Tal Memorial 2016 – Round 5

It seems we’re back to square one, or as if the tournament just started. Only 1 decisive game in Round 5 and it was again Gelfand who lost.

A fourth loss in a row for the former World Championship challenger, who today lost to the very same person he challenged in 2012. Anand improved upon Gelfand’s recent games against Inarkiev (15 Ne4 instead of 15 Nb3 as played by Inarkiev in two games of their recent match) and after following the main line according to the computer black found himself facing a dilemma – either to enter a slightly inferior position with opposite-coloured bishops or to bank on the bishop pair and possible compensation for the pawn deficit. Always trying to play principled chess Gelfand went for the latter, but under the circumstances that didn’t seem to be the best (or at least most practical) decision.

The game is a very good illustration of a couple of points: Anand’s opening preparation, which takes into account Gelfand’s principled stance to trust and repeat his openings and the dangers of being too rigid in one’s approach (Gelfand became the great player that he is thanks to his principled approach and maximalism, but when in bad form it is more practical to be flexible and try to limit the damage).

Speaking of being principled, Kramnik played his third Hedgehog in Moscow (in as many black games). Aronian varied from the previous two games and went 7 Re1, another popular move for white (apart from 7 d4, as chosen by both Svidler and Nepo). While studying the opening phase of all these games I realised that these lines have recently been played quite a lot by the former Russian champion GM Lysyj. A very good theoretician and a person worth following what he does in the opening!

The derby of the round between Giri and Nepomniachtchi didn’t live up to the expectations (for those of you who had them!) The ever-practical Giri chose a line in the Grunfeld that assured him against any possible risk but that meant that a well-prepared Nepo would draw rather easily, which is what happened. The 67 moves played shouldn’t deceive you, they reached a theoretically drawn rook endgame on move 36, after 23 moves of theory.

Mamedyarov choice of 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Bg5 against Svidler led to some unorthodox positions where both players tried to win (and they both had their chances). As it usually happens in such situations the game petered out (pun intended) to an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops.

Like against Anand, Li Chao again treated the Nimzo in an unconvincing fashion (as if he didn’t prepare for it at all!) – 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 b6 5 Bd2. Black had no problems and Tomashevsky drew easily.

Tomorrow’s round sees a meeting of old friends Kramnik and Gelfand. With Kramnik’s aggression and Gelfand’s bad form will we see a fifth loss in a row for Gelfand?

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