24 April 2017

Finita la Serie

Round One of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

Much to the joy of spectators and mass media, the Vugar Gashimov Memorial participants have started fighting with open visors right from the word go. Two other than draw games out of five would be an excellent result for any supertournament. This said, even draws came as a result of hard-fought battles. 
It is worth noting that games are played without time increment until move 61, so that time trouble not only tends to tickle the chessplayers’ nerves, but becomes an entirely decisive factor in certain encounters. Besides, no draws are allowed prior to move 40.  

The first to win his game was the reigning tournament winner Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He defeated Wesley So with the black pieces. The US champion had gone undefeated for as long as a year (67 games), but Shamkir had this streak of luck discontinued. Shakhriyar immediately proved who is boss in the neighborhood. 

At the press conference Mamedyarov admitted that he had a home prep in the Scotch, which should have led to no more than a draw, but during the game he decided to go on nonetheless. "Then I probably worsened my position somewhat by allowing some counterplay after 30…f4, but in the end Wesley’s time trouble outweighed everything else," shared his thoughts Shakhriyar. Meanwhile, the engine never shows any advantage for White.  

An instant game-over happened after White’s move 39: 
So – Mamedyarov 

39. Qxf3+?? 

Recapturing with a pawn would have resulted in a draw, most likely. 

39… е4. White resigns as he cannot defend the c4-pawn, the loss of which is a disaster for him. 

The second victory was scored in the game of Pavel Eljanov and Teimour Radjabov. The opponents handled the opening into the "anti-Berlin" in which Black’s position was rather solid, but following the trade of heavy pieces the arising endgame with White's knight versus Black’s bishop called for a certain amount of defensive accuracy from Radjabov. Being pressed for time, Radjabov failed to find a best setup for his pieces and White managed to achieve a decisive advantage.

Eljanov -  Radjabov 


34…Bd7, analyzed by grandmasters during the press conference, was perhaps a tougher continuation with the idea of meeting 35. Kd2 with 35…с5, which creates a hard-to-break barrier on White’s way to the queenside. 

In the game, however, after 35. Kd2 a6 36. Ke3 Kg8 37. Nf5 Kf7 38. Kd4 the white king found his way to the a6-pawn, the loss of which forced Black’s resignation.

Developing relatively calmly in the Ragozin Defense was the game Karjakin-Harikrishna. The viscous middlegame struggle transposed into an endgame with two white bishops versus a bishop and a knight, but soon enough Sergey had to trade one of his "trunk" animals, resulting in a drawn opposite-colored bishop ending. A draw was agreed immediately after move 40. 

Veselin Topalov got a promising position in the anti-Marshall system of the Ruy Lopez against Michael Adams. White grabbed space on the queenside and broke through the center, but Adams defended very ingeniously and gradually equalized. 

Topalov admitted that he started missing all his opponent’s moves towards the end of the game. Therefore, when the position simplified, White decided against continuing the fight and a draw was agreed after Black’s move 42. 

The game Wojtaszek-Kramnik looked so drawish at a certain moment that it felt like it would be the first to end. This said, Wojtaszek demonstrated his ambitions when refusing from repeating moves at least once out of the opening. 

This decision petered out into an over 7-hour battle. The 14th world champion, taking advantage of the opponent’s imprecise performance, found ways of improving his position in a rook plus knight ending to win a pawn and go into a lengthy probing of Radoslaw’s defensive skills. However, Black did not have a direct win and the Polish grandmaster successfully passed the exam by keeping a cool head in defense and saving the game. 

Thus, after round one we have two leaders - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Pavel Eljanov.

Round two features the following parings:

Kramnik - Radjabov, Harikrishna - Eljanov, Mamedyarov - Karjakin, Adams - So, Wojtaszek - Topalov