The eighth round of the Tal Memorial Tournament, in Moscow, was played on October 5th. Just like the previous round, it saw all games drawn.
Levon Aronian and Li Chao debated a Queen’s Gambit Declined, which saw Black develop his light-squared bishop prior to playing …e6. White’s pawns became rather untidy, with three pawn islands and doubled f-pawns, but this was balanced by activity. Also, the fact that some exchanges had taken place meant that Black did not really have the resources to put his opponent under much pressure. Saying this, Black did manage to win a pawn, but this was at the cost of his King being displaced to box a rook in. White’s Queen and bishop were by far the most active pieces on the board.
Clearly better, Aronian pressed, busting open Black’s Queenside pawns and penetrating to the 7th rank with a rook and backing this up with his Queen. He had the comfort of a nice solid position in which he could play on without risk. White’s decision to bring his rook off of the h-file, with 49.Rc5 seems to be where things slipped away. Black was able to find counter chances on the Kingside, beginning with 49…Rh8, which resulted in him mopping up some pawns and obtaining a strong passed pawn. All of a sudden, White was in survival mode. Luckily for Aronian, his own threats on the Queenside were enough to make things far from straight-forward for Black, and this earned him half a point.
Black got the better of things rather effortlessly in the English of Nepomniachtchi-Anand. White was lumbered with three pawn islands in this case also and had rather backward development. White was able to obtain good Kingside play, however, with pawn play and also worked his King up the board along the f-file — highly unorthodox considering there were still 3 minor pieces and rooks on the board. His chances seemed to end with 21.bxc6, however, which seemed to resolve things just a tad too much for his opponent. Repetition came rather soon afterwards.
Vladimir Kramnik and Evgeny Tomashevsky had themselves a mammoth game, which lasted 108-moves before they decided to share the spoils. In the King’s Indian Attack, White obtained the better stance, with an extra Queenside pawn, which was passed. Black was able to coordinate, however, with two nice centralised knights active rook and this threw a spanner in the works for White, who of course wanted nothing more than to be left to push the pawn. It wasn’t to be, however, the pawn was to fall.
In compensation, though, Kramnik switched his sights towards Black’s King position, to which end he’d laid the foundations earlier in the game with 33.h4 and 34.h5. All of a sudden, there was a new passer needing Blacks attention. Again, Tomashevsky organised his pieces extremely well, and put up a super defence and the former World Champion just could not find a way through. Eventually this passer also fell, to leave an equal endgame and though the players played on for a while, there was only a half point to show for it. A nice fighting draw, very nice game!
Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand played a Sicilian, but not very eventful. I think Gelfand would be relatively happy with this, he’d clearly suffered in this tournament and just wanted it over. It was all about limiting damage. The game saw very fast exchanges and was drawn in 39. Similarly, liquidation happened rather quickly in the Giuoco Piano of Giri-Mamedyarov. This was agreed drawn in 40.
Standings after round 8:
- Nepomniachtchi — 5½
- Giri — 5
- Kramnik, Aronian, Anand — 4½
- Svidler, Li — 4
- Mamedyarov — 3½
- Tomashevsky — 3
- Gelfand — 1½