14 October 2016

Heavy Brunt of a Leadership

The closing three rounds of the Tal Memorial in the review of grandmaster Alexey Korotylev.

Round seven and eighth of the Tal Memorial left us with the impression that upon having wasted a great deal of energy at the start and in the middle of the tournament, the players were going to cross the finish line leaning on a staff of peace. At first it seemed that round seven does not readily lend itself to singling out any episode worthy of analysis. Nevertheless, such an episode presents itself in the form of the Anand – Svidler game. 

Anand – Svidler
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 

"Threatening" with the Marshall attack, which Peter remains faithful to over a lengthy period of his career. 


In fact, Anand often happily joins competitions for deeper analysis and better memory. Nevertheless, on the day of his encounter with Svidler Vishy decided to cut down on the amount of homework preparation because forgetfulness in the anti-Marshall is not penalized that high. 

8...b4 9.d3

In the 2016 Russian team championship in Sochi Peter Svidler, playing the black pieces, defeated Sergey Karjakin in yet another trendy line - 9.d4 d6, etc.

9...d6 10.a5 Be6 11.Nbd2 

This continuation is well-known. It has seen such moves as 11...Rb8 (the b5-square appeals to the black rook) and 11...Qc8 tested more than once - in both cases Black has nothing to complain in terms of results. 

11...B:b3 12.N:b3 Re8

As for Peter, he employs a more modern approach, so to speak. Black is angling for a gradual d6-d5.

The endgame arising after the immediate 12...d5, which happened in the online games of little-known players, 13.Bg5 Re8 14.Qe2 h6 15.Bh4 Nh5 16.B:e7 R:e7 17.Nh4 Nf4 18.Qg4 Re6 19.ed Q:d5 20.g3 h5 21.Qf3 Q:f3 22.N:f3 Ng6 is more pleasant for White if the existing pawn structure is maintained, but Black should not rule out the possibility of its transformation after 23.d4!?

13.h3 h6 14.Nh4 

Vishy attempts to improve on his old game versus Michael Adams in which a peace was negotiated after 4.d4 ed 15.Nf:d4 Qd7 16.f3 N:d4 17.N:d4 c5 18.Nb3 Qc6 19.Be3 d5 20.e5 Nd7 21.Bf2 f6 22.ef B:f6 23.Rb1 Qd6, as in Anand – Adams, Wijk aan Zee 2006.


14...N:e4 would have been answered by 15.Nf5 Ng5 16.Qg4 Bf6 17.h4 Ne6, at which point any take on h6 leads to a sharp game (but not to a draw as is claimed by my computer set not to the deepest of analytical levels).

15.Nf5 Ne7 16.Ne3 Qd7

Black could also leave this square unoccupied for the knight with some moves like 16...Rb8, which is unlikely to have had any significant influence on the further course of the struggle.

17.Ng4 Nh7 

This is a somewhat artificial reply. There are no special counter-indications to trades on g4: 17...N:g4 18.hg Nc6 19.g3 Be7 20.Kg2 Nd8!, in which case the knight transfer on e6 dispels any hopes that Black might have cherished about potential kingside offensive.


This is an attempt to capitalize on having his opponent's pieces committed to the edge of the board. This decision yields no significant dividends, however.

Meanwhile, White could have launched active play on the same flank – 18.f4 ef 19.B:f4 Ng6 20.Bg3, intending to exploit the game opening up after 20...f5 21.ef Q:f5 22.Qd2 to his advantage.

18...ed 19.N:d4 c5

The immediate 19...h5 20.Ne3 Nf6 is a tougher approach, looking forward to meeting 21.f3 Ng6 with the planned d6-d5 under most favorable circumstances.

20.Ne2 h5 21.Ne3 Nf6 22.Ng3

22.f3 Rad8! (it is more precise over 22...Ng6 23.Nc4) 23.c4 bc 24.N:c3 d5 promises nothing.

22...h4 23.Nh5 N:h5 24.Q:h5 Qe6! 

This short calculation must be correct either, as was demonstrated by Peter Svidler. Black loses nothing, but rather promotes the trade of pieces. 

25.Q:h4 Ng6 26.Qg4 Q:e4 27.Q:e4 R:e4 28.Rd1 Rae8 29.Kf1 Be7 

This is not the most precise handling of an almost equal endgame, but we will shy away from subjecting this bishop maneuver to extensive criticizing.

