Reports | November 25, 2011 15:57

Carlsen catches Aronian in last round, wins Tal Memorial on tiebreak

Carlsen catches Aronian in last round, wins Tal Memorial on tiebreak

Magnus Carlsen caught Levon Aronian in the Tal Memorial final standings on Friday in Moscow, Russia. The Norwegian defeated Hikaru Nakamura and finished shared first with the Armenian, who drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi. This means that Carlsen won the tournament on the first tiebreak rule: number of black games. In the last round Peter Svidler defeated Vladimir Kramnik.

Event Tal Memorial 2011PGN via TWIC
Dates November 16th-25th, 2011
Location Moscow, Russia
System 10-player round robin
Players Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Karjakin, Nakamura, Svidler, Gelfand, Nepomniachtchi
Rate of play 100 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 50 minutes for the next 20 moves followed by 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one
Notes Draw offers before move 40 are not allowed. Tiebreak systems: most blacks, head-to-head, Coya, S-B, number of wins - in that order

Photographers at work at the start of the final round

Yet another big one for Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian, who will turn 21 in six days, won so many tournaments in recent years that it's not a surprise to see him finishing first in Moscow as well.

However, somehow it came as a small surprise anyway, because not many had really thought about what the the tiebreak rules would mean for the tournament situation. Just before he was going to show his win over Hikaru Nakamura, Carlsen was asked about his chances to win overall. His answer made clear that he had done some calculations himself:

If Ian [Nepomniachtchi] wins, he has a better tiebreak than me. But I don't really care.

Because Levon Aronian managed to draw this game, Carlsen finished first together with the Armenian.

The final handshake that finished the Tal Memorial

The first tiebreak rule decided matters: number of black games. Carlsen played with the black pieces five times, Aronian four. The two did share the first two money prizes of 30,000 and 20,000 Euros.

Carlsen not only did a good job behind the chess board; also behind the computer screen he was in great form as he explained his game as an experienced trainer. As we did in previous rounds, we entered all his lines and comments for you for replay:

PGN string

Carlsen beats Nakamura in the last round to clinch first place

Last seed Ian Nepomniachtchi played a fine tournament. In the first round he started with a win against Kramnik, and in the end he almost won the tournament. In the last round it was Aronian who had to defend for the whole game:

PGN string

A fighting draw between Nepomniachtchi and Aronian

Aronian won't mind too much that officially he's not the winner. An undefeated +2 in this super strong tournament means that he's now won 13.3 rating points for the January 2012 list, not long after passing the 2800 barrier. Carlsen's virtual rating is 2829 at the moment.

World Cup winner Peter Svidler eventually finished OK with a 50% score thanks to a last-round win against Vladimir Kramnik. The former World Champion cannot be satisfied with -2 and not a single victory.

PGN string

Svidler beat his compatriot Kramnik with a nice little mating combination at the end

Ivanchuk played an excellent game with Black against Karjakin and almost won. How deep he calculated becomes clear in the lines below - not to be missed!

PGN string

Great play by Ivanchuk, but Karjakin was solid until the end

The last round also included what was probably the last classical game between Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand, before they will meet for their World Championship match next year, also in Moscow. Let's hope the games of next year will be more interesting.

PGN string

A draw between World Champ and his next Challenger

And so the strongest 10-player round robin ever (certainly rating wise) comes to an end. The younger generation finished on top, with one exception: Hikaru Nakamura. After his glorious victory in Wijk aan Zee in January, the American only managed to come close to his top level in Sao Paulo/Bilbao. He will have another chance soon, at the London Chess Classic where he'll meet Anand, Aronian, Carlsen and Kramnik again, and also Adams, Short, McShane and Howell.

