Reports Mar 5, 2018 | 12:14 AMby Colin McGourty

Tal Memorial, Day 3: Anand is rapid king, again!

Vishy Anand has added victory in the Tal Memorial Rapid to his World Rapid Championship title, and in this form the 48-year-old would have been among the favourites to win the Candidates. He doesn’t play, of course, but he showed us what we’ll be missing as a brilliant combination against Alexander Grischuk and two easy draws were enough to win the event with a full point to spare. Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ran out of steam, allowing Sergey Karjakin to join them in second place after eight draws and a win in the final round.

Vishy Anand is reminding us of the long years in which he was the undisputed king of speed chess | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

You can replay all 45 games from the Tal Memorial Rapid using the selector below – click a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her results:

Alexander Morozevich will be playing in the blitz on Monday, but on Sunday he was back commentating on the action alongside Evgeniy Miroshnichenko. You can replay their commentary below:

Round 7: Nakamura makes his move

It was going to be a long, tough day for Kramnik | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

In the final round of Saturday’s action Vladimir Kramnik was teaching Daniil Dubov a lesson, opening the young Russian’s king up with an e6 pawn break for an easy victory. In the first round on Sunday, though, Hikaru Nakamura gave Kramnik a taste of his own medicine. 24.e6! blew open the black king position, and then Kramnik’s 27…Nf8? was a fatal mistake:

The white queen is attacked, but it has a wonderful square: 28.Qh8! Suddenly Black is defenceless against the threats of Ne5 or Nc5, with the game continuing 28…Ke8 29.Nc5! Kf7 30.e5! Qc8 31.e6+! and this time the pawn jab was even stronger than the first!

31…Ke8 32.Qg8 is curtains, but after 31…Nxe6 32.Qxh7+ Ng7 33.Rde1 there was also no escape. 33…Rh8 runs into 34.Rxe7+!, while the game ended 33…Rg8 34.Re6 Qd8 35.Qxg6+ Kf8 36.Re3 Black resigns. That was the start of a bad day for the former World Champion!

Nakamura looked poised to fight for the title | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

That game brought Nakamura into contention for 1st place, after leaders Vishy Anand and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov drew quickly with Black against Sergey Karjakin and Boris Gelfand. There was plenty more action in the round, though, with Peter Svidler’s seemingly endless series of missed chances continuing as he failed to find a way to avoid perpetual check in a winning position against Alexander Grischuk. The game of the round, and perhaps the day, however, was Dubov-Nepomniachtchi.

If Daniil Dubov continues like this he'll earn supertournament invitations for sheer entertainment value | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Daniil Dubov lit up the first day of the Tal Memorial with his victory over Hikaru Nakamura. In case you missed it, here’s GM Pepe Cuenca’s video of that game:

Dubov there sacrificed three pawns to open up Nakamura’s king, but that was nothing compared to his game against Ian Nepomniachtchi on Sunday, when he'd managed to jettison no less than five pawns by the time this position was reached:

Nepo spent 8 minutes trying to fathom this strange position, and then correctly went for 22…Qxf3! 23.Bxf3 Nxd2 24.Qxa7 Nxb1! (after another six minutes). The endgame that followed could be studied for hours, and although Nepo reached position after position that was objectively winning he always came up against inventive defence from his opponent. The final act began with 91…Rc3:

After 92.Qxc3 b1=Q+ 93.g6! Black is still winning, but the fact that tablebases tell us it's a draw after anything other than 93…Qe4 or 93…Qf5, as played in the game, shows that Dubov’s g-pawn is a very serious trump. In the end one slip was enough for that pawn to save the day, just as it did in Dmitry Andreikin’s similarly epic escape a rook down against Matthias Bluebaum from last year’s Dortmund tournament.     

Round 8: Anand’s time to shine

It was ironic that before the day’s play began the commentators had explained that the schedule was going to be accelerated compared to the first two days, perhaps to give time for potential tiebreaks and the closing ceremony. Whatever the reason, the 106-move game left those plans in ruins, taking so long that there was actually no time for a break at all if they kept to the original schedule. They did, with Nepomniachtchi turning up a few minutes late for his game against Kramnik, who understood and refused to start the clock before his opponent arrived.