The computer’s tip 29...Nf4!?, followed by 30.Nf5 Nd5!, does touch the commentator’s feelings, but during the game a human player is likely to deem it as unreliable, to put it mildly.

30.g3 Ne5 31.Nf5 


This carelessness could have proven costly to the Russian. However, even after the best 31... Bf8 32.Bf4 Re6 33.Ne3 Ng6 34.Nd5 he would have had to work hard to make a draw.


This is an immediate amnesty, instead of which 32.R:d6!? could have definitely led to a success in a practical game. Thus, after 32...R:c2 33.R:a6 Nd3 34.N:e7+ R:e7 35.Ra8+ Kh7 36.Be3 N:b2 37.a6 Nc4 38.a7 R:a7 39.R1:a7 b3 40.Rb8 N:e3+ 41.fe c4 42.R:f7, Black is capable of achieving no more than trading his passers for one of White's rooks, which means transition into a rook ending with decisive material advantage for White. 

I should note that capturing or simply committing a rook to a square controlled by own and opponent’s less valuable pieces is a hard-to-find resource in chess (Vishy will keep me honest on that). This subject definitely deserves its own manual of exercises - this work will not fail to pay off. And yet, despite my apparent sympathy for moves like 32.Rd6, I will not sin against the truth by not mentioning the line 32...R:c2 33.Ra6 Nc4! 34.b3 Bf6 35.R:f6 gf 36.bc Ree2 37.Be3 b3 38.Rb1 b2 39.Kg2! R:c4 40.a6 Ra4 41.Bc5 Re5 42.N:h6+ Kh7 43.Be3 R:a6 44 .R:b2 R:e3 45.fe K:h6, and White is not in a position to convert his extra pawn.

Therefore, Michael Krasenkow's 32.Rd2! and 33.Rd2-e2, mentioned by him on the ChessPro, should be recognized as the strongest since the positional pluses threaten to quickly translate into the material ones.

32...bc 33.bc R:c3 34.N:d6

The computer’s recommendation to first weaken the back rank with 34.N:e7+ R:e7 35.R:d6 Nc4 36.R:a6 Rc2 37.Ba3 Rc3, to sacrifice a piece and to push the passer forward with 38.Ra8+ Kh7 39.B:c5 Nd2+ 40.Kg2 R:c5 41.a6 definitely looks interesting, but only leads to a draw and is not feasible from the practical point of view.

34...B:d6 35.R:d6 Nc4 36.R:a6 Rc2 37.Rc6

While a more simple and safe draw is after 37.Ba3 Rc3 38.Bc1 Rc2 39.Ba3, it would be naive for White to count on something more substantial following such moves as 32.с3.

37...Ree2 38.Be3 N:e3+ 39.fe Rh2 40.Kg1 

With his own hand and, to an even greater degree, with his own head the Indian landed himself into a position where... the computer predicts an inevitable draw. During the game Svidler failed to contest this seemingly controversial evaluation, although he was definitely willing to do so. 

40...Rcg2+ 41.Kf1 R:g3 42.a6 R:e3 43.Kg1 Re:h3 44.Ra4!, and Black had nothing better than delivering a perpetual via 44...Rh1+. Draw. 

Let me show you a couple more examples from games of round seven, which proved poor in terms of action. After acquainting yourself with the first one, please do not think I am up to jokes when I claim that the Mamedyarov - Aronian game went almost along the same lines. 

Giri – Kramnik


A minor qualification for the above-mentioned should be made, however, since Mamedyarov had no Aronian's knight pinned and Black easily carried out d5-d4 with a complete equality afterwards.

In our case worthy of attention was 19.Qe2, intending to double up the rooks along the d-file as soon as possible. Should Black make up his mind to comeback with a similar idea, it is not going to work out just as effectively - 19...Rc6 20.Rd2 with a small edge. Best chances to make a draw in this case would be after 19...Qc7 20.Rd2 Qc4. The decision adopted by the Dutch player, oppressed by a dispiriting score against Kramnik, allows the Russian to quickly reach a complete equality.

19...Rc4! 20.Bf3 Rb4 21.Qa3 

21...d4! 22.Rd3

In the case of 22.Q:a7 the best rejoinder 22...Qf8! (22...R:b2 23.ed would be problematic for Black) 23.Qa3 Ra8 24.Qd3 R:a2 would secure a draw for the former world champion.


