The great Bent Larsen was often described as “the ultimate chess battler”, only interested in wins and first places. He played with enormous vigour, energy, and a very tenacious fighting spirit. Offering him a draw was a waste of time as many grandmasters would certainly testify to. He would decline their peace offering politely, but firmly. "No, thank you," he would say and the fight at the board would go on and on and on.
In general, with the move towards rules abhorring the so-called “grandmaster draw”, we do now see more fighting chess in elite super-tournaments — which is what the fans, the media, and the sponsors all want to see. But sometimes, as the great Mikhail Tal himself once commented, “If grandmasters are intent on making a draw, even flame-throwers can’t make them want to fight.” And in round seven of the 10th Tal Memorial in Moscow, this seemed to be the case with all the games ending in relatively tame draws, with no threats from either side - but some not without reason.
For leader Ian Nepomniachtchi, holding the draw after 50 moves, following some pressure from Li Chao, allowed him to retain his half point advantage at the top. And his nearest rival, Anish Giri - after being knocked off the joint lead by losing to Levon Aronian in round six - got nothing more than perhaps an added pre-game congratulations and the offer of a cigar by former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.
The reason being that on Monday's rest day, Giri’s wife, WGM Sopiko Guramishvili gave birth to their first child, named Daniel, who caused a little conundrum for his father by arriving two weeks early (at least he waited till the rest day - and fittingly a day assigned by the tournament organisers as being "Children Day"!).
And despite arriving two weeks early, in chess engine parlance, Mother and child are said to be doing “+2”. So our congratulations to Anish and Sopiko!
And at the opposite end of the table, after suffering five successive loses, Boris Gelfand simply had to stop the haemorrhaging at all costs, and he was among the first to neutralise his position as he sought out the draw in his big tail-ender battle with Evgeny Tomashevsky.
Round 7 standings: 1. Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 5/7; 2. Anish Giri (Netherlands) 4.5; 3-5. Levon Aronian (Armenia), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Vishy Anand (India) 4; 6-7. Peter Svidler (Russia), Li Chao (China) 3.5; 8. Shakhiryar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 3; 9. Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia) 2.5; 10. Boris Gelfand (Israel) 1.
GM Levon Aronian - GM Anish Giri
10th Tal Memorial, (6)
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.0-0 Nb6 7.d3 It may be the English Opening, but it is also a reversed Sicilian Dragon, with White having an extra move. 7...Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.Nbd2 Be6 10.Rc1 Qd7 11.a3 Typically in this line, White's focus of attention is concentrated on the queenside, while Black's attention usually is on centralising his forces. 11...Bh3? The start of a bad plan. It looks like an aggressive thrust towards White's king, but is just wrong, as there's no pieces to join in with the attack - and worse, Giri has removed a key piece from what should have been his goal of centralising his activity. 12.Bxh3! As we said in the previous note, there's no fear as Back has no pieces in the vicinity of the kingside to join in with the queen of attacking White's king. 12...Qxh3 13.b4 Bd6 14.Qb3 Aronian sticks to his game-plan of the queenside attack, and there's also now a nasty tactical point to the queen going to b3. 14...Ne7 With Black's queenside rook perhaps needing to stay on the queenside as things open up there, Aronian's queen on b3 prevents Giri from successfully developing his kingside rook, as 14...Rfd8? falls to 15.Qxf7+! Kxf7 16.Ng5+ and White has a nice position and the bonus of an extra pawn. 15.d4 With Giri now having no central control, Aronian strikes there as his pieces spring to life. 15...exd4 16.Bxd4 Nc6 17.Ne4 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Qd7? A humiliating retreat, but immediately it gets hit by White's total control now of the centre with his very active pieces. Perhaps better was continuing with 18...Be5!? 19.Rfd1 (If 19.Nf3 Rae8 20.Nc5 Qc8! at least this retreat has some sense, as Black's forces are more co-ordinated here.) 19...Rae8 20.f4 Bxd4+ 21.Rxd4 Qh5! 22.Qf3 Qxf3 23.exf3 c6 with Black has a difficult time ahead with White having the better position, but with the queens exchanged, the position looks "manageable". 19.Rfd1 Be5 Now if 19...Rae8 20.Qf3! threatens Nf5, where White will have a big advantage with threats towards d6 and Black's kingside. 20.Nc6! Black's position now rapidly falls after this hit; the big target being the weak b-pawn. 20...Qe8 21.Na5 Rb8 22.Nc5 Qc8 23.Qf3 Just look at how all of White's pieces are working together as a unit while Black's pieces have no connect whatsoever - it's no surprise then that there comes a tactical finale. 23...c6 24.b5! (See Diagram) 24...Bb2 25.bxc6 Bxc1 26.Rxc1 Qc7 The pawn on b7 is going to be big, but there's no easy option now as 26...bxc6 27.Nxc6 Re8 28.Nxb8 Qxb8 29.Na6 Qe5 30.Rc7 and White is easily winning. 27.cxb7 Na4 28.Ncb3 Qe7 29.Nd4 Qg5 30.Qf4! With the exchange of queens just making White's win a formality, Giri opts for a "tactical suicide". 30...Qxa5 31.Qxb8! Rxb8 32.Rc8+ Qd8 33.Rxd8+ Rxd8 34.Nc6 1-0 And Giri resigns, as the best he can get here is a hopelessly lost knight ending where he's two pawns down, with 34...Rb8 (Not 34...Rf8? 35.Ne7+ Kh8 36.Nc8! and the b-pawn queens.) 35.Nxb8 Nc5 36.Nc6 Nxb7 37.Nxa7.