Reports | November 07, 2009 1:23

Five more draws in second round Tal Memorial

Tal Memorial: Live CommentaryThe same story as yesterday reaches us from Moscow, Russia: five more draws in round 2 of the Tal Memorial kept everyone together in first and last place, but also today we saw a number of interesting games.

The Tal Memorial takes place November 4-18 in Moscow, Russia. The category 21 round-robin has Viswanathan Anand (India, 2788), Levon Aronian (Armenia, 2786), Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 2801), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, 2772), Peter Leko (Hungary, 2752), Boris Gelfand (Israel, 2758), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine, 2739) Alexander Morozevich (Russia, 2750), Peter Svidler (Russia, 2754) and Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine, 2739).

The first four rounds of the round-robin are held in hotel "National" on November 5, 6, 7 and 8. Rounds 5-9 take place in the Main Department Store GUM on Red Square. The time control is the classic 40 moves in 2 hours, then 20 moves in 1 hour and then 15 minutes plus 30 seconds increment to finish the game. The rounds begin daily at 15:00 Moscow time which is 13:00 CET.

Round 2

Who would have thought? Okay, the players are all enormously strong, and their ratings quite close to each other, but it's still surprising that after two rounds there hasn't been a decisive game yet in Moscow. At least it means that nobody is really out of shape, which promises a great last seven rounds of the tournament.

After about an hour of play all five boards saw highly interesting positions, but unfortunately this time most of the games petered out into draws quickly. The first to finish were Anand and Kramnik; the World Champion followed the current Grünfeld rage and proved to be very well prepared in the theoretical jungle of the 8.Rb1 line.


Ivanchuk seemed to have a nice advantage out of the opening with attacking chanches on Svidler's king, but the grandmaster from St Petersburg played a few very accurate moves to hold the balance. By then Leko and Gelfand had already quickly reached a very drawish ending in a Petroff; the two started thinking only after 28...a5 but it was clear that White had nothing.

Ponomariov had the better chances against Aronian in yet another Grünfeld, but Black's prophylactic rook manoeuvre along the seventh rank held everything together. Carlsen tried the 4.f3 against Morozevich's Nimzo and did win a pawn, but from the start it looked a bit ugly positionally, and therefore not very dangerous for Black.

Today we had GM Sipke Ernst giving live commentary at our special live page Throughout the day people joined the chat, which is still visible. Tomorrow we'll have IM Robert Ris, so feel free to come and watch!


Anand commenting on the game afterwards

Photos © Mark Gluhovsky

Games round 2 [GM Sipke Ernst]

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tal Memorial 2009 | Round 2 Standings

Tal Memorial 2009

Tal Memorial 2009 | Schedule and results

Following an excellent idea of Georg in the comments, we try to write something about Mikhail Tal every day.

As we know, Mikhail Tal suffered from health problems throughout his life and had to be hospitalized frequently throughout his career. In this respect it didn't really help that Tal was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker. The eigth world champion mainly suffered from kidney problems; eventually one of his diseased kidneys was removed.

Before the 1962 Candidates Tournament Tal had to be operated because he was suffering of kidney colic. In The Life and Games he writes:

"When we were talking before the operation I asked [the doctor] to bear in mind that fact that within two months I had to travel to Curacao, and that it would be good if he could repeat the 'miracle' of 1959, when after the removal of my appendix I won the Candidates Tournament. The professor listened to my request, and operated most carefully, but, alas, history did not repeat itself."

At the end of round 21 of the Curacao Candidates Tournament, after recurring attacks of his illness, Tal had to retire from the tournament. He had scored eight draws and three victories, but the rest of his games were cancelled.

The famous photo below shows Bobby Fischer (who finished 4th and would later accuse the Russian players of fixing games) visiting Tal at the hospital in Curacao. It shows clearly how well the two went along and how much they enjoyed the game.

Tal and Fischer

On June 28, 1992, Tal died in a Moscow hospital, officially of kidney failure. The same cause was given to Fischer's death, on January 17, 2008.


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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.


Peter Doggers's picture

Tal had the congenital deformity of ectrodactyly in his right hand.

Onischuk fan's picture

I really enjoyed the first round comments including saying the name of the opening. I'm very disappointed in the second round comments . They are very brief, mostly just give variations, and don't tell what each player is trying to accomplish. Here's a great example:

"1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. c4 Nb4 9. Be2 O-O 10. Nc3 Bf5 11. a3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Nc6 13. Re1 Re8 14. cxd5 Qxd5 15. Bf4 Rac8 16. Bd3 Qd7 17. Rb1 b6 18. d5
A tricky move. 18. Bb5!? also leeds to interesting complications. "

xtra's picture

the commentary is great, very good initiative. I miss info on how long the players have left though, could the commentators maybe add "timelefts" sometimes? It makes the commentary valuable after the game has finished too, since its hard to know when the players were in time trouble, and its interesting to know when they started thinking in the opening, etc.

sosko's picture

everyone has his/her own style of commenting the games...yesterday's games were nicer, I suppose... not always it depends on annotator, but also on the class of the play!!!...thanks to Chessvibes and commentators for this must go on!!!

marpada's picture

Thank you very much for the superb coverage!!

