Kramnik wins Tal Memorial 2009, Carlsen number one

11/14/2009 – Aronian beats Anand with the black pieces, Carlsen did the same to Leko, Ponomariov beat Morozevich, while Kramnik drew against Ivanchuk. The result: Kramnik wins the tournament, with 6.0/9 and a 2883 performance. Ivanchuk and Carlsen share 2nd-3rd, with the young Norwegian trainee of Garry Kasparov going to number one in the world in the unofficial live rankings. Final round report.

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Tal Memorial 2009

The Tal Memorial, which is taking place from November 4th to 19th, is the strongest tournament of the year, and at category 21 (average Elo 2764) one of the strongest of all time. It is a ten-player round robin with classical time controls – 40 moves in two hours, then 20 moves in one hour and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds increment per move in this phase. The first four games take place in the National Hotel (Mokhovaya Street D15), the last five in the mall GUM (Red Square 3). The games start at 15:00h local Moscow time, which is 13:00h EST (Berlin, Paris), 12:00h London, 7:00 a.m. New York, 5:30 p.m. New Delhi, 11:00 p.m. Sydney. You can find the exact starting time at your location here. The World Blitz Championship (see below) will be staged after the main event, from November 16-18 2009 in GUM.

Round nine report

Round 9: Saturday, November 14, 2009
Vassily Ivanchuk 
½-½
 Vladimir Kramnik
Vishy Anand 
0-1
 Levon Aronian
Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Boris Gelfand
Ruslan Ponomariov 
1-0
 Alex. Morozevich
Peter Leko 
0-1
 Magnus Carlsen

Ivanchuk-Kramnik
This game left the path prescribed by Jernberg-Storslett (1998), with an early novelty in the Ragozin Defence of the Queen's Gambit Declined. After 8...Qd8, Kramnik left Ivanchuk to his own devices, where 9.Bxc4, immediately regaining the pawn, may have been preferred to the chosen zwischenschach. On 21...Rg8, the interesting response of 22.Bxg6 was tantalizingly hanging in the air, and fully merits further exploration. Ivanchuk's course proved less convincing, and, holding an extra pawn by the 29th move, Kramnik saw no need to play on, sealing his tournament victory with a draw offer that was sagely accepted.


Vladimir Kramnik during his round nine game against Vassily Ivanchuk

Ivanchuk,V (2739) - Kramnik,V (2772) [D39]
Tal Memorial Moscow RUS (9), 14.11.2009
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bg5 h6. Kramnik repeats the variation which brought him an easy draw in round seven of this tournament against Levon Aronian. 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 8.e5 Qd8 9.Qa4+!? A possible nt over 9.Bxc4 c5 would have transposed to the previously mentioned game against Aronian. By forcing 9...Nc6 Ivanchuk hopes to prevent or delay the pawn advance c7-c5. 9...Nc6 10.Bxc4 Bd7 11.Qc2 Na5 12.Bd3 c5. Kramnik accomplis hes this freeing-lever anyway, but his queenside pieces are loosely placed. 13.dxc5 Rc8 14.a3 Bxc5 15.0-0. 15.b4 would simply be a strategic error: Black can simply retreat with 15...Be7 when 16.bxa5 doesn't work since after 16...Qxa5, Black will regain his piece due to the pin on the c-file, while after the relatively better 16.0-0, Black can take advantage of the weakened c4-square with 16...Nc4. 15...0-0 16.Rad1 Be7

17.Qe2! Played after half an hour by the Ukrainian. Ivanchuk intends 18.Qe4 with an attack. This action is justified by the badly placed knight on a5. 17...Qc7 18.Qe4 g6 19.Qg4 Kg7 20.Ne2! By transferring his knight to f4, sacrifices on g6 and e6 begin to emerge as possibilities. 20...Bc6 21.Nf4 Rg8 A sad necessity. Black doesn't have time to exchange pieces with 21...Bxf3 since there would follow 22.Nxe6+! winning. 22.Nd4!? While there's nothing wrong with this move, 23.Bxg6 would simply have won a pawn, since capturing the bishop would allow mate in two. 22...Kh7

23.h4? This is one preparatory move too many, and allows Black to escape. Spectators were expecting either 23.Ndxe6! or 23.b4! when in either case, Black is in serious trouble. It's important to note however, that by this point Ivanchuk was experiencing considerable time-pressure. 23...Qxe5 24.h5. 24.Ndxe6 was the last try for an attack, although this is very unclear. 24...Kh8! 25.Nxc6 Nxc6 26.hxg6 f5 27.g7+ Rxg7 28.Ng6+ Kg8 29.Nxe5. Here the players agreed to a draw. After 29...fxg4 30 Bc4 Black's extra pawn is unlikely to mean much in view of White's active pieces. Draw. [Click to replay]


