Carlsen again takes the Tal Memorial
Each year, the Tal Memorial brings together the strongest players in the world for a super-elite, round-robin tournament. Named after the “Wizard from Riga,” former World Champion Mikhail Tal, this year's event was the most exciting edition yet because it featured a number of decisive games. In last year’s event most of the games were drawn.
The addition of Italian-American Fabiano Caruana and the British GM Luke McShane ensured exciting chess, and the field also featured world-ranked No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, No. 2 Levon Aronian, No. 3 Vladimir Kramnik and No. 4 Teimor Radjabov!
St. Louis' own Hikaru Nakamura participated once again, and he was hoping to improve upon his abysmal score (three losses and six draws) last year against this stellar field. Hikaru did indeed do better, scoring -1 (two losses, one win, and six draws). Heading onto the final two rounds, he was just a half point off the lead. A crucial loss to Alexander Grischuk in the eighth round dashed his hopes, and Hikaru finished tied for eighth place out of the 10-player field. The winner was Carlsen, who scored +2 (two wins, seven draws) as he did last year, this time getting clear first.
The tournament had a lot of unusual qualities for such a strong round robin. First, Alexander Morozevich (a spectator last year) started with a blistering four points out of five games, only to lose his next three encounters. Five different players were in clear first place at one point or another, which is a record in a 10-player round robin.
McShane was extended an invite to the event thanks to an unusual idea, wherein people could vote on the internet for which player they would most like to see participate. There was controversy about the voting regarding McShane and Vietnamese No. 1 Le Quang Liem, and eventually the organizers decided on McShane.
Luke did not disappoint as he ended up beating Aronian and Kramnik. Caruana was in clear first going into the last round but lost to Aronian, whereas Carlsen won with the black pieces against McShane. In such events, usually 70-80 percent of the games are drawn, but round one started with four decisive games.
Hikaru's lone win came against Morozevich, and he did it with the black pieces. Hikaru played quite well in many games, and had Carlsen on the ropes in their individual encounter before settling to a peaceable draw. Magnus was able to win the event, despite not being in first place until the very last round. Hikaru’s next major tournament will take place at the 45th Biel International Chess Festival, scheduled for July 23 in Biel, Switzerland.
Find more information about the event: www.bielchessfestival.ch/en/home/
Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.