Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 9

Kramnik meltdown continues, not surprisingly. On the other end of the table Caruana missed a huge opportunity to increase his lead.

Karjakin has excellent results against Kramnik and today he even managed to get his preparation in by introducing the very interesting novelty 9 h4 in the Semi-Tarrasch. Kramnik has always been confident in his preparation but repeatedly playing the same opening inevitably makes him a sitting duck and for a second day in row he got surprised in it.

By this point in the tournament Kramnik doesn’t have the patience to continue in a controlled way. He lashed out with 11…f5 inviting immediate crisis. The move wasn’t bad, but it required increased precision by Black later on, something Kramnik wasn’t able to provide. As a consequence, he was lost on move 17. Here’s the game with notes by myself and GM Nedev.

The two players have obviously gone in different directions by now. Karjakin found his way back into the tournament, while Kramnik probably wishes the nightmare finishes as soon as possible. He will still have to suffer for 5 more rounds.

Two games finished in tame draws. So and Grischuk repeated well-known theory in the Berlin with 5 Re1 and shook hands. Aronian didn’t manage to pose many problems to Mamedyarov in the Catalan. It is notable that Mamedyarov also played the trendy 7…b6 in the main line, just like Caruana did in Round 2.

Caruana missed a golden opportunity to increase his lead to a full point before the rest day. He applied continuous pressure on Ding Liren (in yet another Catalan) and managed to get a winning position. Here is the last missed win:

A pity for the American, who would have all but been guaranteed a victory in the tournament had he won it. As it is, after the rest day he will face Mamedyarov with Black in what may turn out to be the decisive game for the final outcome. He will have a rest day to overcome the setback of the missed win. After all everything is still in his own hands.

Unfortunately I will probably stop the daily reports until the end of the Candidates since I am going to play a tournament myself. It is regrettable, as I really enjoy analysing the games, but I will have to concentrate on my own games. Let’s see if the candidates provide inspiration.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 8

Almost all draws, but again we have to thank Vladimir Kramnik for the decisive game.

In the duel of the Americans we saw the Russian Defence (as the Petroff Defence is called in many languanges). I don’t think So and Caruana were influenced by the latest political developments between the two countries, as the defence has proven to be one of the most solid in chess and that is exactly what Caruana needs right now. No, his choice wasn’t surprising, So’s was. Did he really cannot find anything better than repeating Kramnik’s toothless choice of 5 Qe2 and the immediate endgame? If Caruana plays the Petroff, you can be sure that he has prepared for the endgame as well! As it turned out he was again close to win with Black, but So was precise and managed to draw. I think the popularity of the defence will only grow now. In the two games played Black could have won both and in fact scored 1.5/2!

Ding Liren and Aronian played a lively game. White decided to cling onto the c5-pawn and Black obtained active piece play. It seems that White missed a few more promising alternatives along the way. Here’s the game with analysis by GM Nedev and a few comments from me.

Mamedyarov and Karjakin drew in the main line of the Catalan with Karjakin again employing the fresh idea of 7…c6 he implemented in the game against Caruana in Round 5.

And of course, the game of the day, who else if not Kramnik. He employed his beloved Semi-Tarrasch against Grischuk, but this time it was him who was surprised by Grischuk’s rare idea.

And then, as they say, the rest is history. This time history repeating itself. The position was drawn, Kramnik, being a pawn down but with the bishop pair, could have drawn in more than one way on more than one occassion, but he kept on playing and playing and eventually blundered and lost. All this time he was looking for ways to play for a win. But he also admitted he was missing things. Over-confidence coupled with imprecise calculations and loss of objectivity is the worst possible combination in chess. Unfortunately my forecast from yesterday is already coming true as Kramnik is now on -1. And the downward spiral is not finishing any time soon.

Grischuk moved on +1 with the win and now there is no shared place from first to fourth. Caruana leads with 5.5, ahead of Mamedyarov on 5, Grischuk on 4.5 and Ding Liren on 4. Unless Ding Liren wins a game soon, probably the number of candidates to win will shrink to 3. But tomorrow we have Caruana-Ding Liren, which could provide some clarity in case of a decisive result.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 7

This round marked the end of the first half. All players played each other and we have a clear favourite to win the tournament.

That player is Fabiano Caruana. In yet another scintillating display of his fantastic calculating abilities (most clearly demonstrated in the press conferences, I whole-heartedly recommend you watch them and compare his lines with the engine suggestions) he beat Aronian in a very wild game.

