Chess is offering up a holiday banquet this week in both the men’s and women’s game.
In Moscow, one of the strongest tournaments ever wraps Thursday as the annual Tal Memorial enters the homestretch. The 10-player round-robin features the world champion (Viswanathan Anand), his upcoming challenger (Boris Gelfand), his immediate predecessor (Vladimir Kramnik) and three young stars (Magnus Carlsen of Norway, American Hikaru Nakamura and Russian Sergey Karjakin) who many think will wear the crown someday.
On the distaff side, 17-year-old women’s world champion WGM Hou Yifan is trying to hold off a determined challenge from Indian WGM Humpy Koneru in a 10-game world title match set to conclude Nov. 27. (It’s a measure of the tectonic shift in the game that a Chinese and an Indian are competing for a title long held by Russians and East Europeans.) While Koneru has dictated much of the play in the early rounds, Hou has held firm, with victories in Game 3 and Monday’s Game 6 to take a 4-2 lead with four games to play.
As might be expected, the play in Moscow has been world-class, with a lot of fighting games and easy points extremely hard to come by. The two most entertaining games of the Tal’s first half just may have been Kramnik-Carlsen and Karjakin’s battle with Russian champion Peter Svidler, both of which ended in draws.
Svidler conducted a clinic in modern grandmaster positional play in dealing Nakamura his only loss so far in Moscow, using a perfectly timed exchange sacrifice to gain an advantage and then nailing down the point with some inspired tactical play. In a classic Grunfeld Exchange battle, White’s more active bishops and the half-open files for his rooks appear to give him a slight pull, but Svidler turns the tables nicely in what seems an unpromising position.