After the first round of the elite Gashimov Memorial was dominated by draws, Round 2 featured three decisive games
The second round of the Gashimov Memorial, which is being held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, was full of fireworks as three of the five games produced a decisive result.
As I anticipated, and as I wrote at the end of the report on Round 1, one of the most exciting games of the round was between Pentala Harikrishna of India and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of the host country. Indeed, it was the first game to end decisively, and Harikrishna made it look easy:
Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 2 |27 May 2016 |1-0
18. Rd3White has a pleasant edge with control of the open file and a
better bishop, but Blacks position is pretty solid. It's remarkable how quickly Harikrishna is able to win the game from this point. 18... Qe6?Lashing out too soon, but sitting back and defending passively is not Mamedyarov's style
( 18... Bf8This looks more natural to me as it
tries to improve Black's worst positioned piece. White would still be better, but there would be a
long way to go before he could win. 19. Rad1Rac820. Bg5 )
19. Qxc7!Nxe420. Rad1White dominates the open file 20... Bf6What else? Black can barely move. 21. Nd2!Trading Black's best placed piece. 21... Nxd222. R1xd2e423. Rd6Be524. Rxe6Bxc725. Rc6Rec826. Kf1!White does not take the pawn because it is poisoned. His position is completely winning because his pieces are more active than Blacks and Black has many weaknesses.
( 26. Bxb6?Always be on the lookout for tricks 26... Bh2+ )
26... Bd827. Rcd6Rab828. Rd7Bf629. Bf4!Ra830. Rb7!Now Black cannot stop an invasion on the 7th rank 30... Rc6
( 30... Rd831. Rxb6Looks easy enough )
31. Rdd7Rd8Losing a piece, but the game was already far beyond saving. 32. Rxd8+Bxd833. Rb8
Fabiano Caruana of the United States soon joined Harikrishna in the lead by beating Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine. It was a rather strange game. Eljanov had an extra pawn, but he overvalued it and declined a repetition of position that would have led to a draw. In fact, the only really relevant factor in the game was the precarious position of Eljanov’s king, which made it possible for Caruana to scoop up the full point.
Eljanov, Pavel vs. Caruana, Fabiano
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 2 |27 May 2016 |0-1
Qg235. Bxf5?!Objectively this is not a bad move, but it may be the start of White's subsequent problems.
( 35. Qe3Centralizing the queen would have been solid and looks more natural to me. )
35... exf536. Kc2?
( 36. Rc2Apparently this was the only move )
( 36... Qf3!Would have won on the spot as the threat of Qd3+ is a major threat 37. Qe3Qh1 )
37. Kd2Qg238. Kc1I have no idea why Eljanov felt the need to avoid a repetition here 38... Qf3Perhaps Caruana would have found this against Kc2 as well 39. Rc2Ra840. Qe2Qh1+41. Kd2Ra1Black doesn't have a threat, but White is in a very pretty zugzwang; he is unable to defend everything. 42. Qe8+Kg743. Qe5+Kh744. Qe2Rb1!Zugzwang again, and this time there are no checks 45. f3Rg1With Rg2 coming, Eljanov had seen enough
The final decisive result occurred in the game between Anish Giri of the Netherlands and Sergey Karjakin of Russia. It was similar to the Eljanov-Caruana game in that the position was objectively equal when Karjakin, whose position was under a bit more pressure, avoided a move repetition that would have led to a draw and promptly got into terrible trouble:
Giri, Anish vs. Karjakin, Sergey
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 2 |27 May 2016 |1-0
Qg4The computer insists this position is absolutely equal. Ojectively, it is probably right. It's certainly very hard to suggest any kind of credible plan for either side. That said, the only real breaks available in the position - f5 and e5 - both belong to White, so he has a cosmetic advantage. 34. Kg2Rhe8??One question mark for the quality of the move, one question mark for even considering declining a repetition when he has absolutely no active play.
( 34... Qd7Among other moves, this equalizes easily and waits to see if White will play Kh2 again )
35. f5!Giri pounces on his chance. He threatens to trap the Black queen by playing Nf2. 35... gxf536. Nf2Qg637. exf5Rxe2
( 37... Qf7This
does not help: 38. Rxe7Rxe739. Rxe7Qxe740. Qxh5 )
38. fxg6!Rxe139. Qxh5Rh840. Qf3With the Black king exposed, the White queen is much
better than the rooks. Giri soon wins an exchange as well 40... Re341. Qg4Re542. Qd7+Kxg643. Ne4This knight will soon cost Black a rook and the combination of queen and knight is an extremely dangerous attacking duo, particularly with Black's king in the open. 43... Nxd344. Qg4+!One last accurate move seals the deal
( 44. Nxd6?Re2+And Black can force a draw: 45. Kf1Re1+46. Kg2Re2+47. Kh3Nf2+ )
44... Kh645. Nxd6Now Black is unable to play Re2+, and White is threatening Nf5. 45... Rf846. Nf5+Rxf547. Qxf5Ne548. Qe6d349. Qxb6Rf750. Qxa5Rd751. Qd2+Kg7White still has to be a little careful because the d-pawn keeps the queen on the defensive for now. But with accurate play, Giri is able to convert his advantage into a full point. 52. a5!Nc653. a6Kf754. h5!The pawns split Black's position apart 54... Nb455. h6Kg656. Qf4Rd457. h7!Rxf4
( 57... Kxh758. Qc7+Kg659. a7White
would promote his pawn first and easily checkmate Black. 59... d260. a8=Qd1=Q61. Qg8+Kf562. Qgh7+Ke663. Qce7# )
58. h8=Qd259. Qe8+Kh660. Qh8+Kg661. Qe8+Kh662. Qe2Rd463. a7d1=Q64. Qxd1Rxd165. a8=QIf Black could get his rook to e5 or g5 and his king to g7, he might have some vague hopes to create a fortress. But it turns
out to be impossible. 65... Rd2+
( 65... Re1Black wants to play Re5, but he is too slow as White could take the pawn on c5 before it can be defended. 66. Qf8+Kg667. Qxc5 )
It was a tough loss for Karjakin, who has been struggling ever since his brilliant victory in the Candidates tournament in March.
The other games between the Azeri players Rauf Mamedov and Teimour Radjabov and Hou Yifan of China and Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan were relatively quiet affairs.
Since I did so well predicting which game would be interesting in Round 2, I’ll do it again and mark Mamedyarov-Eljanov as the game to watch in Round 3 because both players are in the cellar in the standings and will want to fight their way out.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
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