Tal Memorial 2016 – Round 1

One of the strongest tournaments of the year started yesterday with the newly-established tradition to use blitz in order to determine the drawing of lots. Mamedyarov won the blitz convincingly, 7.5/9, and together with Aronian, Nepomniachtchi, Svidler and Giri got the right to choose an extra white game.

The classical part started today. There was only one decisive game, Nepomniachtchi beat Tomashevsky in 23 moves. Usually these things don’t happen too often, especially not if you play the opening you always play, like Nepo’s Scotch, when the opponent will be thoroughly prepared. It is certain that Tomashevsky mixed things up over the board.

Such an easy win in such a difficult tournament is a luxury few can have, Nepomniachtchi couldn’t have wished for a better start. As for Tomashevsky, this fine player has repeatedly shown that playing under pressure is not his forte – the last Olympiad and all the attention of the first round clearly demonstrate he still hasn’t been able to overcome this issue.

Mamedyarov had a great blitz tournament but today couldn’t do much against Li Chao’s Grunfeld.

Aronian and Gelfand played a line in the English where white is slightly better but with modern computer preparation these lines are as good as a safe draw with black – the computer holds this slightly inferior endgames easily so the only thing required of the human is good memorisation. Gelfand had no problem with that.

Anand equalised nicely with black against Giri in the QGD with 4…Nbd7 but then played passively and allowed white an easy game against his pawn weaknesses. His class was enough though to hold that unpleasant endgame.

The titanic battle of the round was Svidler-Kramnik. When was the last time Kramnik played the Hedgehog with black? After checking the database I actually remembered the game Lautier-Kramnik from 2000, a very nice game that I used as a basis of my Hedgehog repertoire back in the day. I’ve also included this game in the comments. The game was full of ups and downs for both sides and it is probably fair that it ended in a draw as nobody deserved to lose. Note Kramnik’s excellent defensive maneuver 42…Rh6! and 43…Rh5!

Today I read the sad news that Mark Dvoretsky had died. The world’s best coach, according to many. I never met him personally, but I’ve spent countless hours (and weeks, and months, and years) studying his books and solving the exercises. It is perhaps more precise to call that work suffering, because it was only on the rarest occasions that I managed to solve them correctly – there would always be something that I had missed or overlooked. A source of endless frustration for me, I dreaded the look of those exercises, but I well knew that I had to try and try and try again if I wanted to improve. Eventually I did and for that I am thankful to Mark Dvoretsky. His legacy will continue to shape the next generations and his methods will live on because they produce results. He never managed to produce a World Champion, but both Kasparov (as a very young player) and Carlsen are known to have worked with him. His name will always be associated with the highest quality of chess coaching and the standards he set, both for books and coaching, will be very difficult to equal.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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