Tal Memorial 2011 | Round 9 (Final) Standings


Schedule and pairings

Round 1 16.11.11 12:00 CET   Round 2 17.11.11 12:00 CET
Aronian ½ ½ Carlsen   Carlsen 1-0 Gelfand
Kramnik 0-1 Nepomniachtchi   Karjakin ½ ½ Nakamura
Ivanchuk 1-0 Svidler   Svidler ½ ½ Anand
Anand ½ ½ Karjakin   Nepomniachtchi ½ ½ Ivanchuk
Nakamura ½ ½ Gelfand   Aronian ½ ½ Kramnik
Round 3 18.11.11 12:00 CET   Round 4 19.11.11 12:00 CET
Kramnik ½ ½ Carlsen   Carlsen ½ ½ Karjakin
Ivanchuk 0-1 Aronian   Svidler ½ ½ Gelfand
Anand ½ ½ Nepomniachtchi   Nepomniachtchi ½ ½ Nakamura
Nakamura 0-1 Svidler   Aronian ½ ½ Anand
Gelfand 0-1 Karjakin   Kramnik ½ ½ Ivanchuk
Round 5 20.11.11 12:00 CET   Round 6 22.11.11 12:00 CET
Ivanchuk ½ ½ Carlsen   Carlsen ½ ½ Svidler
Anand ½ ½ Kramnik   Nepomniachtchi ½ ½ Karjakin
Nakamura ½ ½ Aronian   Aronian ½ ½ Gelfand
Gelfand ½ ½ Nepomniachtchi   Kramnik ½ ½ Nakamura
Karjakin ½ ½ Svidler   Ivanchuk ½ ½ Anand
Round 7 23.11.11 12:00 CET   Round 8 24.11.11 12:00 CET
Anand ½ ½ Carlsen   Carlsen ½ ½ Nepomniachtchi
Nakamura 0-1 Ivanchuk   Aronian 1-0 Svidler
Gelfand ½ ½ Kramnik   Kramnik ½ ½ Karjakin
Karjakin ½ ½ Aronian   Ivanchuk ½ ½ Gelfand
Svidler ½ ½ Nepomniachtchi   Anand ½ ½ Nakamura
Round 9 25.11.11 10:00 CET        
Nakamura 0-1 Carlsen        
Gelfand ½ ½ Anand        
Karjakin ½ ½ Ivanchuk        
Svidler 1-0 Kramnik        
Nepomniachtchi ½ ½ Aronian        

Not a bad commentary team for the final round: Grischuk, Sutovsky and the last hour or so... Svidler!

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


chris in st maur's picture

Gelfand did actually qualify as challenger for the title.
& that qualification was against quite a few top players.

redivivo's picture

Mamedyarov, Kamsky and Grischuk were his three opponents in the Kazan knockout. Not really comparable to the best of the best, even if a knockout says little in any case. Gelfand hasn't beaten Anand, Kramnik or Topalov in around 15 years (more than 18 years in the case of Anand) and had 0-9 against Kasparov, 0-4 against Radjabov after he grew up, but 1-1 against Carlsen after beating him once when he was 15. Not good results against the best players on the whole.

Jamie's picture

Placebo_eq_anand - do you understand modern chess at all? It is generally agreed that one of the major weapons chess players have in their armoury is their opening preparation and novelties. It would be ridiculous of either Anand or Gelfand to show their prep at this tournament and hence they basically have to play lines that they have not been studying! The fact that Anand drew all his games under these circumstances when everyone but Gelfand was trying to beat him was actually quite impressive IMO.

redivivo's picture

"It would be ridiculous of either Anand or Gelfand to show their prep at this tournament"

The last times Gelfand played the other top tournaments:

Draw your own conclusions if the fact that Gelfand scored a similar result now is because he is hiding prep or if it is because he just continues playing on the same level as before.

Bob's picture

Yes, you make your point well.

Bob's picture

My comment was addressed to Jamie.

mdamien's picture

Over the board, sure. I am referring to prepared lines and novelties.

Niima's picture

You want entertainment, go to a circus or try playing chess rather than watching it.

DarrenL's picture


sirschratz's picture

ooops - anand with a 100% score of draws.... that's more like anandsson....

