Tal Memorial R5: Anand beats Leko, leads with Kramnik

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Tal MemorialVery deep opening preparation and powerful middlegame play brought Viswanathan Anand a deserved victory against Peter Leko today. The World Champion leads the Tal Memorial together with Vladimir Kramnik, who drew with Boris Gelfand - the same result as in the other three games. Ivanchuk played his game against Carlsen with mouth protection.

The Tal Memorial takes place November 4-18 in Moscow, Russia. The category 21 round-robin has Viswanathan Anand (India, 2788), Levon Aronian (Armenia, 2786), Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 2801), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, 2772), Peter Leko (Hungary, 2752), Boris Gelfand (Israel, 2758), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine, 2739) Alexander Morozevich (Russia, 2750), Peter Svidler (Russia, 2754) and Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine, 2739).

Tal MemorialThe first four rounds of the round-robin are held in hotel "National" on November 5, 6, 7 and 8. Rounds 5-9 take place in the Main Department Store GUM on Red Square. The time control is the classic 40 moves in 2 hours, then 20 moves in 1 hour and then 15 minutes plus 30 seconds increment to finish the game. The rounds begin daily at 15:00 Moscow time which is 13:00 CET.

Round 5

Yesterday was the only rest day at the Tal Memorial and in fact it was Mikhail Tal's birthday: November 9th, the same date as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. For today's round the players changed venues from Hotel National to Main Department Store GUM on Red Square which might have been a bit tricky as far as the internet connection was concerned, but luckily it didn't have any effect on the tournament's official live broadcast.

Tal Memorial

Main Department Store or GUM, a modern namer for the main department store in many cities of the Soviet Union, known as State Department Store in the Soviet times. This one is actually a shopping mall. Prior to the 1920s the place was known as the Upper Trading Rows. | Photo: Josef F. Stuefer

In the chat screen of our own live broadcast, already before the round had started someone asked about the condition of Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian had "flu like symptoms", as we were told by a member of their team, then Chessbase reported it was a "throat infection" and then we read Magnus describing it himself as "a sore throat and also fever". But that was November 8th, when he was "already feeling better".

Anyway, Ivanchuk didn't want to take any risks, and came to the board with his mouth protected. Blogging for the website of his new sponsor, Carlsen wrote:

Today he arrived at the playing hall, and played our entire game with a mouth mask (probably to protect against me), and frankly it happened to the considerable amusement of the other players.

Tal MemorialWell, perhaps we emphasize too much on Carlsen's physical state already. Let's look at his chess - the top seed easily equalized against Ivanchuk's London System today, making clear once more that with correct play, Black doesn't have anything to fear against this at club level quite popular opening.

Not long afterwards two more games ended peacefully. Ponomariov's laptop is clearly 100% up-to-date as he played the interesting 15...c4 and 17...Nc6 plan in a Berlin Wall (how appropriate) against Svidler; a slightly different version of the same theme as in the very recent game Adams-Bacrot, Novi Sad last month. Like Adams, Svidler tried it with the thematical e5-e6 push, but using the pin along the b-file Ponomariov equalized quickly.

Aronian seemed to be totally outplaying Morozevich, who tried the Stonewall, but somehow White's advantage was smaller than it seemed. In the end one advantage, in this case the bishop pair, isn't enough to win a game.

Anand and Leko followed the theoretical paths for no less than 21 moves. A very sharp position arose in which Rybka constantly gives 0.00, due to the many lines ending in perpetual check. This is probably how the game should have ended, after e.g. 23...Rf6. During the game it was very difficult to pinpoint where Black went wrong exactly, but around move 30 Anand suddenly had more than enough compensation for his pawn deficit, he then won back his pawn and another one, after which the queen ending was won. Powerful play by the World Champion, that's for sure.