There would be no finding fault with Black's play after 22...de 23.R:d8+ N:d8 24.fe Qc5 25.Qd3 Nc6 26.Bd5 Ne5 as well. Nevertheless, Kramnik opts for another path, a more twisted one though.

23.Q:a5 R:b2 24.Qe5 Qb4 25.ed

Tension in the position and likelihood of errors from Black (and from White as well!) could be further maintained by 25.Rfd1 Rb1 26.ed N:d4 27.Kh1!?

25...R:d4 26.a3 Qc4 27.Rdd1 R:d1 28.R:d1 Qb3 29.Qb8+ 

Is it a case of knee-trembling in the face of a highly experienced examiner? He could, after all, deprive the a3-pawn taking threat of its sting: 29.h3! Q:a3 30.Rd7, and Black's attempts to keep his passed pawn alive turn out fatal for him after – 30...b5?? 31.Bh5. 

29...Kh7 30.Qd6 Qc2

Vladimir must have been aware of the opportunity to go for 30...Ng5 31.Qd3+ Q:d3 32.R:d3 N:f3+ 33.gf Kg6 34.Kg2 Kf5 35.Rd7 Ke6 36.Rc7, but considered it futile to continue wasting his energy trying to squeeze a win out of this ending.

31.Qd3+ Q:d3 32.R:d3 Nc5 Draw. 

Li Chao – Nepomniachtchi
Grunfeld Defense

Li Chao decided to employ the system of... Anti-Tarrasch against the leader of the tournament. No, this is not something levelled against the Tarrasch Defence that has never been harnessed by the Russian. This is just a line of the Grunfeld defense that violates the Tarrasch postulates (same as bans) probably more than any other opening line. 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.cd N:d5 


This idea was once put forward by Ashot Nadanian. White wants to deprive the opponent of the opportunity to trade the d5-knight for his white counterpart following the standard advance e2-e4. 


In his turn, Black stops White from advancing his e2-pawn two squares forward. 


Do not move your same piece twice in the opening. A knight on the rim is dim at all stages of the game. We have just seen these postulates violated twice in a consistent pattern. Nevertheless, the position is quite acceptable for the trespasser! 


This year Li Chao has already had this position with the white color at one of the China tournaments in which the opponent replied with 7...Bc8. It goes without saying that the game has not been overlooked by the Russian grandmaster.

It should be noted that Black's choice of continuations is rather rich: in addition to both bishop retreats also worthy of attention is 7...e6 8.N:f5 ef or 7...Nc6 8.N:f5 gf 9.e3 Qd6, intending to castle short.

8.e4 e5! 

This decision's soundness is beyond any doubt - the central counterplay is combined with attacking one of the trespassing knights. 

9.Nf3 ed 10.ed 0-0 11.Be2 d3 12.Q:d3 B:a4 13.0-0 c6 14.Qe4 Qe8 15.Q:a4 Q:e2 

The analysis started with 7.Nh4 has arrived at the diagram position with natural moves. The current evaluation is rough equality. 


If White were willing to put up a fight, he would have opted for 16.d6 Nd7 17.Bg5 Nb6 18.Qh4, at which point the engine insists on 18...f6!?. Besides visible shortcomings, this move is not without a purpose of its own. Black robs the opponent's bishop of the h4-d8 diagonal, which keeps the balance undisturbed.

Also more ambitious over what was preferred by the Chinese player is 16.Bf4 Qa6 (16...b5 !?) 17.Q:a6 N:a6 18.dc bc, where the compromised pawn structure of Black's does him no serious harm.

16...Na6! 17.Be3

After 17.Re1 Qb5 18.Q:b5 cb 19.Bg5 B:b2 20.Rab1 Ba3 21.R:b5 b6 Black stops the d-passer from moving forward and looks confidently into the future for that matter.

17...Q:b2 18.Q:b2 B:b2 19.Rab1 Bf6, and, objectively speaking, this is an inevitable draw, which was agreed later. 

Nepomniachtchi – Anand
English Opening

A trouble-free draw as Black against Li Chao allowed Ian keeping his lead. Both final games were anything but easy walks in the park for the leader. 

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bb4 3.Nd5 Bc5 4.Nf3 c6 5.Nc3 d6 

The opening part of the game has often witnessed Vishy as a great a trend follower, responding quickly to trends of recent months and even weeks. The diagram position is the game Nakamura - Adhiban, Baku 2016... and the blitz game Topalov - Anand, Belgium 2016. 