Kramnik discusses his game in the press room [photos by WGM Yana Melnikova]


Anand-Aronian
The Slav Defence utilized by these players followed a transposition of Figura-Grimberg (2008), in which Black scored a scorching 27-move victory over his higher-rated opponent as the result of an unfortunate blunder late in the game. Though this reference was a blitz game, Aronian's employment of the opening had the same effect - in fewer moves. Things entered into new waters with 10.e6, where 10.f4 had been the previous try, with Anand having the idea of disrupting Black's kingside pawn structure. A few moves later, however, disaster struck when he played 12.b3. This move immediately causes Fritz to go into convulsions, as it frantically scrambles to decimate White's position. Of course, as Anand demonstrates, it is difficult at any level to offhandedly appreciate why this move is so compromising. The knight is left in a fragile state, while a series of threats against other targets in White's position leave him unable to come to the piece's rescue. In view of this enlightening experience, Anand permitted the Armenian a TKO on move 25 - concluding an unexpected miniature while handing the Indian his first loss in the tournament.

Anand,V (2788) - Aronian,L (2786) [D15]
Tal Memorial Moscow RUS (9), 14.11.2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.e3 b5 6.c5 Nbd7 7.Bd3 e5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.dxe5 Nd7 10.e6?! Although this move looks natural, maintaining a presence in the centre with 10.f4 might have been better. 10...Nxc5 11.exf7+ Kxf7

12.b3? White's problem's stem from this move. Either 12.Bc2 or 12.0-0 were preferable, though in any case Black has emerged the opening with an excellent position. 12...Nxd3+ 13.Qxd3 Qg5 14.g3 Qf6 15.Bb2 Qf3 16.Rg1 Bg4 17.a3 Re8 18.Rc1 b4 19.axb4 Bxb4 20.h3 Bxh3 21.g4. This sort of desperation is something more frequently seen in online blitz games. Of course White is losing. 21...Bxg4 22.Rg3 Qf5 23.Qd4 Re4 24.Qa7+ Qd7 25.Qb6 c5 0-1. [Click to replay]


Leko-Carlsen
After a string of draws, while fighting a throat infection, Carlsen finished up his tournament nicely with back-to-back victories. In the Sicilian Najdorf used by Leko and the young Norwegian star today, Lutz-Polgar (2003) was followed up to the move 15.Rhe1. Where a rather rapid 25-move draw was reached in that game after 15...Be6, however, Carlsen busted some lines open with 15...g4. Leko seemed to enjoy an advantage for a time, but then circumstances began to look somewhat dire for him after 36.Kd1. Things got a little worse when 38.Re3 allowed the win of a pawn, with 41.Ke2 quickly allowing the win of another. Much to the chagrin of the Hungarian, the endgame was a mere matter of technique at that point, and he succumbed on move 59.

Leko,P (2752) - Carlsen,M (2801) [B90]
Tal Memorial Moscow RUS (9), 14.11.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.h3 Nf6 11.Qf3 Qb6 12.0-0-0 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Qxc6 14.Be2 Qc5 15.Rhe1

15...g4!? Played after nearly half an hour's thought. Carlsen deviates from Lutz-Judit Polgar Budapest 2003 which continued after 15...Be6 with a level game. 16.hxg4 Bxg4 17.Qd3 Be6

18.e5! Leko opens a diagonal for his light-squared bishop, which will be posted on f3, as well as a file for his e1-rook. 18...dxe5 19.Bf3 e4! Carlsen does similarly. 20.Nxe4 Nxe4

21.Rxe4. The motivation behind this move will be explained on the note to White's next move. 21.Bxe4 would also have been possible, with a complicated game to follow. 21...0-0 22.Qe3. With this move and his last, Leko probably thought that he could force Magnus into a favourable endgame, since if Black avoids the exchange of queens, suppose with 22...Qa5??, White would win with the sacrifice 23.Rxe6! 22...Rac8 23.Qxc5

White enters an endgame in which he has two pawn islands to Black's three, but this turns out to be not as troublsome for Carlsen as Leko probably intended. 23...Rxc5 24.Bg4. By exchanging Black's e6-bishop, Leko intends to infiltrate with his rook on d7. 24...Bxg4 25.Rxg4 f5 26.Rb4 b5 27.a4 Rfc8 28.c3 Rc4 29.Rxc4 Rxc4 30.axb5 axb5 31.Rd8+ Kh7 32.Rd7

32...Rg4! White's g-pawn is doomed. Once it is removed, Black will have a very useful passed h-pawn. 33.Bb8 Rxg2 34.Rxe7 Kg6 35.Bg3 h5

36.Kd1? 36.Rb7 was better with approximate equality. 36...Bf6 37.Re6 Kf7 38.Re3 h4 39.Bc7 Rxf2 40.b3 Rf1+ 41.Ke2 Rc1 42.c4 bxc4 43.bxc4 Rxc4.

