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Tal Memorial 09: Carlsen (& Tal) in Moscow

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After battling a bug and playing seven consecutive draws, Magnus Carlsen came alive in a big way in the 8th round of the Tal Memorial. He played e4 and ripped Ponomariov's Najdorf/Schev apart by brute force. It was a devastatingly simple attack in appearance: Aim everything at e6 and sac, collect point. No wonder Gelfand and other old Sicilian hands are playing the Petroff these days. As usual, the other four games were drawn, leaving Kramnik in clear first with Anand and Ivanchuk a half-point back. Tomorrow's final round is perfectly set with Ivanchuk-Kramnik in a winner-take-all. Anand also has white, against Aronian. Carlsen is the only other player with a plus score but can't reach a share of first because of the pairings.

Apart from the Carlsen-Ponomariov massacre it was a pretty slow day on the boards. Kramnik-Leko deserves special mention as a mildly disgraceful curiosity. The game was popular QID theory followed by a fantastic sharp series of tactical blows starting with 19.Bxg7 and resulting in a perpetual check or a drawn queen and pawn endgame. You can really enjoy it if you ignore the fact that the entire thing has been played before! Jussupow-Sax, Rotterdam World Cup 1989 reached 26..Bg4 and they agreed the draw without bothering to play the final, still pretty, drawing idea of 27.Rxh7+. Barus-Zarnicki, Elista 1996, varied only with 27.Rxd8 and drawn rook endgame. Leko admitted after the game he vaguely remembered the themes if not a specific game. No word from Kramnik. Both players used about an hour reconstructing the past. Tacitly or explicitly agreed, I'm not sure if this sort of thing is better or worse than a 15-move non-game. Better, I guess? Certainly no Sofia rules would prevent this sort of thing. I suggested on the air that maybe they could have played a real vintage draw as a sort of historical tribute, maybe a Tal game. A few listeners opted for the so-called Immortal Draw, Hamppe-Meitner 1872.

Anyway, with the amazing chess Kramnik has been playing I'm not going to begrudge an unusual way to go about consolidating without effort before what might turn into a tough final round with black against Ivanchuk. He had a nice interview clip with Macauley for Chess.FM yesterday and he really sounded pumped up. You don't hear Kramnik showing much emotion, win or lose, a trait that endears him to some while annoying others. He also confirmed that he, like Carlsen has been ill and was taking fever-reducers during the rounds until yesterday. He's been putting in a lot of time and energy on the board with both colors, too, with novelties, sharp positions, and long endgames for dessert. Kaidanov made the excellent point that that world champions often go on tears after losing their titles. Maybe they have a point to prove, or maybe they just feel they can relax and have more fun at the board without the weight of the crown on their brows. Spassky comes to mind. Karpov and Kasparov were still at the height of their powers when they lost the title, so it wasn't really a big deal to see them still doing well at tournaments. It's good news indeed if Kramnik, as it seems from Dortmund and this event, is shaking off that "never lose" mindset that made him the world champ but that sometimes bogs him down in tournament play. That said, nobody has played 1.e4 against him here yet, and I doubt he's given up the Petroff just to make the commentariat happy.

After smashing through against Ponomariov, Carlsen showed he's human by missing the strongest continuation of his sacrificial attack. Lucky for him, Pono is also of woman born and failed to find the tricky defense 22..Bb7! Now the planned 23.Qg5 (idea Nf5) is met by 23..Nd5 24.Nf5 Rxf5 and Black is surviving for a while, at least. The other idea 23.g5 is met by 23..Nh5 and now 24.Qg6?? Nf4 wins the white queen. Oops. Breaking 10m nodes per second on a quad-core is one thing, however, and a human trying to defend this position on the clock against Carlsen is another. Ponomariov returned the favor with 22..Rd8 and was duly lost again when Carlsen got back on track and played g5 the second time around. I could almost hear Garry screaming when his protege gave Black that ray of hope with 22.Bb3 so I'm glad it turned out all right. The finish was quite elegant, though White is spoiled for choice. 29.Rd7 is more a matter of taste over 29.Rd8+ I suppose. Fun stuff and definitely the winner of the most Tal-like effort of the tournament award, if there is one. Unimpressive play after the opening from Ponomariov, who meandered around with his queen while Carlsen was loading up the shotguns and planting the C-4 around Black's king. 11.Qe1 is a new move in an old position, btw, but Carlsen spent a long time on it so it if it's lab work it cost him a while to remember it. Ponomariov went into the tank in response and obviously didn't find any answers down there.