6.e3 Bb4

6...Qe7 7.d4 ed 8.N:d4 is not to everyone’s liking, which explains what the last Black's move is levelled against. This is yet another opportunity to remind about fragility of chess opening dogmas that have come down to us from the classical players.

7.d4 e4 8.Nd2 B:c3!

In the above-mentioned game Nakamura - Adhiban White managed to avoid having his pawn structure compromised after 8...Nf6 9.Qc2. I identify with Mikhail Krasenkow's opinion shared by him on ChessPro that Black should go for compromising White's pawn structure by trading the bishop for the knight.

9.bc Nf6 10.f3!?

10.Be2 0-0 11.0-0 Re8 is unlikely to promise much, therefore Nepomniachtchi attempts to prove something to his opponent by a partial opening up of the game. However, Ian’s dark-squared bishop has no say in the game, which leaves White with very few chances to be able to fight for any advantage.


With the b7-pawn not threatened in anyway, 10...Bf5 also looked good in connection with the strategically important task of exercising control over the e4-square. Besides, Black was developing his own bishop without contributing into the development of his opponent's forces.  Anand's last move seems to deprive Black of complete equality.

11.Q:f3 0-0 


As was mentioned by Krasenkow, 12.Bd3 was to be followed by 12...Bg4 13.Qf4 Bh5 14.0-0 Re8 15.e4 Bg6, upon which it is not clear how White is going to profit anything from his seemingly attractive position. For example, 16.Ba3 c5! with a decent play for Black.


With White lagging behind in development, Vishy attempts to get his opponent involved in some concrete play. His plan works out owing to an inaccuracy committed by White. 


Correct was 13.e4!, and the line suggested by Krasenkow 13...Re8 14.Be2 c5 15.0-0 cd 16.cd Nc6 runs into 17.Nb3 Qb6 18.Be3! R:e4 19.Qg3 with dangerous initiative. Thus, after 19...Qd8 20.Bd3 Re8? 21.Bg5 Black may as well resign immediately. This said, in other continuations White can get better chances by timely kicking out the black queen with Nd2-b3 and developing the c1-bishop afterwards.


This is a well-thought decision - central pawns are traditionally strong in the middlegame. However, endgame's traditions are somewhat different. 


A more consistent 14.e4 Q:f3 15.gf c5 16.Kf2 Nc6 would have resulted in an unclear position.

14...Re8 15.Q:f5 B:f5 16.Kf2 Rd8 

Excessive accuracy. The rook was in no danger after 16...Re6, while being a lot more active than on d8.


The white king is willing to take direct responsibility for the actions of his infantry, lending them his personal support. This is no way to achieve advantage, even though 17.Be2 yields nothing if for no other reason than 17...Ne4+. 


17...Bg6 is a more subtle move because such careless play as 18.e4 c5! might spell problems for White. 

18.g4 Bg6 19.Bg2?!

More interesting, in the very least, is 19.g5 Nfd7 20.h4 Bh5+ 21.Kf2, and the Nd2-e4 resource keeps Black in tension.

19...h6! 20.Kf4 Nc6 21.B:c6

The opponent identified with White's straightforward play for a draw. Vishy obviously decided against throwing a spanner in the works of the tournament leader.

21...bc 22.e4 Nd7

Stronger is 22...Rab8!, and White is yet to come up with a decent rejoinder. Thus, in the case of 23.Rab1 Rb6! 24.Rb3 Ra6 the developments along the a-file are quite alarming for White.

23.Nb3 Re8 24.Rhe1 Re6 25.Re3 


Played with a simple idea of forcing a draw as soon as possible. I do not think that Black's attempts at backing out of sharing a half point with his opponent could have materialized into anything tangible. For example, 25...cd 26.cd c5 27.dc dc 28.Rd1 (but not 28.N:c5 N:c5 29.B:c5 Rc6) 28...Ne5 29.Rc3 Rf6+!? 30.Kg3 (30.K:e5? Re8+ 31.Kd5 Rd8+) 30...Ra6 31.N:c5 Rc6 with a compensation for the missing pawn, but no more than that.

26.Rae1 Rf6+ 27.Kg3 Rfe6 28.Kf4 Rf6+ 29.Kg3 Rfe6 Draw. 