Tal Memorial

After the game Anand said that Kasimdzhanov deserves credit for the Nxd4 move. 'It all comes down to the opening. If you know the knight idea you can hold it, but I think it's almost impossible for Black to solve it at the board.' | Quote & picture thanks to Macauley Peterson

The last game to finish, between Gelfand and tournament leader Kramnik, was very interesting as well. Once more, the Russian went for sharp stuff, which is not easy against the Catalan. His 5...Bb4+ and 6...a5 must have come as a surprise for Gelfand too, who started thinking and whose 8.Bg5 was already a novelty. Continuing with 8...b5 showed that Kramnik has absolutely no fear in Moscow!

A difficult middlegame followed with perhaps a few inaccuracies here and there, and then a terrible time trouble phase. When the smoke had cleared, Black had the better ending, but Gelfand could liquidate to a 3 vs 4 rook ending where his f2-g3-h4 was the ideal setup - to exchange as much pawns as possible before Black can create a passed pawn. Though 5 vs 4 is usually a win, 4 vs 3 is not, as the theoretical manuals tell us. With Gelfand's king on e2 instead of g2 Kramnik could quickly create a passer on the h-file, but this wasn't sufficient for a win either.

So far the tournament proves that draws can be very interesting too. It might surprise you that in this exciting event the drawing percentage after five rounds is as high as 80%, with an average of one decisive game per round.

Games round 5 [IM Merijn van Delft]

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tal Memorial 2009 | Round 5 Standings

Tal Memorial 2009

Tal Memorial 2009 | Schedule and results

Following an excellent idea of Georg in the comments, we try to write something about Mikhail Tal every day.

Exactly fifty years ago - in November 1959 - Dutch grandmaster Jan Hein Donner wrote at length about the young Mikhail Tal, who was then rising to the top like a comet and would become World Champion within less than a year. It's almost scary how accurate and nuanced Donner's observations were at the time, and how true his words still are about in chess in general.

"Without exaggeration one can say that Tal's appearance has shocked the chess world. In him, one clearly feels a new phenomenon. The game of chess has always been regarded as a game of logic. Chess players themselves were the first to praise it as an art and, as could be read some months ago in an article by him, someone like Botvinnik had the incination to see the competitive element as a side-effect. Whoever played chess had to first of all try and play 'correctly'. (...) It was precisely this logical, mathematically proveable aspect which was regarded as essential to chess. This gave it its standing and it distinguished itself from the so-called games of chance. (...)

And then came Tal. He didn't care about correctness, complications were more important to him. To drag his opponent with him into the labyrinth, he gave everything for it. I've seen it in Zürich, the growing feeling of unease when he sacrificed a piece or more in every game, and won, but when afterwards it turned out the whole enterprise had been rather risky if only the opponent would have found the right moves behind the board. In analysing, too, it turned out that, although he had calculated much and much more than the average player, he did very much tend to calculate in his own favour. Even then it became clear that only Keres could stand up to him in such analysis sessions where hands grab and reach over the board. 'Aber mein Lieber, was machen Sie denn darauf!' [But my darling, what do you play now?] and Tal just laughed. 'Wer hat gewonnen?' [Who has won?] (...)

Tal thinks differently than the way people used to think about how to be successful. He didn't enrich the game with new ideas. His game setup is old-fashioned and reminds one of Tarrasch, but what a difference otherwise! To Tarrasch, the game of chess was one of logic par excellence. His entire dogmatism was founded on that idea. However paradoxical it may seem, in reality he sought a system that always won. (...) Tal throws all this away and shows the essence of chess. There is no system, there is no correct or incorrect, there only is success. This thinking without norms of one's own infallibility has no chance in reality and will ultimately wreck itself. But in chess, it is the greatest inspiration. Therefore, it is wrong to call Tal a trickster. He only knows that, although self-critism and self-knowledge are necessary, objectivity behind the chess board is a fiction."

Actually Donner was exaggerating about Tal's performance in Zürich. In his game against Donner, Tal didn't sacrifice anything but just crushed him out of the opening. You could say Donner sacrificed one truth to reach another, more important one. I think Tal would have liked that.

Arne Moll

The position of the game between Donner and
Tal after 28...Nd7-c5. Donner resigned.


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