Reports | June 18, 2012 18:38

Carlsen wins 7th Tal Memorial

Numbers 3, 1, 2 L-R: Radjabov, Carlsen, Aronian

Magnus Carlsen won yet another top tournament. On Monday he defeated Luke McShane with Black, and because Fabiano Caruana lost to Levon Aronian the Norwegian finished clear first at the Tal Memorial with 5.5/9. Caruana came second as he edged out Teimour Radjabov on the tie-break rule of higher number of black games.

Numbers 3, 1, 2 L-R: Radjabov, Carlsen, Aronian | Images by Eteri Kublashvil & Vladimir Barsky / video stream, courtesy of the Russian Chess Federation

Event Tal Memorial 2012 | PGN via TWIC
Dates June 7-18, 2012
Location Moscow, Russia
System 10-player round robin
Players Carlsen, Aronian, Kramnik, Radjabov, Nakamura, Caruana, Morozevich, Grischuk, Tomashevsky, McShane
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
Prize fund 100,000 Euro, first prize 30,000
More info All the details
Live Games / English commentary by GM Ian Rogers

The 7th Tal Memorial has come to an end. What a tournament! Ilya Levitov, President of the Russian Chess Federation, summed it up nicely at the closing ceremony.

I haven't been around that long already in the chess world, but this was definitely the most interesting tournament I've seen so far.

Ilya Levitov (l.) and Maxim Dlugy, who was host and translator throughout the event

The 7th edition was indeed a special one, with many great fights, different leaders at different stages of the tournament and a thrilling last round. After the World Championship match last month, Alexander Khalifman paraphrased Gary Lineker when he said that

Rapid chess is a game between two players, 25 minutes on the clock and at the end Vishy Anand is the winner.

At some point Khalifman might start to say something similar about classical chess and Magnus Carlsen! The Norwegian is really winning almost any tournament he plays, and he seems to be especially good at clinching the title in a final round. 

Fabiano Caruana was of course very close to winning the event. He needed only a draw, because he would win the tie-break (highest number of black games) if he'd finish shared first with Carlsen and/or Radjabov. However, the Italian walked right into Levon Aronian's preparation and never really got into the game.

PGN string

Despite his loss, Caruana showed his game at the press conference. He said:

Of course I'm disappointed after this. I was very close to winning the tournament. OK these things happen, I could have also lost very easily to Teimour. In the end it's not a bad result of course, plus one.


I was playing with not enough fire, but give it a few more rounds and good things might have happened!

And so both Carlsen and Radjabov could still finish shared first, but only Carlsen won his game and so we didn't need those complicated tie-break rules to figure out the winner. 

PGN string

Magnus Carlsen holds the Tal Memorial trophy, next to Levitov

It was the first time for Carlsen to win the Tal Memorial outright; last year he finished shared first with Levon Aronian, also with 5.5/9, and won on tie-break.

At the press conference, Carlsen said:

I think it has been a very interesting tournament. There have been twists and turns that noone could foresee. As for myself, I thing I played, well I stared slowly. My first three gmes were not impressive to say the least.

I think after that my play was good. I mean, the game with Grischuk, although I didn't win, it was an energizer to play such an interesting game. I thought after that I was in the driving seat in most of my games.

Obviously if it turns out that Aronian wins [looks to one of the screens], which in fact he did, I'm actually the winner of the tournament. That is nice but, I mean, like last year there were a lot of fortunate circumstances for me in the last round to be able to win it  but that's the way it goes sometimes. Today I had to win myself and I did. That's all I can do.

The second prize went to Fabiano Caruana - yet another good performance for the young Italian

Main sponsor Gazprom prominently on the prize

Despite his last round loss, McShane played a fine tournament. The Englishman certainly didn't disappoint the fans who had voted for him in the online poll that got him into the tournament. He said:

Of course I'm a little bit disapponted with the game today but in general I'm of cours very happy with how the tournanet has gone. In general because I play relatively rarely I'm more concerned with the interest in the games which I can create somehow, rather than my exact score. Of course I'm delighted that I managed to actually win three games here. The fact that I lost four is maybe the price I paid for taking excessive risks at times.

Carlsen was asked about the best and worst moment of his tournament.

Yesterday I was very happy that Ronaldo scored two goals and Portugal went through! The worst for me was the start of the tournament. I was suffering.

