Nepo Nears Record Success, Holds Lead Over Giri

Nepo Nears Record Success, Holds Lead Over Giri

Thus far the Tal Memorial has been a thrilling antidote to some of the more peaceful events of 2016. Unfortunately, the high bar of four decisive games in both rounds five and six could not be maintained. Whereas we dubbed the sixth round "exhilarating," today's round was more exsanguinating.

Today and in the previous round, all games were drawn. Today's games were a bit more exciting as tournament leader Ian Nepomniachtchi and Viswanathan Anand had an unbalanced struggle.

Vladimir Kramnik also pressed Evgeny Tomashevsky and Levon Aronian did the same to Li Chao. However, no player held a decisive advantage at any point today.

The most critical game for the standings was the aforementioned Nepomniachtchi vs Anand game. For the second time this tournament, (the other being against Li Chao) Anand seemed to hold some advantage against classic Nimzo doubled pawns. Also for the second time, he wasn't able to turn a perceived advantage into anything tangible.

The resulting draw means that Nepomniachtchi keeps a half-point lead over Giri entering the last round. As both have Black, "Nepo" has an excellent chance to hold on to the lead and achieve his best-ever tournament success.

Anand couldn't change the status quo. | Photo Eteri Kublashvii.

Kramnik certainly achieved a moral victory against Tomashevsky as he held a slight advantage throughout the game, and he even managed to win a secure pawn. Kramnik milked the moral advantage all the way to move 108 (!), but there was no joy to be had and the game was quite drawn by the end.

He certainly tried. | Photo Eteri Kublashvii.

Aronian and Li Chao swashed and buckled their way through an unbalanced rook endgame where Aronian held the better pawn structure and a clear (but not decisive) edge. Neither backed down as Aronian picked off some pawns while Li Chao staked his hopes in the passed f-pawn. The endgame was rightly drawn as both players had conducted the endgame extremely accurately.

That was the seventh draw for Aronian. | Photo Eteri Kublashvii.

Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand agreed peace on the same move as Nepo and Anand, but their battle was a bit more balanced more placid—more of a diplomatic discussion than true warfare as rapid simplification occurred. Gelfand successfully improved on his fifth-round game against Anand.

Finally, Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov split their point (as is right) on the 40th move, the end of the first time control.

2016 Tal Memorial | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Player Rtg Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Perf
1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2740 5.5 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 2905
2 Giri, Anish 2755 5 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 2857
3 Aronian, Levon 2795 4.5 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2796
4 Kramnik, Vladimir 2808 4.5 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 2796
5 Anand, Viswanathan 2776 4.5 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 2796
6 Li Chao 2746 4 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 2762
7 Svidler, Peter 2745 4 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 2765
8 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2761 3.5 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2710
9 Tomashevsky, Evgeny 2731 3 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2678
10 Gelfand, Boris 2743 1.5 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 2513

Please note that tomorrow's round begins two hours earlier at 1 p.m. Moscow time or 10 a.m. GMT. The leader, Nepomniachtchi, has Black against Gelfand, who has righted the ship in the last two rounds. It is quite impressive that he holds the lead without getting in a win against the out-of-form Gelfand, who lost five in a row earlier in the tournament. Meanwhile, the most likely player to catch Nepo is Giri who is a half-point back. He also has Black against the solid Li Chao.

The other chasers on +1 -- Kramnik, Aronian, and Anand -- all need Gelfand to defeat Nepomniachtchi to have a chance at catching up to the lead. That seems a bit unlikely as one would have to imagine that Gelfand (great though he is) would be happy to accept a simple peace tomorrow.

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