Aronian must have felt that after yesterday’s loss he had to go all-or-bust if he was to catch the leaders. Caruana chose the Vienna, a rare choice for him, and I think Aronian was surprised and actually improvised with the insane 16 g4. Others have said that it was most probably preparation, but somehow I felt it wasn’t. In any case, the idea was more dangerous than what the engine would tell you. It is difficult to describe the game, so I’ll suggest you check it out below. What impresses me is Caruana’s cold-bloodedness and his composure under pressure, not only on the board but also from the clock. With such play I think he has much better chances than the other realistic candidate Mamedyarov.

Caruana is now on the coveted +3 (5/7), but with half a tournament ahead and Mamedyarov hot on his heels this doesn’t guarantee anything. But it is apparent that the American has been the best player in the first half of the tournament. Aronian, on the other hand, is now last with a -2 (2.5/7) score and is definitely out of the running for first place. Perhaps this will liberate him and he will play some good games in the second half of the tournament.

Yesterday I mentioned Kramnik’s complete loss of objectivity when showing the lines and giving his opinions in the press conference. And if yesterday Mamedyarov appeared to be somewhat annoyed by Kramnik’s incessant “much better” or “winning” today Ding Liren was just smiling. A few times he was asked if he agreed with Kramnik’s evaluations and he just said “no,” which was followed by laughter in the audience. Just like yesterday, the engine showed completely reverse evaluations from the ones Kramnik gave. It is obvious to me that in such a state Kramnik doesn’t have a chance in this field. It doesn’t cease to puzzle me that Kramnik consciously went into the tournament with a strategy that basically meant a gung-ho approach in every single game. It is as if he didn’t really care about winning the tournament, he just “wanted to play”. Which is fine, as his games are among the most exciting in every round, but it is also sad because I thought that he had a good chance of winning if he had a better and more flexible strategy. Since he doesn’t appear to have an intention of changing, I think he will lose some more games and end up on a minus score.

Karjakin beat So in a most unexpected fashion. In what appeared to be a completely equal (and in more than one way) position, technical and rather dull, So didn’t show his usual precision and little by little encountered some problems which he didn’t manage to solve. Quite surprising because So won a very good game yesterday and it appeared that he was out of the crisis from the start. He looked absolutely dejected at the press conference and understandably so. Karjakin on the other hand managed to win a game he didn’t expect to, so let’s see what he can do in the second half. I don’t expect much, but if more gifts like this one keep coming, who knows… He may even finish on a plus score and then call it a success!

The shortest game of the tournament was a result of Mamedyarov’s excellent preparation in the Ragozin. Grischuk was caught in a rare line and he couldn’t find anything better than a repetition on move 16. Both players are still in contention if we look at how they have been playing so far, just that Mamedyarov has a full point more than Grischuk.

To summarise the first half of the tournament I can say that half of the players – Caruana, Mamedyarov, Grischuk and Ding Liren – are in much better form and play better than the other four. Since Grischuk and Ding Liren are a point and a half behind Caruana, in spite of their good showing it is not very probable that they will manage to catch up. This makes the remainder of the tournament a two-horse race between Caruana and Mamedyarov. Now it remains to be seen if I am proven right or wrong.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 6

Two White wins and two leaders before the second rest day. Plus a fall from grace for Vladimir Kramnik.

Watching the press conference after the game Mamedyarov-Kramnik was painful. Instead of taking a repetition in a position where objectively he couldn’t ask for more, Kramnik tried to play for a win and hallucinated (!) because of fatigue (his own explanation). Which makes my yesterday’s question even more pertinent: why was he wasting so much energy when there were no chances for more? I still cannot understand, it is totally contradictory what he’s doing and what he’s then giving as the reason for his hallucination.

The actual fall from grace was when he was showing the lines he was calculating and almost always accompanying them with the evaluation that he was better while the engine was saying White had a +1, +2 or even in some lines a +3 advantage… Even his hallucinated line was winning for White while he thought it was very good for him. This utter loss of objectivity as a result of his over-confidence is sad to watch.

It was uncomfortable to see Mamedyarov saying he thought he was better and Kramnik pulling faces (as if thinking “what does this guy talk about??”) even though Mamedyarov’s evaluation was correct.

Things have quickly gone wrong for Kramnik in Berlin after such a promising start. I find it difficult to understand how he couldn’t adjust his strategy after the 2.5/3 start – instead of taking it easy and needing only 1 win from the remaining 11 games, he continued to risk recklessly and now he needs to win 3 games from the remaining 8. I’m afraid this is mission impossible for him in his current state of mind.