Later he would tweet:

Won my last game vs. McShane, and as Caruana lost to Aronian I came in sole first place. Nice how everything falls into place at the end :)

Radjabov drew his game but he might have missed a chance for an advantage in the opening after over-creative opening play by Nakamura.

PGN string

At the press conference Nakamura said he wasn't happy with his play. Radjabov said it was a "normal event" but he felt he was in "lousy form" and so plus one is not bad. He was referring to his game against Caruana, where he missed a win, against Aronian where he missed a basic plan in a nice position and against Carlsen where he saw the right move but played a different one and could resign a few moves later.

In the audience: Magnus Carlsen, Teimour Radjabov with his wife and Luke McShane

Radjabov receiving the third prize

Alexander Grischuk reached a very nice ending against Evgeny Tomashevsky, but let his advantage slip away.

PGN string

The press conference with Tomashevsky, Grischuk and his 5.5 year old daughter Masha

Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Morozevich reached an ending right out of the opening. The former World Champion got some chances, but we're not sure if it was clearly winning anywhere.

PGN string

Morozevich and Kramnik discussing their game on stage

Teimour Radjabov (25), Magnus Carlsen (21) and Fabiano Caruana (19)

Tal Memorial 2012 | Schedule & pairings

Round 1 08.06.12 13:00 CET   Round 2 09.06.12 13:00 CET
Morozevich 1-0 Caruana   Caruana ½-½ Nakamura
Carlsen ½-½ Kramnik   Tomashevsky ½-½ Aronian
Grischuk 1-0 McShane   McShane 0-1 Radjabov
Radjabov 1-0 Tomashevsky   Kramnik 1-0 Grischuk
Aronian 1-0 Nakamura   Morozevich ½-½ Carlsen
Round 3 10.06.12 13:00 CET   Round 4 12.06.12 13:00 CET
Carlsen ½-½ Caruana   Caruana 1-0 Tomashevsky
Grischuk 0-1 Morozevich   McShane ½-½ Nakamura
Radjabov ½-½ Kramnik   Kramnik ½-½ Aronian
Aronian 0-1 McShane   Morozevich ½-½ Radjabov
Nakamura ½-½ Tomashevsky   Carlsen ½-½ Grischuk
Round 5 13.06.12 13:00 CET   Round 6 14.06.12 13:00 CET
Grischuk ½-½ Caruana   Caruana 1-0 McShane
Radjabov 0-1 Carlsen   Kramnik 1-0 Tomashevsky
Aronian 0-1 Morozevich   Morozevich 0-1 Nakamura
Nakamura ½-½ Kramnik   Carlsen ½-½ Aronian
Tomashevsky ½-½ McShane   Grischuk ½-½ Radjabov
Round 7 16.06.12 13:00 CET   Round 8 17.06.12 13:00 CET
Radjabov ½-½ Caruana   Caruana 1-0 Kramnik
Aronian ½-½ Grischuk   Morozevich 0-1 McShane
Nakamura ½-½ Carlsen   Carlsen ½-½ Tomashevsky
Tomashevsky 1-0 Morozevich   Grischuk 1-0 Nakamura
McShane 1-0 Kramnik   Radjabov ½-½ Aronian
Round 9 18.06.12 11:00 CET        
Aronian 1-0 Caruana        
Nakamura ½-½ Radjabov        
Tomashevsky ½-½ Grischuk        
McShane 0-1 Carlsen        
Kramnik ½-½ Morozevich        

Tal Memorial 2012 | Round 9 standings


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.


Kowloon's picture

Congratulations, GM Carlsen!

Taiman's picture

At least half the field in this event played superior chess to what we suffered through in Anand - Gelfand.

Armagnac's picture

Different chess only but not superior

Armagnac's picture

Different chess only but not superior

Chess Fan's picture

Another ignorant comment. I need to suffer through such stupid comments through 2025!
Then at least half of these players should be good enough to qualify for and beat the World Champion. Let us see. Who is good enough? Mozo? Kasparov, Pono? Bring them on.

Leo's picture

"Mozo? Kasparov, Pono?" lol

ssd's picture

congrats carlsen .. cant wait for the fan brigade to go beserk :-)

Columbo's picture

congrats Mister Carlsen !