Johny's picture

is anyone remember Anand winning any tournament in last few years....He got bit comfortable and lazy....he is not able to win any tournaments recently so it is logic he is loosing respect of chess world....and his style?? now...he is boring like christmas I would not call it plaing safelly

Nicholas's picture

No, can't remember a recent tournament victory. But he does have a tummy. He should retire.

Septimus's picture

Dude he is old. Can't expect chess players to look like marathon runners.

Anonymous's picture

It would be nice to see a match between Ivanchuk or Aronian and Carlsen. A lot more interesting than boring Drawnand.

Anandnomous's picture

I agree

chris in st maur's picture

It would be interesting.

But that WOULDN'T make it a world championship match.

Lots of world championships have had a load of very boring games.

calvin amari's picture

Results like this - comparing Carlsen's standings to Nakamura's - certainly undermine the view that Kasparov was the kingmaker primarily responsible for Magnus's success.

Rygaard's picture

You gotta be kidding me, Kasparov responsible for Magnus' success?! My ass...

Remco Gerlich's picture

Who on earth thinks that anyway? Kasparov only had a few sessions with him, during one half year where Carlsen was already a top-10 player.

S3's picture

One and a half year, not a half. And not a few sessions but also regular contact (some periods daily) by Skype.
For Naka it's indeed a few sessions so far. But differences in age, talent and incompatible styles may make it less rewarding for him anyway.

frogbert's picture

It was a little less than one year. First session in February 2009, no cooperation after the Kramnik game in January 2010. But S3 doesn't usually bother about getting facts right. Inventing them is more his cup of tea.

calvin amari's picture

Naka was a top 10 player too. Precisely my point.

KingTal's picture

Congrats to Carlsen, though he seems a bit lucky with tiebreaks this year. The tournament was high class as expected imo, only spoiled by Anand who sadly did never play for a win. There were also some missed chances so there could be more decisive games, but you can´t have everything.

lefier's picture

...or perhaps Carlsen just plays according to the rules of the tournament, simply in order to win

Thomas Richter's picture

"Carlsen just plays according to the rules of the tournament, simply in order to win"

If that was really the case, he played the decisive "game" on 15th November - during the drawing of lots when he 'selected' an extra black, and Aronian an extra white ... .

This is just ridiculous, but potentially it could be an interesting experiment. If first on (this) tiebreak means a lot (big difference in prize money?) and players were given the choice: Who, and how many would choose an extra white for a supposedly better chance to score more points? Who, and how many would pick an extra black for a potential tiebreak edge?

lefier's picture

'Playing according to the rules' meaning that one calculates what is necessary in remaining games to win the tournament, - not to be too agressive in a game if a draw (against Nepo) and a win (against Naka) will be enough to win on the tie-break. For example.

lefier's picture

It is about balancing risk against the goal to win and the rules of the tournament.
So if you calculate the probability of the outcome of other games, you will balance your risk-taking just enough to win according to current rules (tie-breaks), instead of taking higher risks with more to loose and not more to gain.
One might perhaps suspect that Carlsen is good at this.

S3's picture

I'm not sure how one could play for a TB that one can't control from the start (number of black/white games is a given).

lefier's picture

No, but you can take it into account during the games and especially at the end of the tournament.

S3's picture

Ok, agreed, but then it's interesting to note that Carlsen played a Queens Indian against Nakamura, an opening that tends to be very drawish. And apart from that he should have guessed that Ivanchuk, Karjakin, Nepo (Aronian) all would not win in the last round (since they would have been first on tb) then.
Personally I find numerical tie breaks for competitions like this nonsense. (Last year same story with poor Myamedarov)

Thomas Richter's picture

One thing has been clarified in the full report: prize money for first and second place was shared - hence clear first would have been worth more (5000 extra Euros) than first on tiebreak, which makes sense to me.

