Round 7 produced no change at the top of the standings in the Gashimov Memorial, but there were some decisive results.
There were two decisive games in Round 7 of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, but neither had any bearing on the fight for first place.
Going into the round, all eyes were on the game between Fabiano Caruana of the United States, who was in first place, and Anish Giri of the Netherlands, who trailed by half a point. The opening was a slightly unusual variation of the Open Spanish, which is being played quite a lot lately at the top levels. The players were obviously very well prepared and the game eventually fizzled out to a draw. [Editor’s note — Computers seem to suggest that Caruana missed a very strong continuation at the end by not playing 35. Qf7. Instead, he agreed to a repetition of the position.]
Even less interesting was the game between Sergey Karjakin of Russia, who was in third place, a point behind Giri, and Teimour Radjabov, one of the four Azeri players in the tournament. Neither Karjakin nor Radjabov could find anything resembling a plan so they just maneuvered harmlessly for most of the game before agreeing to a draw.
The real action was in the other three games. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, another Azeri, beat his countryman, Eltaj Safarli, after Safarli erred early in the middlegame. It was the first game of the tournament between Azeri players that did not end in a draw. Once Mamedyarov got the advantage, he never let Safarli off the hook.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar vs. Safarli, Eltaj
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 7 |02 Jun 2016 |1-0
c5?!This looks bizarre to me. White has the bishop pair, and Black is voluntarily opening the center which gives those bisops more scope.
( 7... dxc4Take it while you can? It's up to White to show he has compensation for being down a pawn. )
8. cxd5exd59. Nf3cxd410. Nxd4!White wants to open the position further with a well-timed advance of c3-c4. 10... Nc611. O-ONe4?A really bad move. It may have been based on missing a tactical idea.
( 11... Be6Something solid like this was better. I would not envy Black's position but he has counterchances. )
12. c4!This was White's goal -- open the lines for his bishops, and now it can be done. 12... Re8
( 12... Nc3It's possible Black was planning this move and missed the intermezzo Nxc6. 13. Nxc6!bxc614. Qd3 )
13. Bb2Na514. cxd5The activity of Whites pieces is a sight to behold. 14... Nc415. Rb1!White allows one bishop to be exchanged, but Black will have some difficult problems to solve. 15... Nxb216. Rxb2Qxd517. Qd3!Bd718. Rfb1!The twin threats of Rb5 and Rxb7 are too much for Black. 18... Rab8
( 18... b619. Nb5 )
19. Rb5!Bxb520. Rxb5The knight on e4 is lost and Mamedyarov went on to win easily.
Team Azerbaijan almost picked up a second win as Pentala Harikrishna of India got into some trouble against Rauf Mamedov. But Mamedov ultimately erred and missed an opportunity to reel in the full point.
Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Mamedov, Rauf
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 7 |02 Jun 2016 |1/2-1/2
e3?With time control approaching, Mamedov missed his best chance
( 38... fxg2!39. Rxg2e340. Rxg6+Rxg6And White is unable to prevent Rg2+ )
39. gxf3e240. Be1Bxf3Black threatens Rg2+, but... 41. Bd2+!The first move after time control is a very strong one. White forces an exchange of rooks. Everything else would lose. 41... Kh7
( 41... Kg7?This would lose: 42. Rc7+Kf643. Rf4+ )
42. Rc7+Rg743. Rxg7+Kxg744. Kg3Bc645. Kf2The pawn is under control, and the opposite-colored bishops mean that Black has no chance to win. Mamedov did not try for too much longer. 45... Kg646. a4a647. Be1Kf548. Bd2Kg649. Be1Be450. Kxe2Bf5+51. Kf2Bxh352. Bb4
Rauf Mamedov watching the game between Pavel Eljanov and Hou Yifan.
The final game of the day was between Pavel Eljanov of Ukaine and Hou Yifan of China. Eljanov is one o my favorite players and he finally netted his first win of the event. He was better throughout the game, but it was always complicated and I was very impressed with the cool head he showed at the end, when he was under serious pressure:
Eljanov, Pavel vs. Hou Yifan
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 7 |02 Jun 2016 |1-0
59. Rd1!This and only this move is correct. White gains an all-important tempo by threatening a check on d4. Everything else would lose.
( 59. c5?h360. c6h261. Rc1g2And Black wins the pawn race. )
59... e5Black stops Rd4+, but this loses an all-important tempo.
( 59... h360. Rd4+!The key point White gets this check in before Black can hide the king on h3. 60... Kg561. Kf3!And the king easily stops the pawns )
60. c5And here Hou resigned. The game could have concluded: 60... h361. c6h262. c7g263. c8=Q+And White queens with check -- just in time. That key tempo was won by forcing Black to play e5.
With this win, Eljanov climbed out of the cellar (and relegated Hou to it).
In Round 8, both Caruana and Giri have White, against Mamedyarov and Hou, respectively. While Caruana has the more difficult opponent, Giri has struggled against Hou in the past, so it will be interesting to see if can keep his good form and take advantage of what should, on paper, be a good pairing.
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.
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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