Reports | November 18, 2011 22:03

Tal Memorial R3: Three black wins and a 'ridiculous' game

Tal Memorial R3: Three black wins and a 'ridiculous' game

Levon Aronian, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin are sharing the lead after three rounds at the Tal Memorial in Moscow, Russia. On Friday three games were won by Black (Gelfand-Karjakin 0-1, Nakamura-Svidler 0-1 and Ivanchuk-Aronian 0-1) while the most spectacular game (or 'ridiculous', as a young and talented top GM wrote us) between Kramnik and Carlsen ended in a draw.

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

What a round! It felt like the Tal Memorial finally started on Friday, with five great games and bloody fights at the highest level. Well, perhaps except from what the world's number one rated player was showing.

Carlsen wasn't satisfied with his play in the opening against Vladimir Kramnik, and indeed it looked very strange. Manoeuvres like Nb8-c6-b8 and Bc8-d7-e6-d7-c8 before move 20 are hard to explain, and provoked our editor GM Anish Giri to use the word 'ririculous' (probably partly tongue-in-cheek).

Carlsen: a bit too creative in the opening!?

What followed, however, was a fantastic, razor-sharp fight with sacrifices and countersacrifices.

PGN string

Carlsen and Kramnik agree to a draw...

...and enjoy the game a bit longer in the live post-mortem, with Ilya Levitov as host

At this level just about every round will have at least one 'grandmaster draw' like the following.

PGN string

Hikaru Nakamura seemed to be getting an advantage against Peter Svidler's Grünfeld, but somehow everything in the game, all the tactics, worked in Black's favour. It did show once again Svidler's fantastic feel for this opening.

PGN string

Nakamura, unlucky to see all the tactics work for Black

Svidler showing his game to the Russian journalists and online spectators

A few years ago Levon Aronian said that he plays the Berlin Wall if he likes to play for a win. Against Vassily Ivanchuk, his 11...Bd7 (deviating from a recent draw between Anand and Nakamura) was in the same spirit and later the Armenian managed to provoke his opponent to weaken his pawns in the center.

PGN string

Aronian, one of the leaders after a good win against Ivanchuk

The longest game of the round was the following. The phase between moves 30 and 40 was critical: Gelfand overplayed his hand while Karjakin responded with impressive accuracy.

PGN string

Strong defence from Karjakin refuted Gelfand's moves

Tal Memorial 2011 | Round 3 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 - Karjakin
Ivanchuk 0-1 Aronian   Svidler - Gelfand
Anand ½ ½ Nepomniachtchi   Nepomniachtchi - Nakamura
Nakamura 0-1 Svidler   Aronian - Anand
Gelfand 0-1 Karjakin   Kramnik - Ivanchuk
Round 5 20.11.11 12:00 CET   Round 6 22.11.11 12:00 CET
Ivanchuk - Carlsen   Carlsen - Svidler
Anand - Kramnik   Nepomniachtchi - Karjakin
Nakamura - Aronian   Aronian - Gelfand
Gelfand - Nepomniachtchi   Kramnik - Nakamura
Karjakin   Svidler   Ivanchuk - Anand
Round 7 23.11.11 12:00 CET   Round 8 24.11.11 12:00 CET
Anand - Carlsen   Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi
Nakamura - Ivanchuk   Aronian - Svidler
Gelfand - Kramnik   Kramnik - Karjakin
Karjakin - Aronian   Ivanchuk - Gelfand
Svidler - Nepomniachtchi   Anand - Nakamura
Round 9 25.11.11 10:00 CET        
Nakamura - Carlsen        
Gelfand - Anand        
Karjakin - Ivanchuk        
Svidler - Kramnik        
Nepomniachtchi - Aronian        

Macauley Peterson sent us this photo from yesterday's meeting between Sergey Karjakin and Sergey Karjakin. The chess player gave a chess set to the pentathlon athlete, who gave an épée to the chess player.