Aronian and Ivanchuk danced around for a long time out of another Catalan. The white could do was reach a theoretically drawn rook endgame. Seen our share of those during this event, which I think speaks to both the parity of the players and the work they are doing at the board. Very few draws by mutual fear. Gelfand didn't get anything in his Catalan vs Anand and they didn't bother playing it out past move 28. The last game to finish was Morozevich-Svidler. It looked like they were swapping down to a draw after Svidler successfully neutralized Moro's enterprising attempts to stir up trouble. But the Q+R endgame was tense as time trouble approached. Svidler gave up a pawn to push his kingside pawns toward the white king, guaranteeing enough counterplay to prevent White from getting ambitious. Bare kings resulted eventually, a touch I appreciate as a commentator, even though I admit we'd given up the broadcast by that point...

Final round 9: Ivanchuk-Kramnik, Leko-Carlsen, Anand-Aronian, Svidler-Gelfand, Ponomariov-Morozevich. Kramnik's on +3, Ivanchuk and Anand +2. I don't know the tiebreak info, if any.


I heard Kasparov screaming, too! (It was pretty loud) . . .

Not only should Kramnik be applauded for his fine recent play, but also Chucky. After being in the top five a year ago, he descended down as low about #30 with a string of sub-par results, yet recent results prove he remains among the world's elite players.

In general, I heartily enjoy the trend in the last couple of years towards more Super-GM events, but with fewer players in each and many double-RRs. The games are fantastic and instructive, and the tactical accuracy and depth of strategic vision these players show is simply awesome.

The down side is that there are now many fewer opportunities for a "mere" 2600 GM to play Carlsen, Anand, or Kramnik and the others, because they can't be everywhere.

This is typical for Chucky.

Well Estragon , they still can play against Rybka which is even stronger

In the post game public analysis Magnus openly admitted that 10. ... Ne5 was unfamiliar to him and that 11 Qe1 was an attempt to play something he assumed would be unusual. He questioned the solidity of his own play between moves 10 and 15, and suggested there might be better alternatives for black. However, after Pono missed the oportunity to play 15. ... Be7 Magnus felt that he was better.

The analysis is here http://video.russiachess.org/#session71 . Move the time-slider to 3 hours and 19 minutes after the beginning.

I was surprised how often Carlsen said he didn't really know what to do in this or that position.

Then again, it seems that the stronger the player, the more unsure they are in their comments, probably in the sense of; the more you know, the more you know you know nothing. ;)

With a win today (okay, not that likely playing Black vs. Leko, but still), I think Carlsen would go to the No. 1 spot in the live ratings.

I think Kramnik could just about get ahead of Anand if he won and Anand lost, or Aronian could get ahead of Kramnik if Kramnik lost and Aronian won...

Anand seems to be dropping a pawn for little combination against Aronian (who's in home preparation). Ivanchuk's played quickly against Kramnik, but Kramnik's slightly odd 11...Na5 instead of 11...Nd7 has him thinking - I'm waiting for Kramnik's demonstration of why it's strategically a good idea to have knights at the edge of the board :)

It's funny, Anand doesn't seem to know how to play White against Aronian. In classical games, he has three losses in a row entering this game, and it might well be the fourth..

Looks like Kramnik's least convincing opening has come in the final round against an opponent who can win the tournament. Maybe it'll come down to Ivanchuk's nerves!?

Looks like Kramnik's position while passive is holding together.

Possible is 17.Bb5!? Bxb5!? 18.Rxd8 Rfxd8 and it's surely going to be very hard for White to win that? Black is very solid, bishop pair..

thats not gonna happen. I rout for Qe2-e4.

... -g4-g3.

Svidler-Gelfand draw, Anand-Aronian 0-1.

So much for my prediction that Anand would emerge victorious in his game vs. Aronian. Truly a miserable game by Anand.