Without bishops, the endgame would be a known draw (provided White can bring his king to f3). It should be mentioned that even grandmasters can have difficulty holding that rook endgame, with no less a player than Aronian failing to do so against Kramnik in Wijk aan Zee 2008. With bishops on the board however, the engame is made even more difficult and probably lost for Leko. 44.Bb8 Rc2+ 45.Kf1 Kg6 46.Re2 Rc8. The exchange of rooks would have been a tablebase win, though that may have been difficult to work out over the board. 47.Bd6 Rc6

48.Be7 Bxe7! The situation has changed since the note on move 43. 49.Rxe7 Rc2! With White's king confined to the first rank, Black is winning. 50.Re3 Kg5 51.Kg1 Kg4 52.Ra3 f4 53.Ra8 Rd2 54.Ra7 Kg3 55.Rg7+ Kf3 56.Ra7 Rd1+ 57.Kh2 Ke2 58.Kh3 f3 59.Ra2+ Rd2

Black's f-pawn will queen. 0-1. [Click to replay]


Ponomariov-Morozevich
As the esteemed Robert Frost once penned: "Be sure to sell your horse before he dies. The art of life is passing losses on." Ponomariov seems to have taken these words to heart, as he readily rebounded from his loss to Carlsen yesterday. In an Open Catalan, 8.e3 deviated from explored theory, but it was not until 16...Rab8 that White truly enjoyed an appreciable advantage, as he cashed in for a full pawn. While Morozevich traveled a masochistic road, the Ukrainian mopped up, with resignation coming from the Russian on move 27 - while White's knight sat teasingly under threat, sold for something much more valuable.

Ponomariov,R (2739) - Morozevich,A (2750) [E04]
Tal Memorial Moscow RUS (9), 14.11.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Bg5!? Both 7.Nc3 and 7.e3 are considerably more popular. Considering how quickly the five-time Russian champion falls into trouble, Ponomariov's move may gain in popularity. 7...Be7 8.e3 0-0?! The most natural move on the board, but possibly a mistake. It could be that Black's best is to continue 8...Bd7 followed by b7-b5 when play is similar to positions after 7.e3 but with White's bishop developed on g5. Whether or not this is advantageous for White is unclear. 9.Nbd2 e5 10.Nxc4 exd4 11.Nxd4. Usually when accepting an isolated queen's pawn, it is best to leave as many minor pieces on the board as possible. In this position however, the exchange of White's f3-knight for Black's c6-knight and the subsequent exchange of queens, highlight the power of White's g2-bishop which will dominate it's counterpart. 11...Nxd4 12.Qxd4 Qxd4 13.exd4 Rd8

14.Rfd1! Bg4? 14...Be6 might have kept White's advantage to a minimum. 15.Re1! Bb4 16.Rec1! Despite having moved the same piece three time in a row, White's position has improved considerably! Black must now deal with the threats of Bg2xb7, Nc4-e3 followed by Rc1xc7, as well as Bg5xf6 inflicting further weaknesses. Not an easy task! 16...Rab8 17.a3 Bf8 18.Ne3 Rxd4 19.Rxc7 Be2 20.Rxb7 Rxb7 21.Bxb7 Nd7 22.Nf5 Ra4 23.Re1 Bb5 24.Re8 h6 25.Be7 g6 26.b3

Black's rook is trapped. 26...Ra5 27.Bb4 1-0. [Click to replay]


Svidler-Gelfand
With no prospects left to fight for, these players opted to revisit the Petroff Defence. The game left theory with 17.Be3, and ostensibly saw White hang a pawn on 20.Qc2, though the underlying mate threat would have been readily seen by the keen observer. No other aspects of the position were particularly noteworthy, and after the majority of pieces were exchanged, the players agreed to split the half-point on move 30. [Click to replay]

Game summaries by Michael von Keitz, annotations by Michael Humphreys

Final standings (after nine rounds)

Performance and ranking

After a slow start across the first two rounds of this tournament, the pace livened up with three decisive games in the third round. Thereafter, at least one decisive game featured in each of the subsequent rounds. That said, this climatic final round may have delivered the most excitement. Though Kramnik earned an expected – and well deserved – tournament victory with a draw against Ivanchuk, the rest of the field shook up the final standings with three more decisive encounters. Unfortunately, as predicted, both Svidler and Morozevich failed to end their winless streaks. Coming as no surprise, Leko jointly holds that dubious distinction.