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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.


Antonin Scriabin's picture

Great tournament so far. Carlsen in the thick of the three most interesting games so far!

Not feeling good about Gelfand's chances against Anand next year. He had a solid candidates, but he is starting to look outclassed here in Moscow. Hopefully he picks it up and finishes strong!

Xeno's picture

Gelfand plays stronger opponents here than in Kazan (Kamsky, Mamedyarov, Grischuk) and it's no surprise that he will find it difficult to avoid last place as in Linares and Corus the last times he played there.

S3's picture

Look at the games and it's clear that he is not being outclassed!

unknown's picture

Gelfand prefers matches.

Anonymous's picture

Who is the top GM? Why isn't his identity revealed? Is it top secret and it can't be reported?

Xeno's picture

I guess his initials are A.G and that it isn't Grischuk :-)

Anonymous's picture

Giri, right...very insightful comment he made...I wonder if all these "top" GM commentators can do any meaningful analysis of their own without consulting the engines

MJul's picture

Surely they can. They are not patzers like me :)

Thomas Richter's picture

I actually thought Peter Doggers was quoting MC himself smiley

Remco Gerlich's picture

No, of course they can't. And it's pure luck that they manage to find good moves in their games on their own now and then, good enough to reach 2700+. Really no insight in chess on their own whatsoever.

steven's picture

Can you please elaborate what the young and talented top GM means with " a ridiculous game" ?

Anonymous's picture

That he had no clue what was happening in the game until he looked at the engines

Vamsi 's picture

Ha ha ha

Kamalakanta Nieves's picture

Steven, it was an incredible game, that at one point no one could really understand. One moment you thought White was winning, the next moment Black. Carlsen, in true Stienitz fashion, almost retreated all his pieces to their original positions...Kramnik had a commanding lead in space, but Carlsen's camp had no weaknesses. Kramnik started losing the thread a little, and they agreed a draw right after the time control, when Carlsen had a minuscule advantage. It was not a game; it was an adventure!

Anonymous's picture

Carlsen's camp had no weaknesses? His position was lost, Carlsen was lucky he was playing against Kramnik and not against sb else like Topalov, he would have been crushed then

jo's picture

At what move in the game do you base your opinion -

Im taking it Topalov or someone else like him would have made all the same (good) moves up to the point where you make this statement.

Please give me more of your infinite wisdom - oh don't bother - here come a bunch of five year olds

Alfonso's picture

Topalov...bad example. He has a horrible particular score against Carlsen...

columbo's picture

can you tell us where Carlsen was lost ? because i'm getting lost here myself !

KingTal's picture

Before Kramnik played Qh5.

steven's picture

Thank you

peter visser's picture

That's right!

mishanp's picture

When I read the title I thought it was quoting Kramnik, as he said various things that were very similar after the game :)

unknown's picture

Anish Giri.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Kramnik has a bit of a history making fun on young crown pretenders. Somehow I have the feeling Carlsen retaliated today.
If not, he's probably a reincarnation of Steinitz.

MJul's picture

A couple of month ago, he was going to be a new Capablanca.
Now a reincarnation of Steinz.

Maybe he will play like La Bourdonnais next.

Excalibur's picture

"Kamsky, Mamedyarov, Grischuk" Really? I don't think these players are inferior to the super GM's here. Silly comment.

redivivo's picture

Mamedyarov tried to qualify for the Candidates in all qualifications but failed, so did Grischuk, while Kamsky's results in Grand Prix and World Cup weren't impressive either. Now they were all given spots in the Candidates in the end in spite of failing in the qualification events, but they wouldn't be expected to do much better than Gelfand in these surroundings.

Kasmijanov also won a knockout, and that against stronger opponents than those Gelfand faced in Kazan. He won against Topalov, Ivanchuk and Adams (and Grischuk) but that didn't mean that he was a stronger player than them as his other results showed time and again. One can't evaluate players based on knockouts. Gelfand is of course not a bad player but I wouldn't rank him in the top ten, would you, and in that case how does your top ten look?