So scored his first win with a very fine game against Aronian. After yesterday’s missed win Aronian now sank to -1 and the tournament is probably over for him as he cannot realistically hope to win it. So’s preparation was really deep in the Spanish (the first move that he didn’t know was Black’s 21st) and he outplayed Aronian in a complex position where the main theme were Black’s stranded Rb5 and Nb6. This game should give So the confidence he lost at the beginning as he managed to show that he still knows how to beat the best players in the world.

Ding Liren and Karjakin played a short and sharp game that ended in a repetition. Ding tried to improve on Kramnik’s win over Wei Yi from Wijk (or he improvised, because he spent 15 minutes on the deviation), but after Karjakin’s precise taking on b2 he could only force a repetition. It is still unclear to me how Ding is playing this tournament, not getting anywhere with White and being extremely resilient with Black. Karjakin seems content to show his preparation and draw. He can also probably call it a success.

Yesterday’s scare didn’t frighten Grischuk and he went for yet another Benoni today against Caruana. In truth, this one was much better than the one from yesterday as Black was a tempo up compared to the normal lines. I found Caruana’s comment very instructive: he thought that Black was OK, but he felt that White had more chances to be better in the future than Black. Very astute observation! Another thing that impressed me about both players was the precision of their calculations. The lines they showed in the press conference were almost always the ones suggested by the engine and their evaluations were spot on (unlike Kramnik’s!). From this I conclude that both players are in very good form.

Here is the game with comments by GM Nedev and myself.

In spite of the mutual inaccuracies, a game of high quality and one showing both players competently navigating the complications.

With 6 rounds behind us already some conclusions can be drawn. Both leaders Caruana and Mamedyarov are the ones who have shown the most consistent chess. It appears that they will decide it between themselves as they are a full point ahead of the group on 50%.

From those on 50% Ding Liren is still the biggest unknown. All draws after surviving lost positions against Aronian and Grischuk and practically no attempts with White. He seems to be hoping for a counter-attacking win rather than one where he would press from the start.

With his over-confident mindset Kramnik seems to be on the way down. Unless he becomes aware of what he’s doing, he will finish on a heavy minus score.

Grischuk plays exciting chess and calculates well. But he is incosistent (missing a win against Ding, completely lost against Aronian) and that’s why he is on 50%. Can he steady the ship?

Aronian, So and Karjakin are on minus score. Of the three only Aronian is capable of producing wins in a row, but that is not very likely with the way he’s been missing his chances. Most probably these 3 players can forget about winning the tournament.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 5

Like I said yesterday, they couldn’t keep it up. Not that they didn’t try…

The game of the day was undoubtedly the wild affair between Aronian and Grischuk. I don’t really understand Grischuk’s decision to meet 3 f3 with a transposition to a Benoni, it’s such a risky choice at that level and he is a sitting duck when repeating it. I understand that he is seeking his chances in the sharp Benoni, but I still consider the risk a bit too high. I wonder whether somebody else will try to repeat this line against him.

Naturally, Aronian varied from his game against Li Chao from last year and soon enough Grischuk was lost. But it was such a mess… Here are detailed comments, once again courtesy of GM Nedev with a few comments and additions from myself.

A huge missed opportunity for Aronian. By winning a second game in a row he would have been only half a point behind the leader; even more importantly, he would have been riding the wave of self-confidence that he so desperately needs to play well! Now he’s stuck with a bag of mixed feelings.

As for Grischuk, he said it best in the press conference when he noted that he didn’t win yesterday and he didn’t lose today in what was a mirror-like situation of a forced win/loss. I like it how he maintains his philosophycal view even in such situations of high tension!

Kramnik tried to squeeze whatever he thought was in the stone against So by using the Semi-Tarrasch. He has good memories of the opening from the first time he used it back in 2013 in London, when he beat Aronian in a crucial moment. But he’s had quite a few painful defeats there too. He said he was still in his analysis on move 20 and by my estimate it went on at least some 8-9 moves further. As a result he got a drawn position that he tried to win until move 57.

At the press conference he said that he didn’t really expect to win. So why did he try so hard, spending energy that he will desperately need in the second half of the tournament? I mentioned that his strategy is probably to maximise his points in the first half of the tournament, but the position was so dry that he couldn’t even dream of coming close to a win. So we come back to the first question – why did he try so hard?