At the end of the tournament we have the following performances: Kramnik 2883, Ivanchuk 2845, Carlsen 2838, Aronian 2800, Anand 2799 and Gelfand 2764 (on the negative side Leko was 2645 and Morozevich 2646). The next FIDE ratings are due on January 1st, after the London Chess Classic, so anything might happen. But if we calculate them today, as Hans Arild Runde has done on his Live Top List page, we get the following rankings:

1
 Magnus Carlsen
2805.7
2
 Veselin Topalov
2805.1
3
 Vishy Anand
2789.7
4
 Vladimir Kramnik
2785.7
5
 Levon Aronian 
2781.3

Magnus has gained 4.7 from his plus two score in this event, Anand gained 1.7 points from his plus one, and Levon Aronian lost 4.7 points from this tournament and his 2707 performance from his eight games at the European Championship in Novi Sad in October. At the same event the FIDE ranking leader Veselin Topalov scored 2.5 points in four games, with a 2710 performance. He thus dropped 4.9 points on the live rating list and moved to second place behind Carlsen.

The big winners in the Tal Memorial Elo Exchange are Vladimir Kramnik and Vassily Ivanchuk, who each gained 13.7 points (Ivanchuk moving to place eight in the world rankings).

Thus for the second time in his chess career Magnus Carlsen has reached the number one spot in the (inofficial) live rankings. The last time was in September 2008 during the tournament in Bilbao after round four, a fact we duly celebrated on his 18th birthday a few months later (while embarrassing him with baby pictures). When earlier this year Magnus took on Garry Kasparov as his personal trainer – the fact was revealed in September – the goal was defined to make the young Norwegian "the world's best during the course of the coming year." Actually the year 2010 was meant, and Garry himself, while effusive over the ranking boost on the live ratings, cautions that there is "still a lot of work to be done. Magnus still has to face some big guns in London." So do not expect Kasparov to land a plane in a flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier with a sign in the background... no, really, don't expect anything like that.


Schedule and results

Round 1: Thursday, November 5, 2009
Magnus Carlsen 
½-½
 Vladimir Kramnik
Alex. Morozevich 
½-½
 Peter Leko
Boris Gelfand 
½-½
 Ruslan Ponomariov
Levon Aronian 
½-½
 Peter Svidler
Vassily Ivanchuk 
½-½
 Vishy Anand
Round 2: Friday, November 6, 2009
Vladimir Kramnik 
½-½
 Vishy Anand
Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Vassily Ivanchuk
Ruslan Ponomariov 
½-½
 Levon Aronian
Peter Leko 
½-½
 Boris Gelfand
Magnus Carlsen 
½-½
 Alex. Morozevich
Round 3: Saturday, November 7, 2009
Alex. Morozevich 
0-1
 Vladimir Kramnik
Boris Gelfand 
½-½
 Magnus Carlsen
Levon Aronian 
1-0
 Peter Leko
Vassily Ivanchuk 
½-½
 Ruslan Ponomariov
Vishy Anand 
1-0
 Peter Svidler
Round 4: Sunday, November 8, 2009
Vladimir Kramnik 
1-0
 Peter Svidler
Ruslan Ponomariov 
½-½
 Vishy Anand
Peter Leko 
½-½
 Vassily Ivanchuk
Magnus Carlsen 
½-½
 Levon Aronian
Alex. Morozevich 
½-½
 Boris Gelfand
Monday, November 9, 2009 Free day
M T W T F S S
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 27 27 29 29
Round 5: Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Boris Gelfand 
½-½
 Vladimir Kramnik
Levon Aronian 
½-½
 Alex. Morozevich
Vassily Ivanchuk 
½-½
 Magnus Carlsen
Vishy Anand 
1-0
 Peter Leko
Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Ruslan Ponomariov
Round 6: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Vladimir Kramnik 
1-0
 Ruslan Ponomariov
Peter Leko 
½-½
 Peter Svidler
Magnus Carlsen 
½-½
 Vishy Anand
Alex. Morozevich 
0-1
 Vassily Ivanchuk
Boris Gelfand 
1-0
 Levon Aronian
Round 7: Thursday, November 12, 2009
Levon Aronian 
½-½
 Vladimir Kramnik
Vassily Ivanchuk 
1-0
 Boris Gelfand
Vishy Anand 
½-½
 Alex. Morozevich
Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Magnus Carlsen
Ruslan Ponomariov 
½-½
 Peter Leko
Round 8: Friday, November 13, 2009
Vladimir Kramnik 
½-½
 Peter Leko
Magnus Carlsen 
1-0
 Ruslan Ponomariov
Alex. Morozevich 
½-½
 Peter Svidler
Boris Gelfand 
½-½
 Vishy Anand
Levon Aronian 
½-½
 Vassily Ivanchuk
Round 9: Saturday, November 14, 2009
Vassily Ivanchuk 
½-½
 Vladimir Kramnik
Vishy Anand 
0-1
 Levon Aronian
Peter Svidler 
½-½
 Boris Gelfand
Ruslan Ponomariov 
1-0
 Alex. Morozevich
Peter Leko 
0-1
 Magnus Carlsen

Links

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