Reports | April 19, 2012 9:46

Tal Memorial participants announced; poll winner McShane confirmed

Tal Memorial participants announced; poll winner McShane confirmed

The Russian Chess Federation has announced the line-up for the next Tal Memorial. Luke McShane, who won an online poll, has confirmed his participation.

The 7th edition of the Tal Memorial will take place 7-19 June, 2012 in Moscow, Russia. As always it will be a 10-player round roubin. The full list of participants of this year's Tal Memorial is as follows:

# Name Fed Rating
1 Magnus Carlsen NOR 2835
2 Levon Aronian ARM 2820
3 Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2801
4 Teimour Radjabov AZE 2784
5 Hikaru Nakamura USA 2771
6 Fabiano Caruana ITA 2767
7 Alexander Morozevich RUS 2765
8 Alexander Grischuk RUS 2761
9 Evgeny Tomashevsky RUS 2736
10 Luke McShane ENG 2691

Early March six players had confirmed their participation: Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. Three participants would be determined later, and for number ten the Russian Chess Federation used an original method: an online poll.

In the lower right corner on all pages of the RCF website a poll was put up with the names of thirteen pre-selected players. With the text "Whom do you want to see among Tal Memorial – 2012 participants?" the follow names were given:

  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
  • Wang Hao
  • Gata Kamsky
  • Ruslan Ponomariov
  • Mickey Adams
  • Anish Giri
  • Le Quang Liem
  • Judit Polgar
  • Alexei Shirov
  • Baadur Jobava
  • Emil Sutovsky
  • Luke McShane
  • Hou Yifan

As we more or less predicted, the poll encountered problems. After a few days, the Russian Chess Federation decided to remove Le Quang Liem from the poll,

as his supporters have violated the rules of fair play and used computer generated votes.

As mishanp commented on our site, 

(...) Le Quang Liem voters got a little over "enthusiastic" and he seems to have been dropped from the race. I don't know... on the one hand, people definitely were voting multiple times (techniques for how to do it were being discussed on at least one Vietnamese forum), but on the other hand, it's just the nature of such votes.

And so against his will Le Quang Liem was punished for his popularity in his home country, and the many votes had the opposite effect.

The poll ended on Thursday, March 15th when the RCF brought the news that English grandmaster Luke McShane won the poll.

The fight was very hard, and until the end the three leaders went head to head. In the end, Luke McShane (England) won, receiving 3860 votes. Second place went to the Latvian grandmaster Alexei Shirov - 3732 votes, while third came Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) - 3682 votes. They left behind the Women's World Champion, Chinese Hou Yifan, who was supported by 1646 people, and the leader of the Georgian team Baadur Jobava, who got 720 votes.

Now, about a month later, the Russian Chess Federation could finally report that McShane has confirmed his participation. We double-checked with McShane, who replied to us that indeed he will play.

I think the poll was an imaginative idea, and was pleased to be included amongst a group of excellent candidates for the last spot. I hope I'll contribute to some exciting games in Moscow!

Besides McShane, the last three unknown names were revealed: the Russian players Alexander Morozevich, Alexander Grischuk and Evgeny Tomashevsky. For unknown reasons Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler will not play this year. RCF President Ilya Levitov supported the decision to include Tomashevsky to rsport:

He is a young and talented player with almost 2750,  but never played in such a strong tournament. Why shouldn't he be given a chance?

Normally the Tal Memorial takes place in November, but it was moved to June when FIDE announced that they would organize the Candidates Tournament in October-November. Later this tournament was moved to March 2013.

Update: in an interview after the Russian Team Championship, Sergey Karjakin reacted to the question whether he was invited for the Tal Memorial:

No, they didn't invite me. I don't know. Perhaps it's connected to the fact that I played there twice in a row before that, though in general I didn't play badly: on the first occasion I shared first place and on the second I shared third. Therefore results-wise I've got nothing to be embarrassed about. Well, and their not picking me is of course disappointing, but I don't think it's my fault.

(Translation by Colin McGourty)

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.


Zeblakob's picture

Again my sister Polgar and the futur world champion are not playing.
Great to see moro again.

schachchess's picture

"...future world champion are not playing." What are you talking about! Magnus is playing!

Zeblakob's picture

Right, Magnus is the unofficial world champion and everybody agree on that.

Niima's picture

There is only one world champion, and that is the official one.

RealityCheck's picture

Wrong. The idea of an un-official world champion died with the Kasparov epidemic. We've noticed some new school semantics cropping up like unkraut. weeds. e.i. Legitimate world champion, legitimate challenger both used in a way to belittle the upcoming match between Anand and Gelfand. The haters never quit hating but they do quit competing. Wimps.

redivivo's picture

They don't want to invite future king Gelfand because that takes away all the suspense, he would score at least +7 or +8 and the tournament would be decided already after 4-5 rounds.

randi's picture

future king gelfand..would score +7 or +8...tourney would be decided in his favour after 4-5 rounds...LOL you crack me up man...accordingly we can expect sharp tactics from gelfy and both kramnik and carlsen are likely to tie for last scoring -3 or lower

Septimus's picture

Odd to see Svidler left out. Anybody know why? I think he is a fantastic and exciting player!

redivivo's picture

Svidler is a great player but he has played the Tal Memorial three times before and finished bottom half every time. For example Radjabov has never been invited to the Tal Memorial before and has a much higher rating, so players like Svidler are just bound to be left out once in a while.

Geekchess's picture

From a British point of view I think it's great that Luke McShane has leave to go to this tournament, it adds so much interest for us. One might expect the other players to target him as the lowest-rated player, but in the London Classic Luke has shown he can hold his own with the best!

