With a last round win and then a victory in a playoff, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, one of the tournament’s local stars, won the Gashimov Memorial.
With an impressive rally in the later stages of the tournament and then a victory in a tense four-game playoff, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the surprising winner of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, which ended Saturday.
Mamedyarov, one of the four local players in the tournament, had started with only a half point in the first two rounds and at the halfway point he only had a score of 50 percent and trailed the leader, Fabiano Caruana of the United States, by two points and Anish Giri of the Netherlands by 1.5 points. But he won his last three games, including beating Caruana in Round 8 and Giri in Round 9, to tie Caruana for first at the end of regulation.
Mamedyarov’s win over Giri was impressive. He made beating one of the most fundamentally sound players in the world look almost effortless.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar vs. Giri, Anish
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 9 |04 Jun 2016 |1-0
13. Be3!The position is equal, but Black has to start going through
contortions to avoid losing material. 13... Qxb314. Bxc5Qxd1?
( 14... Qxb2!The engine finds a way to just barely hang on with this move 15. Rb1Qxc316. Bxe7Rfb817. Bd6Re818. Rxb7Qc6It takes nerves of steel for Black to play this way. )
15. Rfxd1White's better structure gives him a slight edge. 15... Rfe816. Rxa5a617. Ne5Rad818. Bb6Rb819. Ba7Rbd820. Bb6Rb821. Bd4e622. e3Red823. Bb6Rdc824. Ba7Ra825. Bd4Rc726. Rda1The maneuvering phase is over and the situation is becoming clearer. Now Bf1 is a real threat. 26... Nd7?!
( 26... Ne4!This offered better chances to resist, but Black would still have been worse. 27. Nd3 )
27. Nxd7Rxd728. Bf1?!This wins the pawn, but why rush?
( 28. f4!Stopping e5 first, and then play Bf1. )
28... e5!29. Bc5d4!Black is trying to bail out into a pawn down rook ending. It almost works 30. cxd4exd431. Bxa6Rxa632. Rxa6Bxa633. Rxa6f5?This weakens the pawn structure and the seventh rank.
( 33... h5!This was the correct structure to aim for. )
34. exd4Bxd435. b4Bxc536. bxc5Rd1+37. Kg2Rc138. Rc6I think Black should lose, but I could also spend hours on this endgame. It's not certain by any any means, but Mamedyarov made it look easy. 38... Kf739. Kf3g540. Ke3Rc3+41. Kd4Rf342. Ke5Rxf243. Rf6+Ke844. Rxf5Rxh245. Kd6Rd2+46. Kc7Rd7+47. Kb6g448. Re5+Kd849. Rg5Rd350. Rg8+Ke751. Rxg4Rb3+52. Kc7Kf653. c6
Caruana could still have taken sole possession of first place with a final round victory, but he was unable to make it happen. Playing Black against Sergey Karjakin of Russia, Caruana followed the latest trend and chose the Open Spanish, but Karjakin chose one of the most tame lines against it and most of the pieces were traded by Move 20. A draw was the not very surprising result. This left Caruana and Mamedyarov in a tie for first.
Under the rules of the tournament, they had a two-game playoff, but both games ended in draws after Caruana let advantages slip away in both games. In a second two-game playoff, Caruana made a mistake in the first game and Mamedyarov took advantage. Mamedyarov then held a draw in the final game to claim the title.
Caruana, Fabiano vs. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round Playoff |04 Jun 2016 |0-1
55. Ra7+?In a tense rook endgame that required accurate play, Caruana had too liitle time to find the best moves.
( 55. c6Ke656. Ra8Would have drawn 56... Kd657. Kg5!White has both pawns under control and c6 cannot be captured. This is almost impossible to find in a blitz game. )
55... Ke6And Black's king is close enough to stop the pawn. 56. Ke4h457. Kd4Rg358. Ra6+Ke759. Ke5h360. c6h261. Ra7+Kd862. c7+Kc8
Aside from Mamedyarov’s victory over Giri, there were other notable results in the final round.
Hou Yifan of China capped off a disastrous tournament by losing her fourth game (against five draws and no wins). In the last round, against Rauf Mamedov, another Azeri, she was almost unrecognizable compared to the strong and solid player she usually is.
Hou Yifan vs. Mamedov, Rauf
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 9 |04 Jun 2016 |0-1
4. Qa4In this reasonably normal looking position, Hou begins a strange sequence of moves. 4... d45. e3dxe36. dxe3Na67. Nc3Nc58. Qc2Bg79. h3Nf610. e4O-O11. Be3Qa512. Bd2Qb613. Rd1Rd814. Be2Be615. Kf1h616. g4So far, White has played e2-e3, e3-e4, g2-g3, g3-g4, Qa4-c2, and has not castled. Objectively, the position is not that bad, but the entire plan looks absurdly suspicious. Black, meanwhile, has a very harmonious position. 16... Qc717. b4Ncd718. g5hxg519. Nxg5Nf820. Kg2N6h721. h4a522. a3?
( 22. b5This would have been some damage control, though obviously Black would still be better. )
22... axb423. axb4Nxg524. hxg5Qe5!White is in huge trouble; her position is rife with weaknesses. 25. Rc1b5!This tactical shot seals White's fate 26. Be3
( 26. cxb5?Bb3!Is the key point 27. Qxb3Rxd2White will be thrashed because of the dark squares weaknesses. )
26... Bxc427. Bxc4bxc4In addition to all
of her other problems, White is down a pawn. The rest was easy
for Mamedov. 28. Ne2c329. Nxc3Qe630. Rh3Ra331. Nb1Rb332. Nd2Rc333. Qd1Rcd334. Rc2Nh735. Qh1Nxg536. Bxg5Qg4+37. Rg3Rxg3+38. fxg3Qxg539. Nf3Qb540. Qe1Qa441. Rd2Rb842. e5Bh643. Rd4Qc2+44. Qf2Qb345. Qe1Be346. Rh4Ra847. Kh3Qd348. Rg4e649. Ng5Bxg550. Rxg5Qf351. Rg4Kg752. Rh4g5
Finally, Eltaj Safarli capped off a great round for the local players by winning his first game of the tournament. He did it against Pentala Harikrishna of India.
Shamkir Chess 2016
Pentala Harikrishna and Eltaj Safarli in the last round
It was really painful for me to watch my friend lose in such a manner. He got a great position and then seemed to get almost complacent or lazy. If the clocks online are correct, he made a simple blunder after less than a minute’s thought that turned a winning position into a worse one, and then another blunder just a few moves later that rendered the position utterly indefensible.
Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Safarli, Eltaj
Gashimov Memorial |Shamkir, Azerbaijan |Round 9 |04 Jun 2016 |0-1
( 32. Rf1!Removing the defender of e6. White would then have a big advantage. )
32... Nf2Oops. 33. Bxe6+Rxe634. Rxe6Nxd135. Nf5?
( 35. Rxh6This provides White with some decent chances to draw as Black will not be left with many pawns. 35... Nxe336. Rg6+Kf737. Rxa6 )
35... Rc1!The attack will be decisive 36. Re8+Kh737. Kg2
( 37. Rxa8Nxe3+ )
37... Bc638. Re7+Kg639. Nd4Bb5and Black went on to win easily
When all was said and done, it was a very exciting finish to a great event, and Mamedyarov absolutely deserved to win the tournament with the way he played over the last three days.
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.
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