Philipp Somrowsky's picture

Disparaging comments about Gelfand and his chances against Anand are premature. Let's wait for the actual match.

columbo's picture

as a matter of fact Gelfand will win against anand ... ask my wiife !

Philipp Somrowsky's picture

Disparaging comments about Gelfand and his chances against Anand are premature. Let's wait for the actual match.

Lalulala's picture

Gelfand did more to show his ability to play chess than anand did in this tournament so far.

Dikke Deur's picture

Well, maybe Gelfand does not look that great but I must say that Anand does not impress me much either so far.

columbo's picture

true, Anand is making quick draws, he is hidding behing his tittle

columbo's picture

" behind "

st32's picture

And aronian has overtaken anand to become the live world number 2.. I guess Anand doesnt care about anything anymore except appearance fees and world championship matches..
Anand can (in my opinion) reclaim the world no1 with a fair amount of ease if he actually cared about it..

redivivo's picture

I don't think Anand is so much better than all other players that he easily would be #1 if he just wanted to, the competition is tough. Anand wasn't that far ahead of Topalov in their match (5.5-5.5 before the last game with Topalov as white, when many predicted a change on the throne), and that was a Topalov that was weaker than a few years back, and was called a bad match player. 2800+ and top three is good for a 40+ years old player though.

Anonymous's picture

"The king tries to find a safe spot on the queenside and while doing that it might eat a white knight."
Hungry king...beware, though, some knights are hard to digest

Frits Fritschy's picture

"This is not a game that one can explain to a novice."
On Kramnik-Carlsen:
I'm not exactly a novice, but please can anyone explain what is so useful about 3... h6 as a waiting move? Why not 3... a6, or ehhh, 3... Nc6? And after you have succeeded in provoking white to play Nc3, so you can play Bb4, of course a few moves later you voluntarily retract this bishop to c5. Yes, I can see there is a reason for this, but I would say something has gone wrong if moves like this are necessary.
Then, again two moves later, I'm supposed to understand (in the variation with 8... 0-0) that the position after 13 f4 is less attractive than the position after 12 f4 in the game.
I get the impression that because we are talking about the world's nr. 1, nobody dares to say the truth: that Carlsen played like a novice until move 20, and was completely in the ropes, and only then started playing chess. Kramnik probably couldn't believe what was happening, and that must be the reason he didn't finish him of quickly. (Even without an engine, I can't keep dry eyes after 20 Qg4!)
Somehow this game reminded me of the story a few years ago about Fischer playing on internet, starting games with f6, c6, Ke8-f7-e6-d6-c7, winning against grandmasters...

Anonymous's picture

"A useful waiting move" is indeed a "ridiculous" comment.

SadTruth's picture

Probably h6 is just a theoretical fashion move. Nothing more. I imagive if 3..Nc6 4.Nc3 and now Bb4 5.Nd5 Nxd5 6.cxd5 the black knight has to move. After h6 it does not. And if 3.Nf3, e4 is possible because the knight can not go to g5 to attack the pawn. Now I do not much about this opening so these were just ideas I came up with.

cak's picture

In soccer we teach kids to use the inside of the foot when passing the ball, but I have sometimes seen Messi use the outside of the foot. In other words, he is a total patzer :) (In all seriousness, I don't disagree too much with your comment.)

Frank Sträter's picture

h6 was usefull because after Nf3 black can play e4 and white does not have the g5 square to hop to

Anonymous's picture

Many other moves would have been even more useful. The comment by Giri suggests that it is useful to play a waiting move on move 3, which is rather absurd.