Caruana was surprised by Karjakin’s choice of 7…dc in the Closed Catalan, a line already successfully tried by his second Riazantsev. For a change, Karjakin got to demonstrate his preparation going well after move 17 (the crucial move that he remembered) in what was effectively a total simplification.

Ding Liren obtained a typical technical position in yet another Catalan against Mamedyarov. He has won several good games in that structure (for example against Wang Hao in the World Cup and against Aronian in the Sharjah Grand Prix) but Mamedyarov was precise and wasn’t in any danger.

All draws means that there is no change in the standings. Tomorrow’s games Caruana-Grischuk and Mamedyarov-Kramnik promise to continue the trend of Wild in Berlin.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 4

The rest day only sharpened the players’ senses. The games were even more electrifying, though I am not sure they can keep up this level of tension for very long.

The first game to finish was Mamedyarov-So. White introduced a novelty on move 16 in the Nimzo-Indian, but the position was rather sterile and So didn’t have problems to keep it safe.

The other games were unexpected, all in their own way.

As I predicted in my preview, Karjakin is already out of the picture. And in a disgraceful way at that. Second loss with White in such a tournament is impermissible. Kasparov used to say that losing with White simply means bad play. If Karjakin played badly in Round 1 when he lost to Mamedyarov, this time he mixed up the move order in his preparation and was immediately lost, as early as move 16. The rest, until move 68 when he resigned, was just agony. And another thing I managed to predict, Aronian bounced back immediately.

The game Grischuk-Ding Liren saw a repeat of the famous game Topalov-Kramnik from Wijk aan Zee in 2008, Grischuk repeating the sacrifice that by now was considered refuted. When going through the game I noticed that his improvement, and novelty, 16 a4, is not highly regarded by the engine at first. This only means that he used really strong hardware to prepare, as the move is actually good, as my own engine soon sees when the moves are manually made on the board. Grischuk’s preparation ended on move 20 and on move 21 he could have won in a couple of moves! Yet he missed this simple win just because he was thinking by analogy with a similar line where White’s queen is on c2 and the defence with …Bf6 works then. Here’s analysis of the whole game, courtesy of GM Trajko Nedev, with a few comments from me.

An incredibly dramatic game! It is pity that it fades when compared to the next one.

I have the impression that Kramnik went into this game with the intention to play it safe. Hence 5 Qe2 against Caruana’s Petroff. He was leading the tournament with +2, common sense suggests that +3 is an outright win, and there are 10 more rounds to play. So a draw with the direct competition makes sense.

And things were going according to plan up to a point. How could they not to, when the queens were exchanged on move 7 and the position was symmetrical? But around move 20 something happened and Kramnik lunged forward. As if he couldn’t control his impulses from the last several years when he was always looking for chances to play for a win, even in the dullest positions. He was taking huge risks as objectively he was lost, but he was posing problems, Caruana was spending time and things got complicated. Caruana started to spoil the winning position before the time control, around move 35, and by move 39 he was now lost.

But then Kramnik relaxed (as he admitted) and didn’t manage to find one clear win. The game dragged on, while still being won for White, but one requiring continuous complex calculations.

A grandiose battle!

I think that Kramnik lost because he couldn’t keep the level of his calculations in the late stages of the game, a problem of mental stamina. I also think that he took this into consideration when he devised his strategy to start strongly, play with more risk and try to create as many chances as possible. The idea was to accumulate as many points in the beginning because he expects to be more liable to mistakes in the later stages of the tournament when he may start to tire. His strategy almost worked, if only he won this game… Now he will have to re-adjust and we will see what that means.

This win brought Caruana on sole first. He showed incredible resilience, both today and in Round 3 against Mamedyarov, his calculational abilities probably at their best. Tomorrow he is White against tail-ender Karjakin.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 3


Probably that would be an appropriate comment on a game that is already a classic, mere hours after it has finished.

It started with Aronian’s surprise first move of 1 e4, something he very rarely plays. He was obviously expecting Kramnik’s Berlin and the former World Champion obliged. So Aronian must have been happy to get his preparation in. This happiness lasted only for 7 moves. On that fateful 7th move the world was stunned with 7…Rg8!!! You cannot get more blunt than that, with the obvious threat to push …g5-g4 and mate. And it came in one of the “dullest” openings, the anti-Berlin! As long as there are ideas like these, there won’t be any dull openings.

