Tal Memorial Chess Day 1: Viswanathan Anand placed joint second after last round loss to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

In the light of Anand winning the World Rapid Championship a couple of months ago, he is clearly one of the favourites to win the rapid leg at Tal Memorial

Aditya Pai March 03, 2018 15:53:26 IST
Tal Memorial Chess Day 1: Viswanathan Anand placed joint second after last round loss to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Every year since 2006 — with the exception of 2015 — the Tal Memorial chess tournament is organized in Moscow as a requiem for the eighth world champion of the game. Every year, the tournament attracts some of the strongest players in the world.

In its 11th edition this year, the Tal Memorial will be played in the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow which one of the leading private museums in Russia. The tournament is a part of the international program implemented by Russian Chess Federation (RCF) in collaboration with the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko since 2012. It all started with the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand held in the same year and, since then, Chess in Museums has been going strong.

The event will consist of a three day rapid and a one day blitz tournament. While the rapid will be played from 2-4 March 2018, the blitz will be held on 5 March 2018. In the rapid, players will have 25 minutes for the entire game with a 10 second increment from move 1. Time control for the blitz event will be 5 minutes for the entire game with a 3 second increment from move 1. The event also features attractive prize funds for both tournaments: $130,000 ($25,000 for the title winner) in rapid and $30,000 ($25,000 for the title winner) in blitz.

The rapid leg of the event has attracted some of the best Russian as well as international players. Four of the world’s top 10 — Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura & Anand – are in Moscow right now. The other participants include Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler, Sergey Karjakin, Boris Gelfand, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Danil Dubov. Four more participants — Vladislav Artemiev, Dmitry Andreikin, Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexander Morozevich — will be joining in for the blitz event.

In the light of Anand winning the World Rapid Championship a couple of months ago, he is clearly one of the favourites to win the rapid leg. But with such a strong field, it’s definitely not going to be easy.

On the first day, Anand got off to a flying start winning both of his first two games. In round one, he played the lowest ranked player in the field, Danil Dubov. With the white pieces, Anand countered Dubov’s Sicilian Defence with the Rossolimo System. Dubov had come up with a new idea in the opening but Anand denied his opponent any counterplay. Dubov tried complicating the position but this only worsened his position. By the 19th move, the Russian GM had several pawn weaknesses and was obliged to shed a couple of pawns soon. With two extra pawns and a dominating position, Anand had no problems converting.

Tal Memorial Chess Day 1 Viswanathan Anand placed joint second after last round loss to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Viswanathan Anand Anand during his first round game against Danil Dubov. Image Courtesy: Amruta Mokal, Chessbase India

In round two, Anand was pitted against the only player who had managed to beat him at the Rapid World Championship in Riyadh: Ian Nepomniachtchi. Anand, who had the black pieces in this game, repeated the same 3.Bb4 variation of the English Opening with which he had lost to Nepo, back in Riyadh. However, this time, Anand chose a different setup and was able to win a pawn out of the opening. Nepomniachtchi sought counterplay on Anand’s king but ended up losing another pawn while Anand also succeeded in trading queens. The position looked clearly better for Anand but with his piece activity, Nepomniachtchi was trying hard to hold his position together. With his active king, he was even able to equalize in the rook endgame that ensued. The position soon turned into a pawn race where, on the 48th move, Nepomniachtchi, with little time on his clock, blundered and gave Anand a winning edge. This time, Anand made no mistake and brought home the full point soon afterwards.

With 2.0/2, Anand was the clear leader of the tournament. Just one more round remained for the day. Anand was to play Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who was half point behind him on the leaderboard. That’s exactly when disaster struck.

The grandmaster from Azerbaijan essayed the French Defence with the black pieces and was able to equalize comfortably. Anand managed to disrupt Mamedyarov’s pawn structure but, with his well-placed pieces, Mamedyarov was able to exert substantial pressure.  As play progressed, Anand allowed Mamedyarov to exchange his knight for Anand’s bishop, something which was unanimously disliked by both commentators. More so, he decided to give up another pawn, just two moves later. Clearly, Anand was hoping that his ‘f’ pawn would advance and provide him counterplay but with his active pieces Mamedyarov was able to both advance his pawn down the board while keeping Anand’s pawn in check. On his 46th turn, Anand decided to throw in the towel.

With this win, Mamedyarov overtook Anand as the tournament leader with a score of 2.5/3. Anand, along with Grischuk and Nakamura is in the joint second place. Danil Dubov, Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik share the third place with 1.5/3.

Tal Memorial Chess Day 1 Viswanathan Anand placed joint second after last round loss to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

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