Richard Fireman's picture

Also, Nepomniachtchi's not playing again, although he did very well last year, beating Kramnik with Black in the first round and drawing the rest, to finish among the leaders. Anyone know why he wasn't invited? Or did he decline to play?

Thomas's picture

And what about European champion Jakovenko? Simply, Russia has too many 2700+ players to accomodate all of them in a single event (some will also miss the Russian Championship). IMO the only surprise off the list is Karjakin (who would fit by rating among the other non-Russians and the only surprise on the list is Tomashevsky - but the reason given by Levitov makes perfect sense.

Antonin's picture

What a truly great field! Carlsen, Aronian, and Kramnik go without saying; these incredible players are a treat to watch and are justifiably the top three in the world. The trifecta of those young players threatening 2800/top 10 spots (Caruana, Radjabov, Nakamura) are all combative and very strong, it will be interesting to see what form they are all in. Morozevich is always a tough wildcard ... he could finish in first or last, there is no telling until it happens! Much the same for Grischuk. Finally, Tomashevsky will have a chance against the world's best after his rating skyrocketed last year, and McShane will show what level of player he truly is. I am very glad he won the spot, it is impressive that he is now a 2700+ player despite having a non-chess "day job".

Antonin's picture

I meant, of course, to say "top 5 spots"!

Leon's picture

The real surprise for me is that the organizers didn't include Vassily Ivanchuk.

Maximus's picture

And ANAND was not invited because of his retirement from chess after successfully defending his title ?

jussu's picture

By this moment, people have mentioned seven great players left out (plus an unnamed future world champion). I sure miss the 20-player tournaments but I don't expect them to return anymore.

Al's picture

Finally a top event is back, great to feel some chess excitement again!

Aun1's picture

i can't believe grischuk and nakamura were both invited. they have performed rather poorly in this event, particularly last year for the american gm and two years ago for sasha. i think karjakin got shafted for no good reason. he has as much of a claim to be there as anyone else, including aronian, kramnik, and carlsen.

KVB's picture

Anand is dropped..!

Thomas's picture

Anand won't play that soon after his WCh match, which the Tal Memorial organizers actually regretted. As to Nakamura, there were actually discussions on a Russian chess forum (mishanp had given the link, Google translation did the rest for me) on why he was re-invited. The argument of the organizers was his high Elo - but this also applies to Karjakin, no matter who of them is a few points ahead on the (live) rating list at any given moment.
For those who miss their favorite player in Tal Memorial, the Kings Chess Tournament starts a few days later (23rd June) with the following field according to Chessdom: Carlsen, Anand, Radjabov, Karjakin, Ivanchuk and a Romanian player to be announced. Next would be Dortmund, still little known about the field - apparently this time a 10-player single round robin, "London-style" with several German participants.

redivivo's picture

Maybe the fact that four Russian players already were invited played a role when they decided to go for an American rather than a fifth Russian. Otherwise Naka played well in 2010, when he only was that endgame blunder against Grischuk from winning the tournament. Kramnik finished 7th and 8-9th the last times he played Tal but his Elo naturally secures him an invitation anyway.

Thomas's picture

Another example of a selective and misleading post, as if Nakamura deserves his invitation more than Kramnik. Kramnik had a bad event last year, almost as bad as Nakamura's. The year before he scored 50% which, given the strength of the field, is neither particularly good nor extremely bad. If Nakamura had scored 1/2 point more he would have shared first place with three others - Aronian, Karjakin (who wasn't invited this time) and Mamedyarov (who was under consideration for the tenth spot but didn't pass the popularity test). Maybe Nakamura would have been first on tiebreak, but that's of secondary importance.

Going further back in time, Kramnik was clear first in 2009 and super-clear first 1.5 points ahead of the field in 2007. So he should be on the invitation list even if his current rating was 20 or 40 points lower?

"four Russian players were already invited" makes some sense but is arguably unfair towards others who would also be worthy of an invitation. Russians suffer from the fact that the country has so many strong players - at their own Tal Memorial and even more so at other supertournaments.

redivivo's picture

If the idea is that Nakamura shouldn't be invited because of last year's result the same reasoning could be used for Kramnik who has scored the same -2 total as Nakamura over the last two years. However both obviously deserve their invitation because of their rating, which was the point. Anyway, I don't think one should see it as if it was a "Nakamura or Karjakin" situation, it was more a question of which four Russian players that would be invited. As world #6 Nakamura deserve an invitation in spite of last year's result.

Centovic's picture

RCF President Ilya Levitov supported the decision to include Tomashevsky ... "He is a young and talented player with almost 2750 but never played in such a strong tournament. Why shouldn't he be given a chance?"

Perhaps Malcolm Pein should take the same attitude and give Gawain Jones his chance at the London Chess Classic. After an excellent 12 months I think he more than deserves his chance. After all Nigel Short's performances at the LLC have been pretty bad on all three occasions. I like the fact that the Russians are giving new players a chance to prove themselves. It's about time Malcolm took the same attitude and did the same for the new breed of young UK players. How are they going to progress to the top level if they aren't given the chance in the UK's only premier chess event? Perhaps next year there should be a groups (C) and (B) at the LCC just like at the Tata Steel so that new young talent will have the chance to be promoted to the group above. But this year I think Gawain Jones should be given a place at the LCC.

As for the Tal memorial I just hope we don't get lots of boring draws and that the tournament is played in the spirit of the great Misha! Attacking chess!

Good luck to Luke McShane!! Go for it. Hope you do well.

fen's picture

Nigel has told Malcolm that he didn't want to play in the Classic any longer because he felt it too draining. If Nigel doesn't change his mind about that, it would leave a vacancy that I expect to be filled by Gawain since he has been playing so well this year.

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