Exactly, trm. It's why we should always view with skepticism comments made by those of lesser strength and chess wisdom who pontificate on how this or that move or idea is "obiously" good or even winning.

Wow ,painfull loss for Anand , Kramnik seems ok but you never know,Chucky´s h pawn could start a nice attack.

Looks very hard to defend for Kramnik after 20.Ne2 actually.

Anand-Aronian. I still sit with my mouth open looking like a dork. What was that?!

Ivanchuk-Kramnik. Thought Kramnik would chase with h5 but I guess it weakens too much. I still like white's kingside supremacy (Na5!) with the Nc3 coming over (avoiding Bxa3) and h4/Nf4 to follow.

But when I look at the time spent I cannot believe Black is in trouble.

OK now he's gone for a big think. I would need one two, in this position. Defensive stuff like Rh8?

Kramnik's defensive instincts let him down? He took a long think after 20.Ne2, only then seeming to realize he was in considerable trouble. It's not quite over yet, but perhaps soon...

Ivanchuk's main problem now (after 21..Rg8) might be that he has so many promising continuations!

And he's going to be in time trouble - if Kramnik's position doesn't collapse first.

Kramnik's great strength and weakness in defence is the same - optimism. You need it to trust your position enough to find hidden resources, but some positions are simply lost!

Anand ?

Carlsen heading to no. 1 after all!?

And how on earth did Lékó manage to even get losing chances in that endgame?

Ivanchuk played Rybka's first choice, but he is also down to 12 (or 13?) minutes for 18 moves. Eventual outcome still unclear...

It looks to my untrained eye as if Leko's 35.Bg3 was the wrong plan. Rather than shutting out the black rook, it lost a pawn... A bit of time trouble, perhaps?

Congratulations to the Chuck-master !

Today Anand and Leko didn't play like 2750+ players. Rather they played very substandard and close to may be 2000+

b4 and ?

So it seems ,Leko can be proud :this is the closer he can get of disputing Topa´s number one spot.

When he wears his surgeon mask , Ivanchuk is just too precise , it's unfair for his opponents

Agreed about Leko - he's clearly not in form (tired or whatever else). Anand was simply caught out in the opening. As Bareev said in his book on Kramnik's matches even Kasparov can play worse than a second rate player when he gets an unfamiliar position out of the opening (that was in reference to one of the winning novelties that Kramnik played in their London match).

And here goes the h pawn i was waiting for so long ago..
Kmon Chucky , use the mask.

But Rybka down to a +0.08 edge for Ivanchuk! Can a human really play ...Kh8 now, though!??

Pity that it seems to be the losing move... o so they are saying..

I just suggested on ICC that if Kramnik played ..Kh8 it would prove Topalov right :)

Yes, it seems :) Still a lot of moves to find in deep time trouble... for both players.

If Kramnik & Carlsen both win, they will finish 1st and 2nd respectively... a complete triumph for the swine flu!?

They just agreed to a draw! Kramnik wins!

Kramnik just started showing the game at http://video.russiachess.org/#session72

Amazing last round! (it's not often you can say that) It was probably the humane result to allow a draw there - Kramnik had a time edge and no problems left to deal with it. I could see Ivanchuk even losing it in time trouble. The variants he missed when he played h4 & h5 are terrifying, but hard for either player to calculate accurately.

Ivanchuk built up a beautiful dream position vs. Kramnik. Instead of 23.Ndxe6 Qxe5 24.b4 Nb3 25.Rfe1 which looks very good for White, Chucky played 23.h4? and gave Kramnik the one chance he needed to equalize and get the draw and win the tournament.

And we've still got the huge blitz tournament to come on Monday :)

Anand seems to be content with his world title. He is not showing much interest in winning any tournaments just like Kramnik, who didn't show much interest in winning any tournament when he was holding Classic title. Anand's only interest, I suppose, is to hold on to world title as long as possible and then retire immediately after losing it. I don't think he will be able to make a come back like kramnik is doing after losing his world title because Anand will be much older when he loses his world title.

Can't watch it now, unfortunately, but I bet Kramnik laughs when he shows 25...Nxc6 and says something like - I never doubted the knight would get back into the game and show ...Na5 was a strategic success after all :)

Supercapa - Anand was at +2 and could quite easily have won the tournament today. Instead he lost a player to one of the very best players in the world - it happens and proves nothing.

