Tal Memorial 2016 – Round 2

If Round 1 had 1 decisive game, Round 2 had 2.

The winner of the blitz Mamedyarov played the popular 12…ed in the Zaitsev Variation of the Spanish against Anand. He got a good position from the opening but after Anand’s innovation, deviating from the game Giri-Svidler from the World Cup in Baku 2015, Mamedyarov blindly copied Svidler’s play and this led him to a position where he was forced to sacrifice a piece for insufficient compensation. Anand’s realisation was impeccable.

Gelfand didn’t get many invitations is the last year or so and I eagerly awaited his return, knowing how hard-working and motivated he is. But rust is a difficult thing to shake off, beating Inarkiev in a match is not the same as playing elite players on a daily basis. Today against Giri he got a solid position with white and then started to spend masses of time. That wouldn’t have been bad if the time spent produced good moves, but it didn’t. A very odd game by Gelfand, I hope he shakes off the rust and comes back in the remaining rounds.

From the drawn games worth noting is that Kramnik’s 1 e4 was met by Li Chao’s Petroff Defence, a Kramnik favourite in the late 1990s. The tiny edge white got from the opening wasn’t enough for more than a draw, but Kramnik tried his best to pull off a Carlsen and grinded on for 60 moves.

Nepomniachtchi tried the Grunfeld against Svidler. Sometimes it’s foolish to play what your opponent knows best, but sometimes it is not. The latter case applies when you also know a lot. And that is what happened, two connoisseurs of the Grunfeld making a good theoretical draw on move 22, probably both content that their favourite opening showed its redeeming features once again.

Tomashevsky was very wise to make a quick draw with white against Aronian. After yesterday’s loss it was vital for him to get on the scoreboard. Aronian didn’t seem to mind, his opening choice of the Lasker Defence in the QGD clearly demonstrated that he was fine with a draw.

From tomorrow’s games I am particularly interested whether Nepo will essay the Scotch against Kramnik. If he does it should be an interesting theoretical duel.

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