Solomon Francis's picture

A great fighting tournament from all the players, with a lot of imaginative play - even if not totaly correct. All in all, a fitting memorial for Tal!

redivivo's picture

This was Carlsen's tenth tournament in a row with a performance well above 2800, and it's a new all time high for him with 2837 on the July list.

Just the last two years and nine months Carlsen has won eleven tournaments:

Nanjing 2009
London 2009
Wijk 2010
Bazna 2010
Nanjing 2010
London 2010
Bazna 2011
Biel 2011
Grand Slam final 2011
Tal Memorial 2011
Tal Memorial 2012

Caruana and Radjabov shared second also in Wijk, stable performances by both this year and both could have finished first here with some luck. Kramnik had a better Tal Memorial than the last years, when he finished below top six, but still falls below 2800 on the next rating list after sharing 4th. The positive surprise was McShane, who fought well to win against several top players.

S3's picture

Why do you think McShane's performance was a surprise?

Anthony Migchels's picture

Lol, quite typical Carlsen victory.

Amazingly, he didn't even show great form, but still was the best and this really was a very strong lineup.

The trend lately has been that larger plus scores were necessary than previously to win tournaments. This one is an exception.

Niima's picture

@ redivivo:

Thanks for the list. I am not a Carlsen "fan" but I do like him. The list of his wins is remarkable.

S3's picture

Carlsen is the new Larsen, world champion in tournaments!

Btw, some of these tournament wins where shared victories, f.e. Bazna and London (@ London he lost to and was co-winner with ..McShane!) but that doesn't diminish this performance of course.

Anthony Migchels's picture

I was actually wondering how you were going to make this one go away, but you didn't :-()

hakapika's picture

"tournaments" being an understatement, I suppose. You reckon that matches are something "entirely different", right? Well, that remains to see.

Anonymous's picture

You really want to argue that matches are not "entirely different" ?

Columbo's picture

Carlsen is a bit more that the new larsen, he is THE BOSS

G.M.Visser's picture

I think Carlsen is a lot better than Larsen in his very best time. A lot better. Although I admired Larsen but the absolute top was not for him at that time (1968), Fisher, Spasskij, Kortsnoj and Petrosjan were better performers at that time.

Anonymous's picture

Spasski and Petrosian were battling for the crown and Fischer rarely completed any event. It was Larsen who won one tournament after another.

That was until he got squashed in a match against Fischer of course.

redivivo's picture

Larsen was never anywhere close to be the best player in the world. When Fischer won the title he was 160 points ahead of Larsen, and at his Chessmetrics peak the year before Larsen was 95 points below #1. His tournament results were nowhere near those of Carlsen, the opposition was just much weaker when there were no super tournaments with World Champion and other top players participating.

Anonymous's picture

Larsen was close to being the best player and tournament world champion. Sounds like MC to me.

bronkenstein's picture

Yes, the fact that off-form MC won it alone is kinda terrifying =)

PS Tal Memo often has the strongest field of the year, so we never witnessed great plus scores there, normally ´only´ +2 is all it takes.

Thomas's picture

Suggesting that Carlsen was off-form seems somewhat circular reasoning: It implies that normal or good form would have meant a more convincing victory: bigger gap with the field, or at least not relying on "everything falling together" in the final round: help from Aronian and to some extent also from McShane - who played rather poorly today, compared to earlier rounds and also compared to some of his previous games against Carlsen.

Regarding your PS: never say never. In six previous editions, three times 5.5/9 meant shared first place, three times more was required for sole first: Kramnik's 6.5/9 in 2007 and 2009, Ivanchuk's 6/9 in 2008.

bronkenstein's picture

Where is ´the circle´ in that story?

Also, the PS-comment auto-assumes that 6.5/9 or 6/9 is great plus score - which is - at least - arguable.

Thomas's picture

The circle - IMO - is that people consider convincing wins by Carlsen as normal results, and anything else as poor form. I would define convincing as "about halfway during the event, noone else could even think about first place". As a matter of fact, in 2011/2012 Carlsen did win Bazna (shared with Karjakin), Biel (where he was clear favorite), Bilbao and twice Tal Memorial (last year shared with Aronian). He did not win Wijk aan Zee 2011+2012 and London 2012 - how terrible must his form have been at these occasions?? I would say "he wins almost every tournament he plays" is a bit of an exaggeration, certainly with respect to clear first places - it was true for Kasparov at the peak of his career, that's another story.