If Anand is not able to win even one super tournament when he is the world champion, then what is the value he is attaching to the title of world champion.Any world champion will do justice to the real meaning of world champion only when he is able to consistently win super tournaments outplaying other top rated players. It is better if Anand resigns from the title of world champion.

Supercapa , there is a high probability that will lose it in a few months to Veselin Topalov . Actually Kramnik won many tournaments during his 8 years reign as a World champion (Dortmund,Linares etc)

Anand is not lacking interest in winning tournaments .. if it wasn't for Kramnik's solid performance in the tournament despite having the flu , Vishy would have probably won it .

It just happened that under pressure for the first place , he tried to play for a win and blundered with b3 instead of Bc2 , against Levon Aronian , who is the best performer in 2009 and IMO the strongest player in the world at the moment , he's just not as overhyped and as well prepared in the openings as Carlsen but his natural talent is amazing

Levon played too much recently and wasn't at his best since a few months , but even in bad form , he still performs . Aronian with Kasparov assistance and opening prep would break 2800 easily

Only Garry and Topa were truly interested on winning everything while holding the title (from the recent champs), for the rest it seems like its too much of an effor to prepare for title defenses and win top tournaments.
That´s why i prefer this Kramnik to the one with the brush.

Topalov had "a" title, but never "the" title :)

No world champion ever retired after losing their title.

The only ex-world champion to retire/quit when he still had a viable playing career was Kasparov, who retired in a snit when Vlad told him he'd have to qualify to be a challenger, like everyone else.

Both Kasparov and Karpov won majority of the super tournaments in which they participated. Topalov could never become an undisputed world champion,so he was trying hard to win all the tournaments to claim that he is better than the classical world champion.

Agreed , but in the times of Kasparov , the competition was clearly "weaker" , only Karpov could more or less contest with him .. it wasn't like in the 50-60's where many geniuses were competing against each other (Botvinnik , Fischer , Tal , Petrosian , Spassky , Geller etc..)

Nowadays in the "rybka era" , the competition is much harder , the opponents are tougher and better prepared , the novelties are much more difficult to find , the overall technique of the players and ability to play complicated positions has increased (thx to computers) , Kasparov has retired at the right time IMO .

What is the difference between "retired" and "quit"?

In effect, of course, Fischer retired/quit after he became World Champion, though he never admitted it as such; but practically speaking it came out to the same thing, for all intents and purposes.

lol..what is it about Aronian that Anand manages to lose so consistently to him. Time to start Aronian-Anand jokes I guess..

So the next time Mig predicts that 3 wins will be enough for first place he should also add in parenthesis that it should be read as 4 for Anand, if Aronian is also playing!

But on a more serious note, I doubt Anand will be able to shake off Aronian's psychological hold unless they meet in a match, where I'd still put Anand as a heavy favorite.

Lets not start that old discussion here again, just celebrate Kramnik´s victory ...

There is only 1 guy on earth who would be favourite against Levon Aronian in a match , and his name is Kasparov Garry .

Fischer's retirement status makes no difference to my point, which is that comments like "Anand's only interest, I suppose, is to hold on to world title as long as possible and then retire immediately after losing it," (Supercapa) are ridiculous comments. All of the champions except Fischer and Kasparov played on and on, until they died. Many had long, remarkable post-champion careers. It shows a lack of knowledge of chess history to think that champions retire when they lose their title. It is false, and also ridiculous.

Congratulations to Magnus Carlsen, if you read this blog!

Great show of extraordinary talent this and the previous tournament has been.

And good luck for Kramnik too, hopefully you can keep up this level in future tournaments and challenge the young padawan.

If you think Anand is just happy to keep his crown then please do ask yourself which other world champion was forced to defend his title every 18 months... Given that these guys prepare nearly a year for the world championship, he has obviously got his priorities right if his main focus is already on beating Topalov than winning every tournament he plays in.

Seemed I was a little early congratulating Ivanchuck !
It could have been so pretty... I never saw Kh8.

I am afraid Aronians got Vishys number.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 13, 2009 9:22 PM.

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