Round one of the Tal Memorial began with a minute’s silence in honour of Mark Dvoretsky, whose death was announced earlier in the day. Dvoretsky was widely respected as a chess player and trainer and personally known by many involved in the tournament. Peter Svidler was one player to tweet about Dvoretsky’s passing: “Horrible news today. Honoured to have known Mark Dvoretsky. We won’t see his like again.”
When the chess got underway, the play largely matched the sombre atmosphere. It was mostly a round unworthy of the attacking Mikhail Tal, with quick exchanges leading to resolved and inflexible positions. This is nothing unusual for the opening round of a tournament, with players settling themselves and perhaps just not in the mood to mix things up considering the news of the day. Ian Nepomniachtchi was the sole winner of the round, needing only 23-moves to despatch Evgeny Tomashevsky in the Scotch. It was a very dominant performance, seeing Tomashevsky’s forces completely tied in knots. He will have felt quite bruised afterwards I can imagine.
Peter Svidler came close to taking a point from Vladimir Kramnik, after what was a huge opening result, seemingly catching his opponent completely off-guard. Playing White in a Symmetrical English, Svidler sacrificed a piece for huge initiative. Kramnik was purely in survival mode, not being allowed any mistakes; however, when they did come, Svidler failed to punish him. I can only imagine that time trouble played its part in some of Peter’s decisions, and apparent hesitancy. From being a move or two away from delivering his opponent a decisive blow, (28.Nf6!, 31.Qxe8!), fortunes changed to where Svidler was barely hanging on himself. The end result was a draw, but he will be very disappointed to not have reaped the rewards of the opening advantage that he worked so hard for.
The other games were also drawn and as I have said above, we can perhaps put it down to opening day tetchiness. Certainly, let’s hope for more fighting chess in round 2. This will be played on Tuesday 27th September and sees the following pairings:
- Kramnik-Li Chao
Play begins at 15:00 local time (check your time here.)