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Can Vishy Anand repeat his Riyadh magic in Moscow?

by Sagar Shah - 02/03/2018

If there is a time when Vishy Anand would be a favourite to win a rapid tournament, it is now! The Indian champion performed unbelievably at the Rapid World Championship a couple of months ago to become the World Rapid Champion 2017. From 2nd of March 2018, he will take part in the Tal Memorial 2018 where he will take on nine other super grandmasters in nine rounds of rapid chess followed by thirteen rounds of blitz. Candidates 2018 is just a week away but four players are taking part - Kramnik, Karjakin, Grischuk and Mamedyarov. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top. 

Tal Memorial, the Rapid and Blitz event with a total prize fund of 150,000 USD will begin on 2nd March 2018. With World Rapid Champion Vishy Anand playing, Indians are surely going to have an exciting time ahead! The strong 10-player rapid event is going to be a highly interesting tournament with the following players:


1. Hikaru Nakamura (USA, rapid rating 2823/blitz rating 2853)

2. Viswanathan Anand (India, 2805/2801)

3. Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia, 2803/2768)

4. Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, 2795/2784)

5. Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 2792/2846)

6. Peter Svidler (Russia, 2770 /2793)

7. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, 2755/2714)

8. Sergey Karjakin (Russia, 2724/2868)

9. Boris Gelfand (Israel, 2644/2745)

10. Daniil Dubov (Russia, 2617/2767).

The view from the Sheraton Hotel, in the heart of Moscow, where all the players are staying | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The room is cozy and has all the things necessary to work in peace for such an important event | Photo: Amruta Mokal

But the best part for me in the hotel is its breakfast! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In the afternoon Amruta and I went for a 15 minute walk in order to change some euros to rubles. It was the first time that we had stepped out in -18 degree environment. We were badly prepared, and just like it happens in a game of chess against a strong opponent, we were punished. Although the playing hall is just two kilometres away from the hotel, we left any ideas of walking to the venue!

Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik relax at the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel as they wait for the bus to arrive. Sergey Karjakin is just back from his epic duel at the Aeroflot Open against Praggnanandhaa and was enumerating it to the two champions! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Praggnanandhaa has been associated with Sergey Karjakin for over a year now. Ever since Pragg became the youngest IM in the world at the age of 10 years and 10 months, everyone's eyes were on him as to whether he could break Karjakin's world record of youngest GM at the age of 12 years and 7 months. It seemed pretty doable as Pragg achieved his maiden GM norm and also surpassed 2500 Elo mark. However, the last two norms were hard to come by. With just one week to go (On 8th of March Pragg will turn 12 years and 7 months old) Pragg will not be able to beat Karjakin's record, but the two were paired against each other in the Aeroflot Blitz. It was two games of 3 minutes + 2 seconds increment.

Youngest GM in the world against youngest IM in the world! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

In the first game, Pragg was better and he pushed very hard. Karjakin tried to repeat the position, but Pragg turned it down and played for a win. Just when the win was very close, the little boy blundered and the game ended in a draw. In game two when Karjakin got the white pieces, he played carefully and without too many difficulties won the mini-match with a score of 1.5-0.5.


This match showed that records while important, are secondary. The main fight is over the board. Although, Praggnanandhaa couldn't break the record, he was successful in convincing Karjakin with his play about what a huge talent he is. Later when Karjakin was interviewed he said, "Pragg is a big talent and has a very bright future."

The only problem for Karjakin is that he cannot pronounce little Praggu's full name! Well, we are sure that in the years to come Pragg will ensure that Karjakin learns a lot more about him including his name. Now that the youngest GM pressure is off, we are sure that Pragg will achieve his GM title very soon.

The conversation continued up to the playing hall and the topic changed from chess prodigies to up bringing of kids! | Photo: Amruta Mokal
Vishy Anand speaks about the tournament, Moscow cold and influence of Mikhail Tal on his life

Here's Vishy Anand's only game that he played against Mikhail Tal:

Gelfand and Mamedyarov get ready for the opening ceremony after a hard day at the Aeroflot Blitz | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Anand and Svidler have always been good friends! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy Anand talks with the deputy Prime Minister of Russia Arkady Dvorkovich | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Mark Glukhovsky conducts the drawing of lots. Each player had to pick a post card on the board and the number was written it. Vishy Anand plays Daniil Dubov in round one. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Round 1 pairings:

Mamedyarov – Kramnik,

Svidler – Nepomniachtchi,

Anand – Dubov,

Nakamura – Gelfand,

Karjakin - Grischuk

Games begin at 3 p.m. Moscow time (5.30 p.m. IST)

The tournament is held in the memory of the eighth World Champion: Mikhail Tal

I spent an hour before the opening ceremony collecting some of the best positions played by Mikhail Tal and gave these positions as tests to Anand, Karjakin, Gelfand, Svidler and Dubov. The way they all breezed through these positions shows how current champions take care that they know about their predecessors!

Daniil Dubov's knowledge of Tal's games was simply superb!

Here is my favourite game from the eleven that I had selected. I think it has some mind-boggling calculations that can give you hours of analytical happiness!:

Replay all the eleven games here

The Russian Museum of Impressionism is where the tournament will be held! It is a part of Russian Chess Federation's Chess in Museums programme.

Tal Memorial report on ChessBase International

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