5 April 2019

Chasing the Champion

Eteri Kublashvili keeps reporting from Shamkir

Visiting round five of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial and making symbolic move in Carlsen – Mamedyarov was FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich.

Soon after the start of the round there began a big press conference, participating in which were Arkady Dvorkovich and Vice-President of FIDE and ACF Mahir Mammedov. 

FIDE President praised splendid playing conditions in Shamkir. “No effort has been spared to enable grandmasters demonstrate their trademark performance to their fans’ delight. All in all, the Vugar Gashimov Memorial participants are showing their best performance and combative attitude,” highlighted Arkady Dvorkovich.  – Magnus Carlsen is living up to his status of favorite, but his contenders are quite a number as well. Sergey Karjakin and Ding Liren have also joined the ranks of winners, which promises a lot of fight ahead.”

Sharing about the Carlsen phenomenon, FIDE President added that the current world champion is distinguished by a number of features. “He is fully focused on the game while being in an excellent physical shape. Besides, he is supported by an excellent team helping him to sort out all accompanying issues, underlined A. Dvorkovich.

Mahir Mammedov added that the champion was fully entitled to carry the status of the world’s best player. “The chess world should be proud of such a combative and well-prepared champion, a true professional of his business. He does deserve the title. Carlsen is a very ambitious person both in life and career,” said FIDE Vice President. 

During the press conference Arkady Dvorkovich shared about the work accomplished, as well as about new plans and strategies of FIDE. Answering question about major FIDE tournaments taking place in Azerbaijan, Mahir Mammedov said that negotiations were underway about carrying out one of the Women’s Grand Prix stages.  


Photo credit: Official website

Meanwhile, the chess events were taking their usual course. As was mentioned during the press conference, the chess players demonstrated their combative mood as three games ended decisively.

Playing White, Viswanathan Anand defeated Anish Giri in the Anti-Berlin. Grandmasters agreed that it was an inaccuracy in a roughly equal position that resulted in unpleasant consequences for Black.

Anand – Giri

20…Qh5 enabled White to come up with 21. Bc7, and after 21…Rd7 (Anand intended to meet 21…Rc8 with 22. Bb6 Bd6 23. e5) 22. Bb6 Bb4 23. Ne1 Bf7 24. Nd3 Bd6 25. Rde1 the white pieces ended up significantly better deployed than Black’s.


White’s further plan of actions is clear: 25…Bb8 26. f4 f5 27. Ne5 Bxe5 28. dxe5 fxe4 29. Qxe4, etc. Anish’s attempts at counterplay in a strategically hopeless position were stopped by Anand’s precise play, who converted his edge in a confident manner. 

Scoring his first tournament victory was David Navara as he defeated Ding Liren. Navara said he was lucky that day because Ding Liren would usually play better. 

With Black leaving his king in the center in the Meran variation of the Slav Defence, it was a double-edged position. The tactical sequence gave White a rook for a pair of minors. However, Ding's endgame performance was not quite up to the mark, resulting in his knight being cut off at the queenside, while White was pushing his passed h-pawn. The hopelessness of Black’s cause is well demonstrated by the following finisher:

Navara – Ding Liren


45. Rb1! Black resigns. The knight is doomed.

Alexander Grischuk vs Veselin Topalov lasted over 6.5 hours. According to the Russian player, a key moment happened in the middlegame when Black could exchange off one of White’s bishops. Meanwhile, White got a bishop pair advantage over a pair of knights with queens on the board, but converting it was far from easy. Grischuk claimed that there were quite a few players capable of outplaying an engine from this position. He named Carlsen when in good shape as one of them, also adding to this list a young Kasparov or Botvinnik because the latter would have postponed the game to find a win in the home analysis. 

In the game there followed a lengthy maneuvering in this kind of position. 

Grischuk – Topalov

Then Alexander said he was outplayed because he started beating around the bush since seeing same position on the board for two hours was not easy at all.

However, going into the second time control Black started ceding ground, and Alexander Grischuk received congratulations on move 69.  

The Russian GM characterized the game as a perfect example of human players performing that much weaker than the engines.”  

Sergey Karjakin vs Teimour Radjabov was the Catalan and ended in a draw. Teimour was the first to sidestep from the well-trodden paths, but Sergey's precise play gave him playable position with counterchances. White sacrificed a pawn for the initiative, but Teimour admitted that he saw no ways of improving his position. A draw was agreed on move 41.

Magnus Carlsen vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also ended in a draw. The Norwegian said he was slightly surprised by his opponent’s choice of opening (the Tarrasch Defence), which, however, did not come as a disappointment as giving a position full of play. Nevertheless, Carlsen was not quite happy about his performance because of losing a tempo, which Black used to launch a kingside offensive. White had to switch to the defensive, but the game never left the realms of equality and ended in a draw by repetition.  

Tournament standings after round 5:

1. Magnus Carlsen - 3.5; 2-3. Sergey Karjakin, Viswanathan Anand - 3; 4-7. Ding Liren, Teimour Radjabov, Alexander Grischuk, David Navara - 2.5; 8-9. Veselin Topalov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - 2; 10. Anish Giri - 1.5.

Pairings of round six:

Topalov - Mamedyarov, Ding Liren - Carlsen, Giri - Navara, Karjakin - Anand, Grischuk - Radjabov

April 5 is a scheduled rest day at the tournament. Grandmasters are giving simuls to children, as well as participating in a traditional football tournament.