Kramnik said he had this idea prepared for quite some time. Upon checking the database I discovered why he said so – the first time the move was played was in 2012 in a correspondence games and there are few more correspondence games with it. The real novetly was the next move, 8…Nh5. Kramnik was going for the throat. The rest of the game was such a tour de force that it’s better just to look at it.

Incredible game, especially at a tournament as the Candidates, where everybody is so well prepared. To beat Aronian with Black in 27 moves in such a fashion (24…Bd5!!) is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The win brings Kramnik on +2 and makes him the sole leader after 3 rounds. His play is excellent, but I would still not jump to conclusions. In a long event like the Candidates his stamina may become a factor in the second half of the tournament.

What of Aronian after this shock? Usually he started his previous Candidates well, early coming to a plus score and often leading the tournament. Now for the first time he’s on a minus score and he has the history of never managing to come back and losing his stability after setbacks. I wouldn’t write him off though and I sense that this time he will come back.

The game Caruana-Mamedyarov was a pleasant surprise for me. They played a line in the Najdorf that I successfully played from the mid 90s to the late 00s. I was more or less the only player to play it as in those times other lines were popular against the English Attack. I always had faith in the dynamics of the Black position and now, exactly 10 years after my last game in the line, I see it played at the highest level. Feels good to have been so ahead of the time!

The game was incredibly complex, as it can usually happen in this line where White is playing the queenside where his king is and Black is playing on the kingside where his king is!

An incredibly complex game between two confident players! I see both Caruana and Mamedyarov on good form, each trying to win the game and pushing the limits to the maximum. Together with Kramnik for now they are the players who seem to have the best combination of factors (cumulatively called “form”) on their side.

So and Ding Liren drew in a Marshall Attack. A good choice to make a draw with White, something So desperately needed after the abysmal 0/2 in the first two rounds.

Karjakin was again on the defensive after the opening in spite of having White against Grischuk. With the odd 5 Nc3 in the Giuoco Piano, followed by h3 and a3 he did win the bishop pair but allowed Black comfortable development. He didn’t have any problems to steer the game towards a draw though.

Tomorrow is the first rest day. The players on plus score, Kramnik, Caruana and Mamedyarov are deservedly leading. They have shown the best chess so far (preparation, determination, energy, resilience). From the rest, it will be curious to see three things: whether Karjakin will wake up, whether Aronian will find it in himself to bounce back and how will Grischuk continue. As for Ding and So, well, perhaps the Chinese will come up with some interesting novelty.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 2

A second Black in a row for So and a second loss. An unexpected start for one of the most solid players, but what is more surprising is the way he is losing the games – effortlessly. Obviously not in a good way. Against Grischuk he was OK after the opening, but then just like against Caruana yesterday he fell apart very quickly.

It’s amazing that it only took one mistake and Black was dead lost. From the way So lost these two games, as things are clearly not going his way, it can be concluded that this is not his tournament. He will continue to be tough and will fight on, but his hopes of winning are more or less squashed.

On the other hand Grischuk is back into the the tournament and today’s game should definitely give him the necessary boost after yesterday’s loss.

Mamedyarov couldn’t really trouble Aronian in the Nimzo-Indian in spite of his novelty as early as move 10. Black’s position was so solid that the draw was the logical outcome throughout.

The other two draws were more exciting. Kramnik entered the Berlin endgame with White. Quite a rare occurrence, as he made that defence popular with Black, but he managed to put enormous pressure on Karjakin. The computer keeps insisting that Black was never in danger (i.e. showing 0.00 almost all the time) but the fact that Karjakin had to move Ba4-Bc6 for 5(!) moves, passively waiting for White to regroup, shows that things were dangerously close for him. Still, eventually the Wall held. Perhaps because the tournament is played there, who knows?

Ding Liren played his usual Catalan against Caruana and the American chose the popular line with 7…b6 in the Main Line. Ding took the exchange (the White players usually choose not to) and Black had good compensation. But when the preparation ended the position remained complicated and inaccuracies and mistakes crept in. The last one occured after the time control when both players missed White’s winning chance.

Caruana will definitely feel the happier for the result as he was never in a chance to win whereas he could have lost. As for Ding, his missed chance equals out his escape against Aronian yesterday.

I find it interesting to follow the tournament from a perspective of who has the momentum going for him, for whom the things fall into place and for whom they don’t. While So clearly falls into the last category, it is still unclear who the leader is in the first two. Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether we will continue to see decisive games in the next rounds or will the tempo die down. This will largely affect the players’ strategy.


Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 1

The first round produced quite a lot of blood! Three decisive games, while the only draw saw a typical modern novelty on move 8.