Frits Fritschy's picture

If it was just the comment on the third move, I would have had a good laugh and let it pass. By the way, I'm not questioning the quality of the analysis. And at least, I read some doubt here on the validity of Carlsen's opening play. Compare this to the Chessbase comment by Grandmaster Ramirez, where you are made to believe it all was a deep plan by Magnus, from which he didn't reap the well deserved fruits.
In the first 10 moves I gave two other moments that defy logic. I didn't even get to Bc8-d7-e6-c8 and Nb8-c6-b8-d7. For every single move you can give an explanation, but all of them together, that's idiotic. As they say: you can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all people all of the times.
Let's get serious: I could have played the same first 20 moves as black, which doesn't mean I can play as good as Carlsen; it looks like it's more the other way around. (But on the other hand, I wouldn't have survived another 5 moves.) Any strong player commenting on my moves would tear me to pieces.

cyanfish's picture

If they did, it would be undeserved, provided that you didn't make the moves by accident. Nowadays, top players aren't so concerned with dogma - like "don't move the same piece twice in the opening" - but rather whether a particular move is good in a particular position, regardless of what has happened in the past ten moves. If each of the individual moves is justifiable, than so is the sequence. Are you really saying that Carlsen (the top player in the world) had no idea what he was doing? Maybe there were some inaccuracies, but hardly anything "idiotic".

cyanfish's picture

The main point of h6 is that it discourages Nf3, since the normal response to e4 would be Ng5. It also allows Black to choose between c6 or Nc6, depending on what White plays.

It can also be useful in the long term, since it isn't often much of a weakness in this kind of structure; it usually prevents Bg5 or Ng5 from ever happening; it can sometimes support a g5 push; and of course the extra space for the king can be nice.

In games between players 2400+ in the last 6 years, it's been played about 9% of the time (after d5 - 54%, c6 - 19%, and Nc6 - 17%), with the highest average player's rating and a better score than any of the top three moves. It's also Houdini's third choice, for what it's worth. So it can hardly be a bad move.

Furthermore, moves like Bc5 and Bc8, while they may seem to waste time, can still be perfectly good, and in this case are probably the best moves. I'm no GM - all I really have to go by is engine evals - but even Nb8 was Houdini's second choice. My point is that despite appearances, this was still a very high level game with only a few inaccuracies.

Frits Fritschy's picture

All you say may be perfectly true, although I have serious doubts about your last sentence.
By the way, the relative popularity of 3... h6 may well have something to do with Houdini’s evaluation (or malfunctioning?).
Even I might have played moves like Nb8 and Bc8, but with the feeling something has gone terribly wrong; I would hide my face and hope no clubmates are around.
And that is about what I mean; a good game comment is not just about computer evaluations, it should also give the ‘feel’ of the game. As I understand it, Giri says white is winning after 20 Qg4. Looking at the position, I can’t imagine he is wrong. Then, what has gone wrong for black? Here the old dogma’s are really shouting at me, playing through blacks moves. It can’t be just 12… Bd7 instead of Ba7. If a sequence leads to a lost position after 20 moves, it is not to blame on one individual inaccurate move.
Carlsen himself says on move 12: “I couldn’t find a decent move”. And commenting on 16 f5 he doesn’t sound too positive either, to say the least. At least he himself had a pretty good idea about what he had done.
Carlsen can have complete off-days. Remember his loss against Giri in Wijk aan Zee? But in Friday’s game, he also made a wonderful comeback, and I must say: I enjoyed it more than many perfect games I have seen.

Thomas Richter's picture

3.-h6 is still quite OK: it is often played in other lines of the English opening (just a bit later) and also for example in the closed Ruy Lopez. But if engines endorse 17.-Nb8, methinks it's rather a sign that there's something wrong with the black position at this stage?

Generally, as Carlsen himself wasn't happy with his opening play, who are others - including GM Ramirez - to praise him?? He experimented before: 1.a3?! in several blindfold and blitz games, 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.e5 Nh5 against Adams at the Olympiad. Differences are that it probably wasn't done deliberately in the game we discuss, and that it's a classical game against an opponent who is currently even stronger than Adams.

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