still, Giri recovered well and finished with 3.5/4 (beating Aronian, Anand and Evgeny Tomashevsky), good enough to get a spot in the top half of the leaderboard which secures an extra white game in the actual tournament. The win against Aronian was another typical blitz time scramble in which the strongest nerves decided.

Anatoly Karpov was among the spectators. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

Svidler did pretty well in this event and finished in (shared) third place, but he was also responsible for one of the biggest blunders in the tournament. It was his only loss. He also had six draws and two wins, against Kramnik and Boris Gelfand.

2016 Tal Memorial Blitz | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2748 3047 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 7.5/9
2 Aronian, Levon 2826 2837 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 5.5/9
3 Svidler, Peter 2795 2801 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 0 5.0/9 22.50
4 Giri, Anish 2766 2804 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 5.0/9 21.00
5 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2840 2797 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 5.0/9 19.25
6 Kramnik, Vladimir 2713 2771 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/9
7 Gelfand, Boris 2765 2688 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 3.5/9
8 Anand, Viswanathan 2790 2643 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 3.0/9 15.25
9 Li Chao 2624 2661 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0 3.0/9 12.75
10 Tomashevsky, Evgeny 2793 2643 0 0 1 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 3.0/9 11.75

Mamedyarov clearly had his day. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

The top half will play five white games and four black games while the bottom half has the opposite in the main tournament which starts tomorrow. The pairings for the first round are Mamedyarov vs Tomashevsky, Aronian vs Li Chao, Svidler vs Anand, Nepomniachtchi vs Gelfand, and Giri vs Kramnik.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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