Kramnik – Tomashevsky

Despite Vladimir Kramnik's winning a pawn from Evgeny Tomashevsky, he was still unable to overcome his opponent's fierce resistance.


A natural sequence 17...Nd6 18.Ng4 Nd7 (the alternative would be 18...N:g4 19.B:g4 Qe7 20.f4 f6, and the defensive potential is high for Black) 19.Rad1 would result in a position with a slight advantage for White that comes with a bishop pair. Nevertheless, this is not a signal for Black to start deteriorating his position further.

18.Rad1 Nd6 19.B:d4 ed 20.R:d4 Nd:e4 21.R:d8+ R:d8 


Although the game went on to last for almost 90 moves yet, it is now that the ways of the former world champion's game improvement should be looked into. 22.Rd1! Re8 (after 22...R:d1 23.Q:d1 the Ne3-c4 and Qd1-d4 threats hold out a hope of winning a pawn under better circumstances than in the game) 23.Nc4 Qc8 24.B:e4 N:e4 25.Re1!?, and the а5-pawn is doomed. However, Black is nowhere near trading this doomed pawn for the active piece play.

22...b5 23.ab cb 24.N:a5 Rd2 25.Q:b5 h6 26.Nc4 R:c2 27.Qb8+ Kh7 28.Qe5 Q:e5 29.N:e5 Rb2, and, having done his share of penal servitude works, Black managed to bail out after all. 

Svidler – Gelfand

Svidler and Gelfand repeated the line that Boris had employed earlier against Anand. 


Another instance of refraining from 10.ed, which I have mentioned in my previous review. Is the d5 taking idea so measly to titled players as not deserving even a single tryout?

10...de 11.Q:d8 R:d8 12.R:e4 


Following his painful loss to Vishy, Boris decides to go for another continuation in lieu of the proven 12...е5 . Gelfand's persisting in repeating this line for Black means that he considers it acceptable, although a cursory glance at the position entails doubts about Black's possessing a full compensation for the missing pawn. Neither are these doubts dispelled by 12...Rd1+ 13.Re1 R:e1+ 14.N:e1 Nf5. 


Even if the computer advocates a greed-oriented approach that we have grown disaccustomed to already - 13.Nbd2 c5 14.g4 Nd6 15.R:e7 f5 16.g5 Bb7, in my opinion it is easier to prove compensation for two missing pawns now than it was for one before!


Where else, it not on the long diagonal, that the light-squared bishop is capable of neutralizing the numerical superiority of the opponent? It may well be that this move has not been borrowed from the engine but was rather found by Boris at the board since 13.Re1 is not the first idea likely to cross your mind. 

14.Nbd2 Bb7 15.Ne4

15.g4 Nd6 16.R:e7 h5 would be akin to the line mentioned above. There is nothing that has changed in terms of positional evaluation either since low mobility of White's pieces offers him no opportunities to convert his numerical superiority. Besides, White needs to be on the alert to prevent the black pieces from becoming dangerously active.

15...Rac8 16.Ng3 Nd6 17.R:e7 

White does grab the second pawn, but the opponent's counter measures are not long in coming. One pawn is won back immediately... 

17...B:f3 18.gf N:c4 

The second missing pawn is apparently compensated by Black's active piece play. 

19.Bg5 N:b2 20.R:a7 Ra8 21.Rb7 Rd1+ 22.R:d1 N:d1 23.Ne4 N:c3 24.N:c5 h6 25.Be3 R:a2 26.Rb8+ Kh7 27.Rb7 Kg8 28.Rb8+ Kh7 29.Rb7 Kg8 This is a draw that Black negotiated with apparent ease. This said, may it be that one of the following duels is going to witness White’s uncorking 10.ed from "ignore"? 

Gelfand – Nepomniachtchi
English Opening

The ultimate round with its living intrigue proceeded under the sign of nervousness displayed by the contestants for the highest step of the podium. Ian Nepomniachtchi landed in a very precarious position against Boris Gelfand. 

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d4 cd 4.N:d4 e6 5.Nc3 d5

Thus sidestepping the Romanishin line of the Nimzo-Indian Defence arising after 5...Bb4 6.g3. Black’s problems are resolvable, but only through a fair share of challenging struggle. This is exactly what Ian Nepomniachtchi was willing to avoid - the proximity of the ultimate goal could not help but cause some constrained type of play. However, in and of itself the text move is quite acceptable and should be sufficient for equality.


