Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri continued their torrid pace in the Gashimov Memorial by dispatching their opponents in Round 5.

Nothing and no one are slowing down Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri as they make their way through the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan. Round 5 was more of the same as Caruana, of the United States, and Giri, of the  Netherlands, won again to remain well in front of the rest of the field. Caruana has 4.5 points and Giri has 4.

They both almost made it look easy.

Caruana was the the first to finish and it came from a nice attacking effort against Teimour Radjabov, one of the four representatives of the host country in the tournament.

Caruana, Fabiano vs. Radjabov, Teimour
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir, Azerbaijan | Round 5 | 30 May 2016 | 1-0
16. g4! Natural and strong. White is getting his attack in motion.
16... a3? I don't understand this move. In addition to having a dangerous attack, White will now be up a pawn as well.
16... b4 White is definitely better but this would have at least created some counterplay.
17. Nb1 b3  )
17. b4! Winning the pawn on c5.
17... Nd7 18. Nxd7 Bxd7 19. e5! Ne4 is going to hurt
19... f5 20. Ne2 Bg7 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 22. h4!? Going for the throat. This is certainly not a bad move and Caruana wins quite convincingly, but I probably would have taken a more pragmatic route
22. Qxc5 This should be entirely hopeless for Black -- he is down a pawn and has a lousy bishop.  )
22... fxg4 23. h5 gxh5 24. Ng3 The attack basically plays itself. Black is will be crushed.
24... Kh8 25. Nxh5 Re7 26. Nf6 Be8 27. f5 exf5 28. Rxf5 Qc7 29. Rg5! Caruana never slows down
29. Qxc5 Bf7 This would offer Black some vague hope of survival...but not much.  )
29... Rg7 30. Rh1 Bg6 31. Rxg4
31. Qxc5 I always want to take this pawn. This time I might actually be right, but Caruana's choice is also fine.  )
31... Qf7 32. Kb1 cxb4 33. Qd4 Bf5 34. e6! One final tactic to finish the game
34... Rxg4
34... Bxe6 Does not help
35. Rxh7+ Rxh7 36. Nxh7+ Kxh7 37. Qe4+ Kh6 38. Qe3+ Kh7 39. Qh3+  )
35. exf7! Rxd4 36. Ne8!

Giri followed shortly thereafter by quickly seizing the initiative in the endgame after his opponent, Eltaj Safarli, another player from Azerbaijan, erred by allowing a misplaced knight of Giri’s back into the game.

Safarli, Eltaj vs. Giri, Anish
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir, Azerbaijan | Round 5 | 30 May 2016 | 0-1
23. Qxd7? This allows the lousy knight on b6 a clear route back into the game
23. Nh4!  )
23... Nbxd7! The knight will head to e5. White's position is becoming unpleasant
24. Nd2
24. Nh4 This looks more natural to me, but I'd still prefer to play Black.  )
24... Ne5 25. Bc2 Bd7! 26. f3 White tries to undermine the important pawn on e4, but a one-two punch of tactical tricks makes it possible for Black to preserve it and not move it.
26... Rad8! Black's pieces are continuously developing with tempo. The knight on d2 is indirectly attacked.
27. Rad1
27. fxe4? Bxb5 28. axb5 Rxd2  )
27... Rg8! Again developing a piece and creating a threat.
28. Kh2
28. fxe4? Bxb5 29. cxb5 Rxd2! 30. Rxd2 Nf3+  )
28... Be8! And the pawn on e4 still cannot be taken!
29. Nc7
29. fxe4? Bh5  )
29... Bh5 30. Ne6 Rde8 31. Nc7 Re7 32. Nd5 Nxd5 33. cxd5 exf3! The final finesse. Black temporarily sacrifices a piece, but it was not too hard to calculate.
34. d6 Reg7! 35. g4 Nxg4+! 36. hxg4 Rxg4 The threat of Rh4 mate is not easy to deal with
37. Nxf3
37. Rg1 Rh4#  )
37. Kh3 Rg3+ 38. Kh2 Rg2+ 39. Kh3 f4  )
37... Rg2+ 38. Kh3 Bxf3 39. Bb3 R8g3+ 40. Kh4 Rg4+ 41. Kh3 Bxd1 42. d7 R4g3+ 43. Kh4 Rd3

While the victories by Caruana and Giri were the most notable, two of the other three games also ended decisively. Sergy Karjakin of Russian improved to a score of +1 by grinding down Hou Yifan of China in an endgame I don’t think she should have lost. Karjakin trails Caruana by 1.5 points and Giri by a point, but he has yet to play either of them so he could really shake up the standings if he beats them.

My two favorite players in the tournament faced each other in Round 5 and I had mixed feelings. I was delighted to see Pentala Harikrishna of India come back and win after two really disheartening losses in a row. But I felt badly for his opponent, Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, who is having a brutally difficult event — he has now lost three games. The latest came when he erred while under huge pressure, clearly underestimating the power of the White queen:

Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Eljanov, Pavel
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir, Azerbaijan | Round 5 | 30 May 2016 | 1-0
exd4? the White queen will be too strong
26... Qb4 Several other moves also maintain equality, but this one looks the most natural to me as it prepares to bring the queen back to the defense. Note that
27. dxe5? Fails to
27... Qc5+  )
27. Bxh6! Qxf1+ 28. Kxf1 Nfxh6+ 29. Kg1 For the moment, Black is up material, but he is unable to prevent Rxh6+, and then his king is so exposed that it will be easy for the White queen to harvest all the Black pawns.
29... Rab8 30. Rxh6+ Nxh6 31. Qxh6+ Kg8 32. Qg6+ Kh8 33. h3! Keeping the king nice and cozy. Rb1 was a serious threat
33... d3 34. Qh6+ Kg8 35. Qxa6! Simple and strong. The pawns start dropping one by one.
35... dxc2 36. Qxc4+ Kh8 37. Qc3+ Kg8 38. Qxc2 Rfc8 39. Qc6 Kf7 40. a4 Ke7 41. a5 I was a little surprised to see Eljanov resign here, but his position is definitely completely lost.

Tuesday is a rest day in Shamkir. In Round 6 on Wednesday, Eljanov will have the task of trying to slow down Giri while playing Black, while Safarli will at least have White against Caruana. 


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.