Thomas's picture

@xtra: You get that information, at least _during_ the games, if you (also) watch at chessok and/or Chessdom. There were some comments in the chat that those are "better" - I don't agree and simply cannot choose. Thus I kept switching between various windows, also because human comments and Rybka analyses are complementary.

It is true that the other sites were frequently more up-to-date, this may be due to technical problems here for a still brand-new service?

redpawn's picture

That's a great picture. Fischer visiting Tal in hospital. never seen this one before...

In the fighting spirit of Tal, I hope we get to see some brilliant wins soon here...

Castro's picture

Pono simply had a SIMPLE won game after 29 (or 31) Rf1 , right???
So, there's nothing normal about "five more draws", nor did Aronian's rook manouvers "held everything together"!

gg's picture

"Pono simply had a SIMPLE won game after 29 (or 31) Rf1 , right???"

At least it looked like a good winning try, he would be piece down but with four passers on d5-e4 and g2-h2 after Rf1 Qg5 (seems to be black's chance to hold) and Rxf6. He also had 25 minutes against 10 or something like that before his 29th and even if it wouldn't have won it is hard to imagine Aronian or Carlsen going for the draw with white in that position.

Jonas's picture

Do not expect many decisive games when Leko, Svidler, Gelfand, Kramnik playing in the same tournament...

jmd85146's picture

On 29. Rf1 i would play f5 as black and it looks doubtful to me that white has an easy win

gg's picture

"On 29. Rf1 i would play f5 as black and it looks doubtful to me that white has an easy win"

30. Qh6+ followed by Qg5+ picks up the rook on d8.

unknown's picture

Tal won 3 games in Curacao Candidates Tournament,.

patj's picture

i could be mistaken, but i believe this is the tournament(Curaçao, 1962) where when Tal was hospitalized, the ONLY person to come visit him was Fischer. None of his fellow Soviet GM's even bothered...

IM Merijn van Delft's picture

@Onischuk fan: Don't be too harsh, firstly we all have to get used to the new commentary settings and secondly today's games generally remained of quite a technical nature (even Pono-Aronian and Svidler-Ivanchuk quickly petered out). GM Sipke Ernst is the most creative and enjoyable chessplayer I have ever met. Because we grew up together I've been very lucky to have countless joint analyses (together with many other chess friends). His amazing chess spirit and understanding have always been a huge source of inspiration. As soon as the games become a little bit more exciting and we're all used to the new setting, Sipke will soon be your favourite commentator, trust me :-)

Castro's picture


That endgame is not merely "a good winning try"! It's won.
I say Aronian wouldn't even pretend to do a holding try for black, and would resign imediately.

Castro's picture


Some time ago you'd include Carlsen on that :-) (or even Anand?).
That's not like that. Any of those four players you mentioned can have a record of desisive games on such a tournament. I'm a Moro's fan myself, but can not agree with that kind of generalities.

IM Merijn van Delft's picture

@Thomas: Indeed that will quickly improve, we're working around the clock to optimize everything. For ChessVibes it's like a dream come true to have Live Commentary and as several visitors have put it, 'to become the number one chess hotspot'. We try to listen carefully to the feedback we are receiving and quickly 'learn by doing'. We're enjoying every minute of it! So keep your comments coming, both positive and negative :-)

Jean-Michel's picture


You picked the wrong time to make such a comment with the wonderful fight Kramnik put up in round one. A sharp, dangerous game with black, not his usual draw-with-black win-with-white philosophy. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt? Or at least limit the complaints to when he actually plays in a drawish, conservative style.

ivan's picture

Hey, what is wrong with Tal's right hand in the hospital picture? It looks kinda of deformed...

IM Merijn van Delft's picture

@Castro: Don't put all your money on it, since this ending (Ponomariov-Aronian after 29.Rf1 Qg5 30.Rxf6 Qxg6 31.Rxg6 Nb7) is extremely tricky and hard to judge.
First of all I like Sipke's judgement of this line in the chat:
GM Sipke Ernst : white slightly better
Prutser : So why didn;t white play on you think?
GM Sipke Ernst : cause it's a bit imbalanced, and pono was low on time
GM Sipke Ernst : white can also lose that position
Especially that last comment is insightful and something we tend to forget when staring at the engine's judgement - is White 'playing for two results only' or is the position in fact a total mess?
Btw my Rybka (who tends to slightly overestimate passed pawns in my experience) gives +0.49 and my Fritz gives +0.35 after thinking for quite a while. What does that mean in such a crazy position. Not much I guess. Besides: White has many passed pawns, but he can't push them all at the same time. As far as I'm concerned this ending is totally unclear. I'm not even sure White is better.

Guillaume's picture

I agree with Jean-Michel. Kramnik's play is beyond reproach in this tournament so far. If anything, I was rather disappointed at Anand blitzing his game with black out to a (quick) draw against Kramnik. If Anand was so comfortable with the game that he needed only about 20 minutes to hold Kramnik to a draw, why not try to sweat over it little bit more and get an advantage?

