Friday, 25 November 2011

Magnus Carlsen wins the Tal Memorial on tie-break

The final round of the Tal Memorial tournament in Moscow saw Magnus Carlsen catch the leader Levon Aronian and take the tournament on tie-break (having played more Black games).

Magnus Carlsen defeated Hikaru Nakamura with Black and condemned the American to last place in the table. Hikaru really needed to get a better opening (it's the only way to survive a close encounter of the Carlsen kind) but soon found himself on the back foot. Carlsen won a pawn and then gradually applied more and more pressure. It eventually came down to an opposite-coloured bishop endgame - notoriously drawn in general but this one had certain nuances which made it more than usually problematic for the defending side.

Carlsen's technical handling of the endgame was immaculate, although he disdained a few brutal finishes towards the end for a more positional approach. Games between Carlsen and Nakamura are starting to resemble the old-time tennis rivalry of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. In both cases the cool Scandinavian gradually established a hoodoo over the brash American player. But Hikaru gets an early chance for revenge as the two will meet again in London in little more than a week's time!

The other decisive game saw Peter Svidler defeat Russian colleague Vladimir Kramnik. The former world champion played rather too combatively and his position unravelled in the run-up to the time control. Like Nakamura and Vishy Anand (who drew all nine games!), he will be hoping show better form in London or it might turn out to be a second instalment of the 'Magnus and Levon Show'...

1-2 Carlsen, Aronian 5½/9 (Carlsen placed first on tie-break), 3-5 Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi, Ivanchuk 5, 6-7 Anand, Svidler 4½, 8-9 Kramnik, Gelfand 3½, 10 Nakamura 3.

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