If 6.5/9 (72%) in a very strong event isn't a great score, what is? For example, percentage-wise it's slightly better than Aronian's and Nakamura's record 9/13 scores in Wijk aan Zee in somewhat weaker fields.

Anonymous's picture

Talking about poor form, his direct competitors weren't exactly in top shape.

bronkenstein's picture

Whatever, circle(?) or not, I didn´t use only statistics, but also some of his games to conclude that he isn´t exactly peaking here.

Also, I wasn`t talking exclusively about very strong - or just strong - events, which `...the strongest field of the year, so we never witnessed great plus scores there...` part should ( unnecessarily thou ) clarify.

Chess Fan's picture

Good observation and comment. I agree.

Boybawang's picture

I got the feeling that Anand and Gelfand had they joined this tournament would fall at the bottom of the final standing

Anonymous's picture

bizarre comment ! all of them were free to compete and challenge Anand for the World Championship.

bronkenstein's picture

+1, and they did what they did.

Chess Fan's picture

Comparing the level of a WCh with any other tournament, including something as strong as this (with due respect to it) is bizzare.
It is like looking at the WCup final between Spain and Netherlands a +1 differential and saying that the play and players in various European clubs are higher and better.
Sad that I have to give a football analogy to drive home a chess match point. Shows the caliber of people commenting her sometimes. Or maybe it is the bias against the World Champion and his challenger.

Aditya's picture

Actually, I think even though Carlsen may not appear at his devastating best, he is showing mature play. He did not try anything outrageous in any of the games, he was slightly lucky in some, but for the most part he played solidly, held on and won where he got a chance.

He's the only player who did not lose a game. I think he is gearing up well for the big stakes of the world championship.

Chess Fan's picture

He and Aronian are already potential challengers ability wise.
Where as I would give a potential advantage to Aronian on paper, I still think Anand would wipe the clock of Magnus this year or next year. But he is cleverly waiting it out for few more years.
As of now. there is no one who can beat Anand in a Wch match. He is a true World Champion. I hope it extends for years ahead, as his fan.
I predicted even before Gelfand qualified that Anand would retain his title in 2012 who ever qualified. I was not sure after that. Let us see.

Leo's picture

No one can beat Anand in a WC match? True, Anand is a very experienced match player and certainly difficult to beat, but given that the #20 came pretty close, one would think that anyone in the top 5 would at least have a good chance. But I guess you're right, in the sense that no-one will have an opportunity for a while now ;)

bronkenstein's picture

What #20? He played #2.

Anonymous's picture

If Kasim and Khalif were #2 (and ahead of Kasparov) in 2000 and 2004 for winning a knockout then Gelfand is also #2 in the world and a better player than Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik. But to be of that opinion one will really have to avoid using common sense.

bronkenstein's picture

Past-1995 Kasparov was very strong tournament player, same as Magnus or Aronian, but you are confusing things here, and being needlessly rude, my dear Anonymoys friend.

S3's picture

I have calculated Gelfands tpr in classical games for the candidate cycle he won:

In Khazan he had a tpr of exactly 2800 and eliminated Grischuk, Kamsky and Myamedarov.

Wikipedia only lists his opponents from round 4 onwards (lagrave, Jakovenko, Karjakin and Ponomariov) but based on that Gelfand had a tpr of 2815 in the world cup.

In all these games he didn't lose once.
Obviously such stability, and such a tpr, especially in high stakes matchplay, is worthy of a challenger and not every top 20 player could do this.
On the other hand..I don't want to exaggerate the differences in strength and most top 20 players could put up a good fight against anyone on a good day. But to compare Gelfand's achievement to that of Khasimzanov or Khalifman is just a little bizarre.

In the end I think Leo is right, everyone in the top 5 (I'd rather say 15 or so) might have chances in a match. And because Anand can't play 'm all one has to earn this right. Gelfand did so fair and square and that's why Bronk rather calls him #2 than just a # 20, which obviously doesn't do him justice.

p.s. Based on results Gelfand might indeed be a better player in the knock out format or in championship cycles in general.

Leo's picture

Ok, so as far as you're concerned, World Champion = #1 and WC Challenger = #2? Well, I suppose that's one way to look at it - just not one that corresponds very well with reality, as Anon. said.

bronkenstein's picture

Again, confusing tournaments and matches, as in previous post, and ´reality´ with the (quite common) Elo-istic POW. You are free to think that way though, I would never claim that it ´doesn´t correspond with reality´ or anything similar.

