Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand suffered a painful loss against Russian veteran Vladimir Kramnik in Round-4 of the 10th Tal Memorial chess championship in Moscow. However, the Indian ace bounced back into the reckoning with a Round-5 win over Israel’s Boris Gelfand and followed that with a draw against Russia’s Evgeny Tomashevsky in Round-6. With three rounds remaining, Anand’s opponents now will be two Russians; Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi in Rounds-7 & 8 and Armenian Levon Aronian in Round-9. While Ian Nepomniachtchi leads the championship leaderboard with 4½ points, followed by Holland’s Anish Giri at 4 points, Anand shares the joint third place with Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian at 3½ points. The Indian has never won the Tal Memorial chess tournament with his best finish had been no.5 in 2009. But it must also be noted that Anand has participated in only three Tal Memorial tournaments out of ten.
Vishy Anand dealt with his Round-4 loss against Vladimir Kramnik with a forceful comeback victory in Round-5 against Israel’s Boris Gelfand. In Round-6, however, Anand settled for a draw against another Russian Evgeny Tomashevsky. Regardless, the Indian is at joint third place with Kramnik and Aronian at this stage of the tournament. Against Kramnik, Anand played disastrously from the start and allowed the 41-year-old Russian to set for himself a new official peak of FIDE rating by reaching 2817 ELO points. The victory also brought Kramnik back to his no.2 spot on live rating list. This was the first time that Anand lost to Kramnik since their 2008 World Championship match. Kramnik played the old Giuoco Piano and trapped Anand, when he played 14…Bc5 15.b4 Bf8. Though Kramnik didn’t find Anand’s move as illogical, he responded with 16.a4 because that would allow him the tempi for the queenside advance. Though Anand tried to mount some pressure in 47th move, he had already lost a lot of ground and soon he gave up.
In his Round-5 match against Israel’s Boris Gelfand next day, everyone expected Anand to play with caution and take things easy. But the veteran brought out his best and completely outclassed the Israeli. After three losses in row, Gelfand still adopted a combative Rossolimo Sicilian play, little realizing that he was dealing with the multiple-time former World Champion. Finally, Anand managed to get exactly what he wanted. The victory gave him something to look forward to when he played Round-6 with Black Pieces against Russia’s Evgeny Tomashevsky. The Anand-Tomashevsky game was the only draw in Round-6 but Anand did try to outfox the Russian by repeating the line that Kramnik had used against Nakamura in the recent Baku Chess Olympiad. But Tomashevsky read through Anand’s mind and played a variation that forced the Indian into a long defense. In the end, both players settled for draw.
With three rounds remaining, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi is in clear lead with 4½ points and Dutchman Anish Giri is second with 4. Behind them, the trio of Anand, Kramnik and Aronian is at the third place, each with 3½ points. Out of the three rounds, Anand plays two with Whites and thus he can derive some advantage against Svidler in Round-7 and Levon Aronian in Round-9. For his Round-8 game however, the Indian will play with Blacks against the tournament leader Ian Nepomniachtchi. At this stage, Anand still has an outside chance of finishing at the top. For that to happen, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Anish Giri should record no further wins. May be that is like asking for too much.
In another heartening news for Indian chess lovers, Vidit Gujrathi is in joint lead with Latvia’s Alexei Shirov with 3 wins in as many rounds of the Isle of Man International Chess Tournament. The field of 137 players has many other Indians as well. In a Round-2 match on Sunday, India’s no.2 female player Harika Dronavalli held USA’s Wesley So to a draw by attacking the second-seeded American. Also playing at Isle of Man is the world’s youngest-ever International Master R Praggnanandhaa or Praggu. But the 11-year old Praggu lost against world’s no.1 female player Hou Yifan of China in Round-2. However, the Indian prodigy has recorded two victories against two Englishmen in Round-1 and Round-3 and with 2 points, he is now at no.48. In Round-1, Praggu defeated 37-year old David Whitehead and got the better of 34-year old Edmund Player in Round-3. In Round-4 on Tuesday, the young Indian will be taking on Germany’s 29-year old Grand Master Georg Meier.