Maria Fominykh’s final report on the Tal Memorial at ChessPro included interviews with two of the winners, Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian. Both players talked about the main event, but also the upcoming blitz.
Ilya Odessky’s report on round 8 of the Tal Memorial concluded as follows:
I’ll end today’s report with a quotation from my favourite short story, “The Hunters”. It was written by Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev (Kharms), and the first lines of the story, I don’t know why, have an indescribable charm for me.
“Six men went hunting, but only four returned. Two, in fact, didn’t return. Oknov, Kozlov, Stryuchkov and Motylkov returned home safely, but Shirokov and Kablukov perished on the hunt.”
On the 14th November at 3 pm Moscow Time Mamedyarov, Aronian, Karjakin, Wang Hao, Grischuk and Nakamura are going hunting.
Now that the event’s over we can say that Wang Hao and Nakamura perished, while the others, despite various tribulations, all returned safely (although Mamedyarov lost his game he still finished in joint first with Karjakin and Aronian).
Sergey Karjakin explained his struggle in the final round as a result of his magnificent win against Kramnik the day before. Here’s what he said to Maria Fominykh then (the ChessPro report has a board where you can play through all the moves):
Today you said you played in the style of Tal. Did you want to fight for the special prize?
First and foremost I tried to play according to the position. After 13…Re8 if I did nothing he’d play h6 and I’d have to return my knight to f3, and I didn’t like that idea. I think the position demanded some sort of energetic measures. Seeing as I’d already moved my knight to g5 I didn’t want to withdraw it. I wasn’t really thinking about the prize as my primary aim was to play well in that game. And I managed.
I deliberately played that line in order to get opposite-side castling so there was a likelihood of setting up an attack. Looking at the position that arose in today’s game you might have thought we’d played some kind of sharp Sicilian, and not the Petroff.
Kramnik played a novelty in the opening. It’s said that in contemporary chess a novelty has such a psychological impact that players often start to play very poorly (Maria’s probably thinking of this interview during the tournament). How did it affect you?
Yes, it wasn’t a pleasant moment. I thought for 25 minutes and then went for 13. Kb1. If at that moment he’d made a move quickly, demonstrating that he’d looked at the king move as well, then it would have been quite unpleasant. But he also sank into thought and I realised we had a level playing field.
In turn, you no doubt managed to surprise him with the move 15. Be2?
No doubt he was surprised, because you want to play g4 immediately. That doesn’t work out, however, so I got the idea of playing positionally.
The piece sacrifice was positional?
Yes, in as far as it’s impossible to calculate everything. But, in any case, I figured that after 15…hxg5 16. hxg5 I had a clear plan of attack. I move g4, f4 and he has to do something, because if he simply retreats his pieces then I’ll mate him on the h-file. The move 15. Be2 posed big practical problems, and it paid off. I could have played more calmly but then, more likely than not, it would have been a draw, while I really wanted to win and so took a risk. I wanted to win, because it was practically the last chance to fight for first place.
Maria Fominkykh talked to Karjakin again after he’d managed to find a drawing resource in a totally lost position in the final round:
It seems you managed to bamboozle Wang Hao today?
He lost yesterday and was a bit out of sorts. You could see that in the fact that at some moment he lost concentration. In principle he only made one mistake, when he played hxg6.
No doubt you were counting on that move?
I don’t know what I was counting on, but the main thing is that after 38…a4 39. Qxa4 I continued to fight and didn’t resign. That was an act of will!
The a4 move was simply a blunder?
Yes, I thought it was a deflection and that I’d caught him out – he couldn’t take the pawn as the bishop would be hanging. I didn’t see the move Re8, but I decided to make a few more moves before resigning. I decided to hunt for some practical chances. I thought that if I played Qc1 I might get some sort of chance or, more likely, be able to give a check. Of course, anything would have won.
I’m really happy that I shared first place. The prizes are shared here, so the tiebreakers aren’t so important. If Mamedyarov had won then he’d have been first, so I played with the idea that I might have to play for a win. Well, and I did, making an incorrect sacrifice. I ended up worse, and instead of defending I went and blundered away a pawn.
Yesterday you sacrificed a piece, and it paid off. Did that inspire you to make more sacrifices?
It’s actually very dangerous to win a game in the style I did yesterday. After that your head can start to spin and you begin to think you can sacrifice whenever you want against whoever you want. You lose objectivity.
So you wanted to win again in the style of Tal?
Yes, I wanted to. In the end I was hoping that I’d find a mate, but in fact I had to give perpetual check because there was no winning idea.
Your second Alexander Motylev often appeared at the tournament, and then disappeared somewhere.
I didn’t want to advertise it, but he left three days ago for the Bundesliga. Therefore, no doubt, Kramnik thought yesterday that he’d spent the whole day preparing the Petroff, as he didn’t show up here, but in fact he’d simply left.
The blitz is coming now. What’s your mood like before the tournament?
Blitz is just some relaxation, the result’s not so important.
But still, it’s the World Championship?
Yes, naturally, you want to play well. Last year I came third, but I didn’t play in the Memorial. This year I’m tired, so we’ll see how it goes, how much energy I’ll have left.
