After a rest day at the Gashimov Memorial, the players were back in action, but all of the games were drawn.
Round 6 of the Gashimov Memorial was like Round 1, at least in terms of results: All five games were drawn. So the standings were unchanged and Fabiano Caruana of the United States remains in the lead, now with 5 points, followed by Anish Giri of the Netherlands, who has 4.5 points, and Sergey Karjakin of Russia, who has 3.5.
Most of the games were uneventful, but it was surprising to me to see Caruana, who has been playing well throughout the event, squander a large advantage against Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan, who is a signifcantly lower-rated player.
Safarli, Eltaj vs. Caruana, Fabiano
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 6 |01 Jun 2016 |1/2-1/2
h5!?Aggressive, and I like it! Caruana is not in the mood to mess around 15. O-Og5!16. Nd4?
( 16. c5!The engine recommends this move, looking for counterplay. I like the idea. If White just sits around waiting, he will definitely end up in a worse position. 16... bxc517. Na5!d618. Nxb7Qxb719. Bxe5dxe520. Bc4White looks fine to me )
16... h417. Bxe5Qxe518. Nf3Bxe4!19. Nxe5?!
( 19. Qd2Bxf320. Bxf3Rc8This was kind of necessary, but it's still a miserable position for White. )
19... Bxc2By usual metrics, White should be lost. He is down a pawn, Black has the bishop pair and Black has no weaknesses.
It's very surprising that Caruana does not win this game. 20. Rd2Bf5
( 20... Bb3The engine prefers this by a wide margin, after which White could not hold on. )
( 21... d622. Rxd6Allows White more counterplay. 22... Bxd623. Rxd6Rb8 )
22. Na4Rc723. Nxb6Black had to give a pawn back, but now Blacks initiative and bishop pair really start to count. 23... d6!24. Nf3Ne4!25. Rd3Rb7!One punch after another -- White is taking a beating and being pushed backward. 26. Na4Nc5!27. Nxc5dxc528. R3d2Bf6Winning a pawn again. 29. b4g4?!I don't love this move. It feels like a step in the wrong direction, though the computer has no objection.
( 29... cxb4 )
30. Ne1cxb431. axb4Rxb432. c5!Black has to be a little careful now 32... O-O
( 32... a5?33. c6And suddenly it is impossible to stop the pawn! 33... O-O34. c7Rd8 is threatened. )
The next most interesting game was between Rauf Mamedov, another Azeri, and Karjakin. I was glad to see Karjakin, who will play for the World Championship in November in New York, choose the Sicilian Najdorf Defense; it’s certainly unusual in this day and age when everyone seems to play the Berlin Defense, the Petroff Defense and the Marshall Gambit.
Shamkir Chess 2016
Sergey Karjakin and Rauf Mamedov during Round 6
The game quickly reached an extremely complex position with both players playing flawlessly. If the online clocks are correct, it looks like both players may not have taken much time, suggesting that many of the moves had been prepared in advance. Nevertheless, it was still an impressive game.
Mamedov, Rauf vs. Karjakin, Sergey
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 6 |01 Jun 2016 |1/2-1/2
Nc6!?This is an unusual square for the knight in these lines, but it is part of an interesting idea in this game.
( 9... O-O )
( 9... Qc7 )
( 9... exf4This is by far the most popular move. )
10. f5Of course White puts Black to the test his position is now a strategic disaster. But, Karjakin justifies it with some concrete play: 10... Bxb3!11. axb3Nb4!And here is the point: It's not easy to stop the freeing move d6-d5 12. g3!?An interesting move. White anticipates d5
( 12. Bc4Also deserves consideration )
12... d513. exd5Qc7!A strong move. Black will win the d-pawn soon enough. At this point, both sides began playing a series of virtually forced moves.
( 13... Nfxd514. Nxd5Qxd515. Qxd5Nxd516. Bd2Presumably something like this was Mamedov's idea. White has some pressure. )
( 14. Bg2Rd8I prefer Blacks position )
( 14... Qxd615. Qxd6Bxd616. O-O-OThis would have been a disaster for Black. )
15. Nb5!Nxc2+!16. Ke2Qc617. Nxd6+Ke718. Rc1!Nxe319. Rxc6Nxd120. Nxb7Rhb8!The final forced move in the series. If either side had made an error in the last six or seven moves, it would have led to disaster. Now a draw is is the most likely outcome. 21. Rc7+Kf8!22. Kxd1Ra7!23. Bc4
( 23. Bg2Does not help 23... e4 )
23... Raxb724. Rxb7Rxb7The activity of Whites pieces makes up for his somewhat worse pawn structure. The game soon ends in a draw. 25. Re1Nd726. Kc2Rb627. Ra1Nb828. Kd3Nc629. Ra4Ke730. Ke4f631. h4Nb832. Kd5Rd6+33. Ke4Rb634. Kd5Rd6+35. Ke4Rb6
I wish I could say something about the other games, but they really were not interesting. Round 7 will likely be more lively as Giri has Black against Caruana and may try to mix things up a bit to try to catch the leader. Though the tournament looks like it’s just a two man show, Karjakin will play both Caruana and Giri in the final two rounds, so those rounds could also be more entertaining.
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.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players