The first game to finish was the American derby. With White Caruana went for the Catalan, a favourite opening of his opponent when he is White! And it all went so fast and somehow it appears that Caruana won effortlessly. So was playing on the queenside and Caruana mated him on the other side. A definite opening surprise by Caruana, but a very atypical breakdown by So who didn’t put any resistance. A strange game.

Then Kramnik beat Grischuk. The opening was telling, 3 b3 by Kramnik after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6.  Is this the reason he invited Giri, who is among the best theoreticians, to be his second? To play 3 b3? Maybe the point was to get Grischuk thinking from early on, but in fact both players were thinking from early on. Still, the game followed a scenario where things got sharp with Grischuk having less time than Kramnik and he misplayed it on move 22 when he got entangled with his pieces. Kramnik took his chance confidently.

The shortest game was the sharpest. Aronian played 8 h4 (it seems that in modern chess the move h4 is almost always good!) against Ding Liren’s English and soon followed it up with 11 Kf1. Too bad when things got sharp to the maximum he decided to repeat the moves. The engine gives him almost a decisive advantage, but the position was such a mess that it’s not surprising he didn’t want to risk this early on. But then again, will there be a better time to risk later on? With an early risk, even if it doesn’t pay off, you still have a whole tournament ahead to make it right. While if you wait for the last moment when you have no other option but to risk, the pressure may be too big. I think Aronian will be disappointed tonight when he sees that the engine gave him a huge advantage in the final position.

A very exciting game indeed!

Mamedyarov beat Karjakin with Black in a duel of the former second and his employee. They have probably looked at so much theory together so Mamedyarov surprised everybody with 3…g6 in the Spanish. The game was around balanced after mass early exchanges, but it was surprising to see Karjakin commit slight innaccuracies that rendered his position the more difficult to play. We’ve been so used to see him hold much more difficult positions that the one today; yet he didn’t manage against Mamedyarov’s consistent pressure. Black wins will be rare at this event, so this is definitely a huge boost for Mamedyarov!

Tomorrow Karjakin is Black against Kramnik. A lot of nuances at play here…


Tal Memorial 2018

The Tal Memorial. For some reasons the Russians decided to keep his memorial and not the Patriarch’s. They did have the odd Botvinnik and Petrosian memorials, but it is Tal who remained last man standing (a lot of puns intended there).

This year they mixed it up with rapid and blitz. Most probably so as not to tire their Candidates before Berlin. It’s a long walk from Moscow to Berlin, the Russians know it in their blood.

The rapid time control is best suited for aging intuitive players. Karpov beat Kasparov in a rapid match in 2002, when he was way past his prime while Garry was still around it. The rapid time control doesn’t tire the aging physique while at the same time allows enough time for precise short calculations that are required for confirmation of the intuitive solution. Blitz, on the other hand, is young men’s playground, where fast reactions and instincts come to the fore.

Having the above in mind it is not surprising that Anand won the rapid and Karjakin won the blitz.

Anand continues to impress. After turning 48 last December he won the World Rapid Championship and now he won the Tal Memorial with a full point advantage! Karpov was 51 when he beat Kasparov in New York in 2002, so Anand has at least several more years to delight us!

The following nice combination shows that everything is in order with Anand’s tactical alertness and his calculation of short variations.

This was the game that clinched Anand’s victory. It was played in Round 8 and after it he had a full point advantage over Mamedyarov, who was sharing a lead with him up to this point. With an easy draw in the last round Anand cruised to 6/9.

Generally speaking the Tal Memorial lived up to the name of the great man. There were plenty of flashy moves and crazy positions. Here’s a small selection.

This position arose in Dubov-Nepomniachtchi in the rapid. White got carried away with sacrifices, especially pawns, but ended up drawing this being a full rook down (Black queened the b-pawn but lost all the others, White lost the bishop but his g-pawn remained alive).

A similarly crazy position arose in the blitz. Black pawns galore.

This is from Nakamura-Kramnik. We usually say a rook is worth 5 pawns and a queen is worth 9 or 10. With that math in mind, Black has 11 pawns for White’s queen. But a queen is a queen and she won the game.

I think the most Tal-inspired moment happened in the blitz game Dubov-Anand.

For those of you who didn’t get the “hippo and mud” analogy, here’s what I was referring to.

I quite enjoyed following the tournament. It was very exciting and the games were entertaining. I am sure that the great Magician, wherever he may be right now, would have approved.

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