Leo's picture

No, I'm not confusing anything, and I'm not saying that anyone ahead of Anand on the Elo list would automatically be considered the favourite in a match between them, just as the fact that Anand defended his title doesn't necessarily make him the de facto strongest player in the world. Again, if Gelfand could come that close to winning a match, why shouldn't Carlsen, Aronian, or Radjabov, for example, have at least a 50-50 shot? (I know, "they didn't qualify" - but we're speaking hypothetically here).
I'm sorry if you thought my "reality" remark was offensive; that wasn't my intention (well, maybe it was, a little ...) - these claims that "no-one can beat Anand" etc. just don't seem very objective to me, that's all.

bronkenstein's picture

Using Elo (basically - tournaments+leagues, in fact, almost exclusively so for 99% of the players) to speak about match chances can be quite misleading - if you don´t like the word ´confusion´.

Meantime S3 calculated some of Gandalf´s recent TPRs (few posts above) to remind us of what we should already know, that there are 2 of them, and you are one of many to constantly use the ´wrong´ one, just the average everyday 2700 guy (´...if #20 could...´).

I never said that Anand is invincible (that was someone above my initial post), nor that he is the strongest player in the world - well, who would that be anyway?

I used the expression `#2` being provoked by constant abuse of these little numbers - I am , naturally, aware that it´s impossible to ´prove´ it or make some kind of absolute ranking. Simply, we shouldn´t rely too much Elo , thou it is not completely useless.

Leo's picture

Fair enough - if I rephrase my statement a little, I suppose we are pretty much on the same page. Referring to GM Gelfand as #20 wasn't meant to put him down in any way, and it wasn't done in blind reliance on Elo numbers, either; but let's take that out of the equation and just call him a "super GM" among others. However you want to put it, there is arguably a number of other super GMs who would have had an excellent chance of beating Anand in a match - and the names that immediately come to mind all happen to be placed above Gelfand on the rating list. The top 5 (or 10, or 20) on the Elo rating list are the top 5 for a reason, although I agree that there are some other factors that will come into play in a WC match situation.
(By he way, you say that "Using Elo ... to speak about match chances can be quite misleading". Of course it can - but no more misleading than using Elo to predict the outcome of any single (tournament) game; #100 obviously has a better chance of defeating #1 in one game than in a match.)

bronkenstein's picture

I agree with the upper part of the post, and on ´bracketed´ one - Elo is ´made of´ tournaments, and is reasonably reliable prediction tool for their eventual winners - just ask Magnus, Levon or Vlad.

I certainly wouldn´t bet on Gelfy winning Tal Memorial, my money would be on Magnus, same as in next WC Candidates - quite long DRR, additionally it´s length is further increasing chances of younger players. My heart with Boris, my money on MC ;)

Leo's picture

There we go, then - we reached some common ground ;) Of course, predictions, whether based on Elo, TPRs or other indications of a player's form, can never be more than just that - it comes down to who brings it to the board. (But as you say, a bet on Carlsen seems to be an investment as good as any :)

Anonymous's picture

I might be mistaken but I think that several higher rated players would have much worse chances. f.e. Caruana or Morozevich and perhaps Carlsen too.

Gelfand did better than both Kramnik and Topalov. Before the match people underestimated Gelfand and said he would lose badly, and because of the actual result and their ego's they had to change their tune to Anand being bad as well. In reality it was pretty good how he managed to save a match that wasn't going to well for him. I'd say Anand is indeed the most likely winner against any challenger atm.

Leo's picture

True - although I wouldn't call their chances "much worse", I certainly wouldn't hold Caruana, Morozevich or, say, Nakamura as favorites against Anand at the moment.
About the second paragraph, it seems to me that the opposite is equally possible, i.e. that fans of Anand, seeing their hero questioned, need to emphasize Gelfand's strength. (Just an observation; there is no need now to start convincing me of Anand's greatness :)

S3's picture

In qualifying Gelfand showed he is not just a no 20, especially not in match play. And his tpr in the qualification events was obviously well above his current rating.
And it can't be denied that his preparation for the match could hardly have been better.


Latest articles