If Carlsen "deliberately decided" to draw against Nepo and beat Nakamura, it probably has more to do with their form in the given event, as well as with his own recent results against both players. And S3 has a point: Carlsen's opening choice against Nakamura was just semi-ambitious (TWIC quotes Carlsen: "I needed to play for a win. Queen's Indian is a strange way to play for a win but at least it's a little less drawish than the Queen's Gambit.").

It's at best pure speculation to suggest that Carlsen would have beaten different players if Sonneborn-Berger had been the first tiebreak, or if number of blacks had been equal between him and Aronian (or whoever else could have shared first place). So I insist: Carlsen was the luckier one of two equally great players (certainly also at Bazna), and for me it's merely a 'detail' who was the official winner of these events.

chris in st maur's picture

What's so great about Sonneborn-Berger as a tie breaking system ?

In Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess it says :

"There is no particular logic about this system which favours the player who beats the stronger player and loses to the weaker player, since it might be argued that losing to a weaker player is a more serious defect than losing to a stronger one."

redivivo's picture

"So I insist: Carlsen was the luckier one"

I think I've heard that one before.

Thomas Richter's picture

To add on this - wandering a bit off-topic but I can prove that my attitude towards tiebreaks has nothing to do with Carlsen or any other world-top player: In my report on Bad Wiessee here I initially wrote "four winners" while the organizers emphasized more that (the German) one of them had the best tiebreak. In the given case, Graf's first place was actually fully deserved as he was on top throughout the event, while the three others came from behind. BTW, the organizers didn't answer my email question (asked halfway during the event) on how prize money is split in such a situation.

There are other situations where tiebreaks necessarily matter: If four players finish in first place at the ongoing World Youth Championship, there's no way to split three medals equally between them smiley. The U16 Boys' section actually has three players in shared first place, with one round to go.

redivivo's picture

Well I don't think you wrote quite as many and long posts insisting that Kramnik was lucky and not "the winner" of Dortmund the five times he won it on tiebreak and no one said he shared first :-) But tiebreaks matter little of course.

Thomas Richter's picture

Correct - last time Kramnik shared first place in Dortmund was back in 2006 when I wasn't yet active on chess forums smiley. Actually it was similar to Tal Memorial this time: Vlad came from behind in the final round. Then he was clear first - even 1-1.5 points ahead of the rest - in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

I agree that tiebreaks matter little, my point is that they seem to matter a lot to some people whenever they favor Carlsen ... . At the limit, I even prefer the situation at Tal Memorial last year when Karjakin and Aronian were shared first with equal tiebreak scores (Mamedyarov was the unlucky third winner).

columbo's picture

or maybe carlsen is just carlsen, a winning horse !

sulutas's picture

Is there a following World Blitz tournament as happened in the last couple of years, or have I been assuming incorrectly for a long time? I haven't seen any news about it recently.

Bobby Fiske's picture

No World Blitz this year, unfortunately.

Al's picture

Congrats Carlsen and Aronian, a well deserved tournament win!

Now on to the London classic!! Can Carlsen break 2830? Hope so!

RealityCheck's picture

Nine draws. No losses. No wins. No biggie, Anand accepts nobel peace prize at Tal Memorial.

Clifford's picture

And Aronian accepts the Noble Piece (Sacrifice) Prize for his win over Svidler.

quacksalver's picture

It was Svidler who accepted the piece sacrifice and payed the prize.

no name's picture

But if Svidler rejected the sacrifice, he would have lost a pawn for nothing.

Tricky_Two's picture

Both chessbase and chessbomb has declared Aronian as the tie-break winner of the tournament.

t's picture

Chessbase states outright that Carlsen won. Given that the rules say that the first tie-breaker is number of blacks, so does Chessbomb, implicitly.

Tricky_Two's picture

It appears chessbase has edited their article. I'm 100% certain that they said aronian won by tie-break, eralyer today

fen's picture

They did. I saw it too.

TomTom's picture

Carlsen - Aronian is the match for the title everybody wants to see, lets make that

SahRa's picture



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