Original article on the 2011 Tal Memorial available on William’s site.

The 2011 Tal Memorial is starting today, featuring 10 of the world’s most elite chess players at an average FIDE rating of 2773! This star-studded round robin is one of the strongest tournaments ever conceived, and I am legitimately excited about the fascinatingly creative chess to come in the next 10 days. And what better place to host such an incredible tournament than the Motherland – Moscow, Russia. The 2010 Tal Memorial ended in a 3-way tie with Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Nakamura finished in the middle of the pack at 5/9 points, however Kramnik and Gelfand ended in 7-8th places in a field of 10. Mamedyarov isn’t playing this year, however there are still a few other players worth mentioning in the 2011 version of the Tal Memorial:

A Line-up That Would Make Mikhail Tal Proud

Just over 1 month ago, Magnus Carlsen destroyed Vassily Ivanchuk in both rounds of the 2011 Bilbao Chess Masters Final and then beat him 1.5-.5 in the tiebreaker to win 1st place honors. Magnus Carlsen is the highest rated player in the world 2826 FIDE, and must be the crowd’s favorite to win the 2011 Tal Memorial chess tournament. Coming in at #2 on the rating list for the 2011 Tal Memorial is Indian Super-GM and reigning World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand at 2817 FIDE. Anand is coming off a lackluster performance at the 2011 Bilbao Chess Masters Final, and will be certainly be looking to rebound with a strong win at the 2011 Tal Memorial. Levon Aronian takes the #3 spot at 2809 FIDE and has been playing solidly in 2011, however has not experienced a tournament win near this caliber. I expect Aronian to loosen up his game slightly and try to break out against this world-class competition.

IVANCHUK – ALWAYS DANGEROUS

Vladimir Kramnik brings in #4 at an even 2800 FIDE, and similar to Aronian will be looking to break away from the pack and play more aggressively to aim for the podium. Don’t forget about Sergei Karjakin in the #5 spot, as the youth had suffered a slight slump in recent months and will be looking to re-establish himself with the very top of the chess elite with a strong win in Moscow. Vassily Ivanchuk is playing with the #6 seed, an absolute monster who never ceases to amaze the chess world with his incredible resiliency and creativity. Ivanchuk’s erraticly eccentric play is impossible to predict, however he has been playing fantastic chess in 2011 (3rd place at the 2011 World Chess Cup, 2nd place at the 2011 Bilbao Chess Masters Final after losing the tiebreak to Carlsen, etc..).

Nakamura Looks To Win Again for the USA

Nakamura is a scrappy competitor, and that’s exactly how he has firmly established his place among the top 10 chess players in the world. Nakamura has had a breakthrough year in 2011, starting by winning the 2011 Tata Steel super-tournament in January and most recently playing a very strong tournament at the 2011 Bilba Chess Masters Final. Nakamura has also been working with Garry Kasparov for the last ~12 months, and hopefully he will be able to score another awesome victory at the 2011 Tal Memorial. In #8, Boris Gelfand will try to make a statement of war against Viswanathan Anand, wanting to score that huge psychology victory over the world champ as they both prepare for their 2012 World Chess Championship Match (also to be held in Moscow). At #9, Peter Svidler has played lights-out chess in 2011 (winning the Chess World Cup certainly comes to mind) and is always dangerous. And at #10 there is Russian rising star Ian Nepomniachtchi – a very talented young man who is capable of bringing a lot of pain with either color.

PREDICTIONS for the 2011 Tal Memorial:

The 2011 Tal Memorial is going to be a downright shootout with 10 of the world’s very best chess players. As much as I want Hikaru Nakamura to win the whole thing, Magnus Carlsen is just too good. The Norwegian wunderkind has made a living of sticking around in the super-tournaments and grinding his way to first place with a series of late wins. Carlsen’s pragmatic tournament strategy combined with his outstanding natural brilliance makes him the hands-down favorite in almost any super-tournament. On a side note, I’m very pleased to see that the tournament organizers have done such an amazing job at putting this impressive event together year after year to honor one of my favorite all-time players – the late, Great Mikhail Tal. For all of my readers, I recommend a huge dose of Mikhail Tal games in your daily tactics studying to take your game to the next level.

Original article on the 2011 Tal Memorial available on William’s site.

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National Chess Master William Stewart is a Chess Tutor who maintains a daily updated Chess Blog with videos as well. Interface: Internet Chess Club

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