Thomas's picture

@IM Merijn van Delft: Impressive that you are indeed "working" (guess it's fun at the same time!?) long hours - last comment at 2:21 am.

Concerning Pono's game: As far as I remember, he thought for about 20 minutes before giving perpetual check. I guess he evaluated the ending, and let's not forget that he is higher-rated than most kibitzers (except Rybka). At the very least, it refutes suggestions made in live commentary elsewhere that he merely forced a draw by sacking his knight. It will be interesting to know Pono's own opinion: maybe there is or will be something at, anyone able to read Russian is very welcome to translate and quote!

General points:
- If I have one suggestion for improvement: Maybe the round reports (after the games) suffer a tiny little bit from the focus on live coverage? For example Svidler-Ivanchuk yesterday: GM Sipke Ernst seemed to prefer black after moves 14 and 16, and after move 20 states that white is "surprisingly OK". Great to keep the flow of live comments - I guess many kibitzers as well as players have such impressions ("He [or I] had an advantage and suddenly it's gone"). But was there ever a black advantage, and why did it then slip away within three moves? Or was it just an (optical) illusion?
- And a dream: It would be great if players with recent supertournament experience could contribute. If anyone (Smeets, Stellwagen, van Wely, ... , "non-Dutchies") reads this, PLEASE join the chat if you can and want to! :) You will have Dimitri Reinderman later on (who played Corus A some years ago), curious if he will add a special flavor to his comments.

Finally, let me join the crowd in complimenting you for the live coverage - even if I wouldn't call you "clear #1" simply because there is also lots of good stuff elsewhere. Similarly, I wouldn't call one player much better than the rest (ever since Kasparov retired) or one opening much better than the rest.
For once, I regret having to play chess myself this afternoon. Maybe I will make a quick draw - oh no wait, it's a team competition ... .

Peter Doggers's picture

Thanks Thomas, we'll certainly take your and others' feedback into account. In general we expect the level to go up more and more as soon as everyone is used to the technical issues. Good luck with your game today.

Sergio's picture

Thanks again for the great commentary. But i had 2 questions or suggestions.

1. Could you say when players are out the theory and really have to think.
2. "White is slighty better" , could that sort of statements be explained why white is slightly better (for instance: better pawn structure, active pieces)

Or is it just a feeling GM's have for positions that is hard to epxlain?

rajeshv's picture

Today (round 3 was a treat!) with so many decisive games, Moro-Kramnik being the most spectacular! Thanks chessvibes, I enjoy the commentary very much, though I have to say today I saw that there was a bit of noticable lag for the commentary (not sure abt the previous rounds as I wasn't following live). And the entire commentary available on the reports page is really great - nice to find it all in 1 place so soon after the round!

@Guillaume: >> Anand.. why not try to sweat over it little bit more and get an advantage?

you mean like he did in round 3!? where a seemingly innocuous position suddenly sprang up to life. I guess time/place/position/opponent etc plays a role in when it is possible and when it is not!

Castro's picture

@IM Merijn van Delft

Thanks for your enlightment of the Rf1 question.
For some reason you're a master and I'm not! :-)
Still, I'd put some (maybe not all) of my money on that! I'll receive proposals (Even from Pono or Aronian themselves :-) )
Something is clear: Time presure must be (and must have been) taken in carefull consideration, and not going for it can be understandable (but Pono must be more ambitious, then)
Now, I realy didn't consult an engine (some lazziness from me but also because the best I have now is Fritz...4!!). Maybe if I did, and got those 0.49 or 0.35 I wouldn't be so asertive! But is precisely from the human point of view that I find that win "easy". Of course never easy in the sense of no work or no extreme concentration required! Nerves and good technic are most required!
These endings are question of human intuition given by experience. Engines don't understand them so well. But then, there are also IMs and GMs contradicting me, so I humbly change my "It's won" to "I'm completely sure I'd win it against whoever" (How is that for humble? Looks more like silly and presumptuous optimist I can be, right? hehehe).

Castro's picture

@IM Merijn van Delft

Ah, and I also don't agree it's merely a question of passed pawns and pushing them all in a kind of serial moves. I find it incredible not thinking of "two results only", unless we have to count on an ugly UGLY blunder. (That's why time and fairly good chess can matter)
If they weren't going to promote and win the game (which they are :-) ), those passed pawns ensure at least enough threats to nulify black's a and b pawns, after which it would ALSO take to loose all white pawns for it to be "just" a draw.
Look: Can't we say (after that 31.... Nb7) that the position would be "almost" (not quite here, but almost) a draw, even without white's g and h pawns? Maybe with a better king it would be.
Other thing: Is not noticeable that black cannot go for no kind of equal piece trade? (N or B against B, or RxR). If I'm right, it's serious realy, because (lovely!) Even up a piece, Black cannot exchange pieces!
At first glance the move is 32.Kf2 (it looks like every other white piece is good where they are, now).
If you have the time and pacience, please help my (wrong?) "intuition" again!

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