Everyone here is talking about being very tired. Some have played their fifth tournament in a row, while it’s Shirov’s seventh.
I said myself that I was tired even after the game with Gelfand (in the first round). And now I’ve built up even more tiredness. It’s simply that the calendar’s very unbalanced. All the main tournaments take place at the end of the year. At the beginning of the year I played very little, and now at the end a lot, which, of course, is wrong. If some of the official FIDE tournaments took place at the start of the year it’d be better. The calendar’s arranged very incompetently, and it’s been the same year after year.
Magnus Carlsen expressed his disagreement with some of FIDE’s decisions by his decision not to play in the Candidates Matches. Is such a position close to yours?
Actually I don’t really agree with him. Of course, it’s his personal decision, but it seems to me that if you’ve got into that eight then it’s strange not to play. In any case, I’d play. It strikes me that at such an age you can gain some experience by playing in matches. It’s a chance of becoming World Champion, which you shouldn’t miss.
In his report on the final round, Sergey Shipov described Aronian’s game with Eljanov as follows:
It’s a shame to spend time and effort pressing keys. The game isn’t worth it! Eljanov deliberately refused to fight for an opening edge in the Meran and got what he wanted – an absolutely equal and dull position, which he brought to a logical draw.
Levon Aronian was of a similar opinion:
You don’t appear to be very satisfied. Are you disappointed with your result?
No, I’m happy with the result on the whole, but the last game wasn’t very interesting.
Eljanov hasn’t done very well here. Didn’t you want to bluff a little?
I thought about it, but I didn’t take the risk. There are positions which simply aren’t suited to playing for a win. I think that even if you woke Pavel up at 4am he still wouldn’t have lost. The level of all the players at this tournament is still very high.
I prepared all morning right up until the game. I won’t reveal all the secrets, but I prepared a very interesting line. In the game, however, Pavel took a different path. I equalised, but it was just a draw. I thought he might want to beat me and would choose a more aggressive line.
In general, did you have good luck at this tournament?
In the first game I was lucky, while the second win was deserved. I didn’t take my chance against Karjakin. Of course, I wanted to win the tournament.
Where do you get motivation from – what aims do you set yourself?
The motivation is that I can still see flaws in my game, including my opening knowledge, and I want to get rid of those flaws. The results will then come of their own accord.
When you’re talking about your games you often say that you didn’t know anything in the opening. How’s that possible: you don’t know anything and you play so well?
It’s a myth thought up by journalists, that I’m some sort of superman who doesn’t know anything and finds everything at the board. If I say that I didn’t know a variation then that means that I didn’t know it.
What would you do in life if chess didn’t exist? Or can’t you imagine such a thing?
I’ve always had the urge to learn something new, and fortunately I haven’t lost that as I’ve grown older. I don’t think I’m so useless that I couldn’t find something else to do.
Above all, I’ve always been attracted to music. I learnt the piano for a year, then I had to give it up, but I’ve always been drawn to music. Perhaps I’d see what I could do in art, for example, in cinema or in literature.
Can you cook?
I like cooking and, by the way, I’m even pretty ok at it. You could even say that I’m a gourmet.
How will you get in the mood for blitz?
I don’t think you particularly need to get in the mood for blitz. I’ve never considered myself a strong blitz player. The 3 minute time control isn’t for me. Even 4 minutes would already be a more suitable control. That minute is significant as it means you’ve actually got some time to think up a plan. I don’t consider myself, or anyone else, a favourite for this Championship. Whoever’s in the best mental and physical form will win. In any case, chess players at this level play strongly in any form of chess. Either in blitz or in Fischer Chess.
Would you play blitz in Fischer Chess?
I really like it, but there are barely any Fischer Chess events. If the Tal Memorial had such a tournament then I’m be happy to play.
The most memorable moment of the final round was Nakamura’s blunder at the end of the longest game of the day against Grischuk. Here’s the Russian’s description of it:
A miracle happened. He deserved to win. In the first time trouble I messed something up as before that at the very least I wasn’t worse. After the time control I had a hopeless position but he started to make a few mistakes, only to again have a winning position. But he thought that he’d mate me after h5. He almost picked up the pawn. He thought he was winning.
Much has been made of Nakamura’s tweet after the game: “One of the single most disappointing oversights in my whole career. However, I am going to destroy Grischuk like a baby in the blitz.” (incidently, that didn’t go so well!) Less well known is Grischuk’s explanation of the game to his daughter, Masha (“guy” below is literally “uncle”).
Daddy, why did you play so long?
A bad guy wanted to play with me for that long. Can you imagine it, having to play such guys!
Ilya Odessky’s report on the final round has just been published (I’d given up hope, but might now return to it!). He also ends by reporting Masha and Alexander’s words, but continues the dialogue:
“Mummy and me”, Masha said, clearly totally satisfied with the previous reply, “watched a cartoon about Dalmatians. Two parts!!!”
And everyone who heard that understood that there exist matters more important than a draw with Nakamura.
Perhaps more important than any other result either.