Grischuk walks to his doom | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

That game was a relatively quiet draw, as was Svidler-Gelfand (though by now it goes without saying that the computer claims Peter let a significant edge slip), while the fate of the tournament was decided in the remaining games. One of the secrets to Vishy Anand’s continued success is an economy of effort – knowing when to take quiet draws and when to press for victory. He took his chance on the white side of a Sicilian against Alexander Grischuk, who had once again drifted into time trouble. 

The lonely life of a second... Vlad Tkachiev (Grischuk) and Kris Littlejohn (Nakamura) | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Vishy calculated everything that happened in the game when he went for the bold 25.Rg5!?, which objectively might have brought nothing after 25…Qe6 26.Rf5 and then 26...f6!, shoring up the g5-square. He said afterwards both he and Grischuk had looked at 27.Ng5+!? there, though the computer is sceptical. Grischuk also suggested 26…Kh8 as a defence, but in the game he played 26…Rg8?, allowing a grandstand finish!

27.Ng5+!! hxg5 28.Rxf7+!! Qxf7 29.hxg5+ Kg7 30.Qh6#

That was a combination worthy of winning any tournament, but there could still have been everything to play for if Mamedyarov or Nakamura had won their games. Instead, though, the pressure got to both of them. Hikaru rejected a draw then slipped into a completely lost position against Karjakin, but the trend of the tournament continued with Sergey missing a sequence forcing perpetual check, as if he really did want to end with nine draws. 

Sergey will hope to have his killer instincts back in Berlin | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Things went even worse for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who misplayed a promising position and was unable to put up much resistance when called upon to defend. His opponent, Dubov, was richly rewarded for his decision not to take a draw by repetition, and had done fine work for Vishy, beating two of the players who finished second.

Mamedyarov faded after a great first day | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Round 9: Vishy eases to victory: Karjakin awakes

That meant that Anand entered the last round a full point clear of Mamedyarov and Nakamura, needing only a draw with Black against Boris Gelfand to seal the title. He finished the task like the consummate professional he is, playing very carefully until he was already able to take a draw from a position of strength on move 15.

Nepomniachtchi won the blitz the day before the Tal Memorial started, and will be hoping for more in Monday's blitz as well | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

That left only the battle for second, with Nepomniachtchi-Mamedyarov soon drawn, meaning that Nakamura could take sole second place if he could beat Grischuk with the black pieces. Instead it was Nakamura who was fighting to survive, with that battle looking lost after 51…b5:

52.f6! now and White should triumph after e.g. 52…Kxe6 53.Re2+ and f7 next move. Instead after 52.Re2?! Ke7 53.Kg5?! Rg8+! the moment had gone, and Nakamura soon managed to reach a theoretically drawn position, though that didn’t stop Grischuk keeping the game going until move 96!

Svidler could have been challenging for first if he'd made more of some great positions | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Dubov and Svidler had played enough chess for the tournament and agreed a draw in 17 moves, but there was to be one last sting in the tail. When Jan Gustafsson was preparing his Candidates Tournament Preview video series he was surprised to discover that Kramnik has a poor score against the field, though in a way that’s single-handedly down to Karjakin, who has a 5:1 wins classical score against the Russian no. 1:

That balance of power was maintained in their last round clash in the Tal Memorial, as Karjakin opened 1.b3, methodically targeted the black king, provoked weaknesses, won a pawn and then crashed through as Kramnik weakened his position still further in time trouble. After getting crushed twice on the same day Vladimir will have a lot to think about before the Candidates Tournament:

So the final standings were as follows, with Vishy Anand the clear winner on +3. As you can see, no-one exactly collapsed in the event, though Svidler and Nepomniachtchi will of course not be happy with a winless -2:

That’s not all from this year’s Tal Memorial, since the players return on Monday, one hour earlier at noon CET, for the Tal Memorial Blitz. The time control is 5+3, with Dmitry Andreikin, Vladislav Artemiev, Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexander Morozevich joining to make it a 14-player single round-robin. 

See also:

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