6.Bg5 is adequately met by 6...e5 7.Nf3 d4 8.Nd5 Be7 9.B:f6 B:f6, which was demonstrated by Robert Fischer himself, while 6.Bf4!? can be answered even by 6...Nc6 (not the only move, of course)  7.Ndb5 e5 8.cd ef 9.dc bc, transposing into the line recognized for its drawish tendencies as far back as in precomputer times.


6...Nc6 seems more natural to me, which can be followed by something like 7.cd ed 8.Bb5 Bd7 9.0-0 Bd6 10.Nf3 a6 11.Be2 Be6 12.b3 0-0 13.Bb2 Qe7 14.Rc1 Rad8, resulting in a game with mutual chances.

7.cd N:d5 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.N:d5 ed 10.0-0 Nc6?!

It goes without saying that after 10...0-0 11.B:d7 Q:d7 12.b3 Nc6 13.Bb2 Black’s only aspirations are to make a draw, which should not be that difficult to arrive at, however. Meanwhile, Ian decides to stay away from simplifications – he has an isolani, after all.


This continuation has its share of both decency and nicety. While the d5-pawn is at threat, the knight is ready to combine forces with the queen after taking his post on c3. 

11...a6 12.Ba4 Bg4

It is hard to venture into a controversial computer-recommended sacrifice 12...0-0 13.Q:d5 Bg4 14.Nc3, whereas after 12...Be6 13.Bd2 0-0 14.Bc3 White has a stable plus. Although Nepomniachtchi imitates active play, what does he have in mind against the most natural rejoinder?


What about 13.h3! ? In case of 13...Bh5 even 14.f3!? would constitute an unpleasant threat of Ne2-f4. The trades on e2 is dubious a priori - Black gives up a bishop pair to his opponent without even as much as securing safety of his isolani.

13...Na5 14.Ba4+ b5

I wonder if Boris would have agreed to a draw after 14...Nc6 ? I do not think so. The laws of professionalism demand that fight be carried on regardless of any adverse circumstances, especially if your position is a pleasant one and absolutely risk-free at that.

15.Bc2 0-0 16.Qd3 g6 17.Nd4 Bf6 18.Bd1! 

This is a good maneuver pursuing several objectives - both simplification of the position, and, if need arises, creating a strong pressure against the d5-pawn. There is no misleading anyone with a multitude of bishops along the home rank since Black is not in a position to prevent his opponent from completing development. 


18...Bd7 requires 19.b3 (but not 19.Bf3 Nc6!) 19...Nc6 20.Bb2, with somewhat better prospects.

19.Bd2! Nc4 20.B:g4 Q:g4 21.Bc3 


It does nothing to stop the opponent’s upcoming comfortable play and redeployment plans, whereas Black’s own play and placement of pieces are obviously lagging behind.

However, the 21...b4 22.B:b4 Rfb8 23.Nc6 Rb5 24.a4 N:b2 25.Qb3 Rb7 26.Q:d5 Re8 line is a pure brainchild of the computer. Getting all the way to the bottom of it is unrealistic, let alone evaluating it so as to arrive into sharing the computer's point of view... By the way, Stockfish predicts a bright future to Black or, to be more exact, substantial chances to make a draw.

22.b3 Ne5 23.Qd2 Rac8 24.Rac1 Rc7 


The black knight will never make it to e4, therefore White should not hesitate to drive it away from e5 as well. White sidesteps the f3-fork ideas and gets himself prepared to infiltrate the enemy's camp along the c-file.

Less promising is 25.h3 Qd7 26.Ba5 R:c1 27.R:c1 Rc8 28.Rd1. 

25...Nd7 26.h3 Qh5 27.Nf3

Among alternative ideas worth noting is 27.Ba5 R:c1 28.R:c1 Nf6 29.Nc6 Re8 30.Bb4!?, and Black finds it difficult to follow up with next moves. For example, 30...Ne4 31.Ne7+! R:e7?! 32.Rc8+ Bf8 33.Qd4! winning.

27...B:c3 28.R:c3 R:c3

Or 28...Nc5 29.Qd4 Ne6 (no better than that is 29...Rfc8 30.Ne5 – 30.Rd1!? – 30...Ne6 31.R:c7 R:c7 32.Q:d5 Qe2 33.Ng4) 30.Qf6 R:c3 31.Q:c3, and Black is ruined not so much by the isolani weakness as by the renegade queen.

