As I write, the Mikhail Tal Memorial tournament in Moscow is still underway. The Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri stormed into an early lead, winning three games out of his first five. But he was toppled when coming to grief in the following dramatic situation.
Aronian-Giri: Tal Memorial Moscow 2016
(see diagram 1)
White has sacrificed a rook but can regain material with 31 Nc6 Qb6 32 Nxb8 Qxb7 with an extra pawn. Nevertheless, the Armenian triple olympiad gold medal winner came up with something far more dashing. 31 Qxb8 Rxb8 32 Rc8+ Qd8 Obviously forced. 33 Rxd8+ Rxd8 34 Nc6 Black resigns If 34 … Re8 35 Ne7+ Kf8 36 Nc8 sheltering the promotion square for White’s passed pawn. Or 34 … Rb8 35 Nxb8 Nc5 36 Nc6 Nxb7 37 Nxa7 leaves White two pawns ahead with an easy win. Finally 34 … Rd1+ 35 Kg2 Rb1 36 Nb4 again ensures promotion.
In the next extract White also exploits a pseudo-sacrifice of his queen to reach a winning endgame.
Kramnik-Gelfand: Tal Memorial Moscow 2016
(see diagram 2)
28 Qxb6 This neatly snuffs out any counterplay Black may have been expecting against the white king. 28 … Qxb6 29 Nd5+ Kf8 30 Nxb6 Rxb6 31 c3 In the resultant endgame White has accumulated so many small advantages that the win is almost automatic. These include a passed h-pawn, Black targets on a6, d6 and f7 and mobile White queenside pawns. 31 … Be3 32 Kc2 Kg7 33 b4 Kh6 34 Bc4 Bf2 35 Rh1 Rc6 36 Kb3 Rb6 37 Kc2 The former world champion is in no hurry at all. His advantage is of the type that will never go away. 37 … Rc6 38 Kd3 Rc7 Surrendering the a-pawn is an admission of total defeat but in any case White will round it up at some point with Ra1. Meanwhile Black’s pawn on f7 is also threatened and 38 … Kg7 fails to 39 h5. 39 Bxa6 Kh5 40 Bc4 Ra7 41 Bd5 Kh6 42 h5 Bb6 43 Kc4 Be3 44 Kb3 Bb6 45 Rh2 Be3 46 Re2 Bb6 47 Ra2 The final thrust. White’s pawn on h5 is superfluous. Victory will come on the queenside. 47 … Rxa2 48 Kxa2 Kxh5 49 Kb3 Bf2 50 Ka4 Kh6 51 Kb5 Kg7 52 Kc6 Kf8 53 b5 Ke7 54 Kc7 Black resigns
The puzzle this week features one of Mikhail Tal’s 1961 World Championship wins. The Moscow tournament was organised in his memory. Alert readers will spot a common theme in all three diagram positions this week.