Exhilarating Day At Tal Memorial Vaults Nepomniachtchi Back Into The Lead

Exhilarating Day At Tal Memorial Vaults Nepomniachtchi Back Into The Lead

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

In a spectacular sixth round in the Tal Memorial, four games were won by the player with the white pieces. Tournament leader Anish Giri lost without much of a fight to Levon Aronian, giving Ian Nepomniachtchi the chance to take over the pole position.

"Today is a good day to play White apparently," said Svidler after he had just won his first game of the tournament—with the white pieces. It certainly was. In addition to Svidler, Nepomniachtchi, Aronian and Kramnik won with the white pieces. Only Tomashevsky drew, setting White's score today at 4.5/5.

Two games were critical for the standings. The first, Levon Aronian vs Anish Giri, was also the first to finish in this round. The Dutchman managed to hold on to his slim lead yesterday but suffered an early knockout today. "I collapsed very fast."

In a sideline of the 1...e5 English, Giri quickly chose the wrong mini-plan with 10...Qd7 and 11...Bh3 to trade the light-squared bishops. "Not a good idea at all," said Aronian, whose initiative on the queenside only got stronger. Soon, Black was left with two bad minor pieces and a misplaced queen.

Aronian dealt Giri's first loss in Moscow. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

It wasn't lost yet, but somehow Giri, who is usually a tenacious defender, failed to put up a fight this time. "I should be able to prolong the fight. I'm just slightly worse, nothing special. But I didn't manage."

At some point, Aronian could win in several ways, but he found an especially pretty one. Just look at the final position and appreciate how White wins in all lines:

If the rook goes to f8 or even e8, White plays Nc6-e7+ and Ne7-c8.
If Black moves his rook to b1, Nc6-b4 blocks!

At the press conference Aronian emphasized that in such a case a chess player doesn't really have a choice. "You have to play something like this if you see it. For the public and because not every day you get the chance to play a beautiful idea, a study-like idea."

Here's the post-mortem, courtesy ChessCast, attended by both Aronian and Giri:

Ian Nepomniachtchi took full advantage by scoring his third win. Going into the second rest day, and with three rounds to go, the Muscovite is now the sole leader.

Against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, he went for the Giuoco Piano, where the Scotch might have been too predictable. The players followed the game Karjakin vs Navara from the Baku Olympiad, which Nepomniachtchi could easily follow as he was sitting two boards away.

As soon as Mamedyarov deviated from Navara's play, "Nepo" found a very strong (temporary) pawn sacrifice after which he suddenly dominated the board. Together with 26.h4! this was extremely powerful play, in the style of Garry Kasparov.  He won an exchange, and Mamedyarov then gave his queen for a rook but it was never a real fortress. 

"You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill..." | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

Poor Boris Gelfand suffered his fifth straight loss against a ridiculously well prepared Vladimir Kramnik—even for his standards!

Afterward the Russian GM explained that he had looked at this line in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf on another occasion. "Fortunately for me, I actually repeated my preparation today in the morning. That was very important; I remembered all the lines," said Kramnik.

Because Gelfand kept on playing the first moves of the computer, Kramnik remained in his preparation for some time. His first 21 moves in fact.

With a fine queen maneuver ("I would be incredibly proud if it was not the computer who found it!"), he reached a winning endgame, which he evaluated as "easily won, by a good tempi margin."

It's a joy to see Kramnik playing 1.e4 when it it leads to games like the one against Rainer Buhmann in Dortmund and now this 6.Bg5 Najdorf against Gelfand. The 14th world champion is amazingly versatile. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili.

Here's the post-mortem, courtesy ChessCast, with Kramnik and Evgeny Miroshnichenko:

Peter Svidler won as well, so it was a good day for Russia and the white pieces. He clearly felt more comfortable in this Réti Opening than his opponent Li Chao.

The opening was in stark contrast with the aforementioned game. "He started thinking beyond move 20 while I started thinking at move four," said Svidler, who revealed that during the game he had asked Kramnik how he always manages to predict the openings so well. "But maybe I needed that secret earlier in my career!"

One critical position came as early as move seven, where the Chinese player went for the strange 7...Bxf3. Aronian and Giri suggested 7...c5 there, and that was also the move Svidler expected. As it went, White's play was relatively easy although it must be noted that White remained accurate where it was necessary.

Here's the post-mortem, courtesy ChessCast:

The fifth game was the only draw. It was also the least interesting battle of the day. Evgeny Tomashevsky is a solid player and when Vishy Anand decides to go for a solid setup, you get something like this:

2016 Tal Memorial | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2740 2956 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 4.5/6
2 Giri, Anish 2755 2875 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 4.0/6
3 Aronian, Levon 2795 2812 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/6 10.75
4 Kramnik, Vladimir 2808 2815 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 3.5/6 8.75
5 Anand, Viswanathan 2776 2815 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 3.5/6 7.50
6 Svidler, Peter 2745 2767 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.0/6 10.00
7 Li Chao 2746 2760 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 3.0/6 6.25
8 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2761 2689 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/6
9 Tomashevsky, Evgeny 2731 2642 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/6
10 Gelfand, Boris 2743 2357 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0.5/6

Monday is the second and final rest day. Tuesday's seventh round will see the games Kramnik vs Giri, Mamedyarov vs Aronian, Li Chao vs Nepomniachtchi, Anand vs Svidler, and Gelfand vs Tomashevsky.

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.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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