29.Q:c3 Qf5 30.Qc6 Nb8 

In the game Ian managed to pull out his queen from the edge of the board. Nevertheless, in order to avoid irretrievable losses he was forced to take away the joy of life from his knight. This said, it started looking as though White’s advantage was gravitating towards the critical level... 

31.Qd6! Rc8 32.Rd1 Qe4 33.R:d5 Q:e3+ 34.Kh2 Nc6 35.Rc5 Qe8 


This advantage would have increased decisively in the game between two computers - 36.Ng5!!? h6 37.Nf3!, and after 37...Kg7 38.f5 it turns out that White has not lost time but has rather encouraged a key weakening of Black's position.

36...Na7 37.Ne5?!

37.f6 R:c5 38.Q:c5 Nc6 amounts to nothing, but 37.fg hg 38.R:c8 Q:c8 39.Ne5! lands Black in a zugzwang. However, after 39...Kg7 40.N:g6 fg 41.Qd4+ Kg8 42.Q:a7 Qc2! it is not over yet. Thus, something like 43.Q:a6? Qc7+ results in a perpetual.

37...R:c5 38.Q:c5 gf! 39.Nf3 Nc6 40.Q:f5 

It feels as though not only the immediate danger for Black is over, but the worst in general. However, it is important that the disconnected kingside pawns do not fall prey to the attack. 


When it comes to making a time control move, there are not a few players who would be so low on time that instead of searching and calculating all is left for them to do is guessing. In my opinion, Ian is not one of them. Nevertheless, the best move 40...h6! was left unattended. 40...Qe6 41.Q:e6 fe 42.Kg3 Kg7 43.Kf4 Kf6 also leads to a draw. 

41.Kh1 Qd6 42.Qg4+ Kf8 43.Ng5 h6 44.Ne4

Another chance turned up for White in the form of 44.Nh7+ Ke7 45.Qh4+ Kd7 46.Nf6+ Kc8 47.Ng4 (or 47.Q:h6 for that matter), but Boris obviously decided against spoiling the Russian fans’ party. I am sure that the tournaments in which Boris Gelfand will have many more reasons to seek victory in the final round are yet to come.

44...Qd5!, and White’s superior pawn structure does not play a decisive factor  – a draw was agreed shortly after. This draw turned for Ian Nepomniachtchi into a golden one because Anish Giri, having been successful with his opening choice and having displayed confident performance up to a certain moment, suddenly lost his bearings in a winning endgame. 

Li Chao – Giri

30.Nb5 a6 31.Nd6?!

It turns out that correct is 31.Nc3! – it has something in common with a resource that Boris Gelfand failed to discover on move 36 against Ian Nepomniachtchi. While Boris could have extended his already significant advantage, here White’s goals are more modest in comparison - 31...B:c4 32.Nd5 b5 33.Kf2! (more precise than 33.Nb6) 33...Nf4 34.Nb6 Rb8 35.N:c4 bc 36.R:c4 Rb2+ 37.Kg1, and White is not worse. A refusal from taking the c4-pawn is not going to bring any dividends since the b6-pawn has turned into a weakness as well.

31...Rc6 32.Rd1

The equality is maintained by a hard-to-find 32.c5! Nf4 (but not 32...bc 33.Nb7) 33.Rc2!, for example, 33...Kf8 34.a4 Ke7 35.cb! R:b6 (35...R:c2? 36.b7) 36.Nc8+ B:c8 37.R:c8 Rb2 38.Ra8 et cetera. The text move of the Chinese grandmaster almost resulted in undesired by the Russian fans changes in the history of chess.

32...Kf6 33.Ne8+

After 33.Kf2 Ke7 34.Nf5+ B:f5 35.ef Nf4 keeping White’s position together would have been no easier. 

33...Ke7 34.Ng7 B:c4 35.Nf5+ Kf6 36.B:c4

In the case of 36.Rc1 b5 Black should convert his extra pawn advantage, similar to what was expected of him in the actual game.

36...R:c4 37.Rd6+ Kg5 38.R:b6 Nf4 39.Nh6

39.R:a6 Rc2 is just very bad for White. 

39...N:g2+ 40.Kf2 Rc2+ 41.Kg1 


Although it is not immediately clear why 41...Ne1 should be preferred, it is the first rank that the knight was bound to visit anyway. Below-given are some of the lines: 42.N:f7+ Kf4 43.Rf6+ Kg3 44.Rg6+ (apparently hopeless is 44.N:e5 Rc1 45.Rg6+ Kf4 46.Nf7 N:f3+ 47.Kf2 Rc2+ 48.Kf1 Ke3) 44...K:f3 45.N:e5+ K:e4 46.Re6 (Black’s pieces are also extremely well-coordinated after 46.Ng4 Nf3+ 47.Kf1 Kf4) 46...Kf5 47.Re7 Re2 48.Nc6 Nf3+ 49.Kf1 Ra2 50.Rf7+ Kg4 51.Rg7+ Kh3, eliminating the last White’s pawn before long. An error crept into Dutch grandmaster’s calculations, which stopped him from breaking through Li Chao’s defenses.

42.N:f7+ Kf4 43.R:a6 Nc4 44.a4 Ra2

Other attempts are also futile, for example 44...K:f3 45.Rc6 K:e4 46.a5 Kd5 47.Rh6.

45.a5 K:f3 46.Rc6 N:a5 

Thus, prayers of the Russian chess fans were finally heard by Caissa and a draw was agreed. During three final rounds of the Memorial a score was opened in one game only. 

Mamedyarov – Kramnik


Played very ingeniously, as usual. Together with creating the c5-c6 threat, White vacates the d4-square to the great delight of the d1-rook. 


23...h5? is decisively met by 24.f4 Qh4 25.c6, but after 23...f5 the е7-rook is defended and Black’s game is by no means worse. Allured by the g4-bait put out by the opponent, Vladimir approached it from the wrong side...

24.Rd4 Rde8?! 25.Rcd3! Kh8? 

A series of three other than best moves is fatally crowned by the weakest of them.

The position called for 25...R8e7 26.Rd1! (26.Qb3 h5 27.h3 Kh7 gives no worries to Black, while 27.Q:d5+ Q:d5 28.R:d5 hg results in an equal ending) 26...h5, and although after 27.R:d5 R:b4 28.R:g5 Black has no check from b1, he has decent chances to bail out of the pawn down ending arising after 28...R:g4+ 29.R:g4 hg 30.B:g4 Be4.

26.Rd2 h5

Now 26...R8e7 fails to 27.c6!, while definite saving chances were still provided by 26...h6 27.Q:b7 R:d4 28.R:d4 R:e3 29.R:d5 R:e2 30.R:g5 Re1+ 31.Kg2 Be4+ 32.Q:e4 R:e4 33.Kf3 Ra4 34.Rd5 R:a3+. It should be noted that these chances are not to be overestimated because after 35.Ke4 Black is going to face an uphill battle against the c-passer.

27.Q:b7 hg

A similar to the above-mentioned line would be 27...R:d4 28.R:d4 R:e3 29.R:d5 R:e2 30.R:g5 Re1+ 31.Kg2 Be4+ 32.Q:e4 R:e4, in which the tempo taking 33.R:h5+ strips Black of any chances to salvage the game..

28.R:d5 f5 

Certain exposure of the white king does not compensate Black for his loss of the b7-pawn, upon which the newly born c5-passer is imparted a great momentum. 

29.Bf1 R:e3 30.c6 Rc3 31.c7 Qf4 32.Rd7 Rg8 33.R2d4 Qc1 34.Qb8 Kh7 35.Rd8 Bf7 36.R:g8 B:g8 37.Rd8 Be6 38.Rh8+ Kg6 

The finale pleased the connoisseurs of visual effects: 

39.Qe8+ Kf6 40.Qf8+ Kg6 41.Qd6! Rc6 42.c8Q!, forcing Black into resignation. 

With the final standings of the Memorial being a novelty no longer, I feel like joining the chorus of voices congratulating Ian Nepomniachtchi! It is quite possible that this remarkable achievement is only the first in a long line (formerly Ian has never won any supertournaments yet). 

Touching briefly upon the creative results of the Memorial, I would like to note that despite the drawishness of the closing 3 rounds, the competition was a success! The games Mamedyarov - Gelfand and Nepomniachtchi - Mamedyarov have positioned themselves alongside the contemporary works of chess art. We have seen very subtle and instructive decisions taken by every participant. It is equally true for those players who are unlikely happy about the amount of points scored. I do hope that next year the all-powerful Mrs. History does not deprive us of the highest level chess tournament in Moscow, which is such a reliable tool of everyday life drabness’s stripping.