The Gashimov Memorial started Saturday and produced a major surprise in Round 1: Wesley So lost, his first loss in nine months.
Round 1 of the Gashimov Memorial (named after Vugar Gashimov, who died in 2014 at age 27) brought a surprise: Wesley So of the United States, ranked No. 2 in the world, who had not lost in nine months, and had won a string of elite tournaments, finally lost. His vanquisher was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, one of the two local players in the field from Azerbaijan, where the tournament is being held.
The other local player, Teimour Radjabov, had a very different beginning as he slumped to a passive loss against Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine. The other three games were drawn, but mostly after hard fights.
In Round 1, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did what no one else had been able to do for nine months -- beat Wesley So.
So is known for playing very solidly. But in Round 1 against Mamedyarov, who is ranked No. 10, So, who had White, opted for a swashbuckling Scotch opening instead of his usual, more conservative classical Spanish systems. The players soon found themselves in a typical Scotch middle game, one in which White’s king was in the center. Though there was nothing wrong with that per se, it was very atypical of So. There was a point though where So needed to reign in his amibitions. Instead, he continued to press which eventually passed the initiative to Mamedyarov:
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. d4exd44. Nxd4Nf65. Nxc6bxc66. e5Qe77. Qe2Nd58. Nd2a5If my memory serves me well, this isn't the most common response for Black. In general, Black has many options at this point, which is both a curse and a boon. It is definitely hard to prepare for both sides in this variation and, this time, So's preparation fell short. 9. c4Nb610. b3a411. Bb2axb312. axb3Rxa1+13. Bxa1Qa3!This is actually a fairly standard way plan for Black. 14. Qd1Bb415. Bd3Qa516. Ke2It is unusual to see So play in such a non-traditional way - his king is almost always very safe. But this type of position is not uncommon for the Scotch variation - the king is fine in the center because White dominates the pawn structure and Black will have a hard time exploiting the position of the White king. 16... d617. Qc2!dxe518. Bb2Qc519. Nf3Bg420. Bxh7Nd721. Bf5Bxf3+22. Kxf3King on f3! So was clearly feeling brave. Surprisingly, Black still doesn't have any good way to exploit it. 22... g623. Bxd7+
( 23. Ra1Would have been a cool response but it does not lead anywhere after: 23... Nf8! )
23... Kxd7Perhaps it was time for So to realize that he no longer has the better structure and he had to stop being ambitious. But the Black king also looks unsettled, so So persists: 24. Qe4Re825. Ke2Kc8!The Black king is safe on b7. The same thing cannot be said about the White king. 26. Rd1f527. Qh4Qe728. Qg3?So should have entered a drawish endgame with Qxe7. The next moves were clearly played in time pressure, so I don't think it makes sense to point out all the objective mistakes. But I'll focus on some of the key psychological factors as things change
drastically back and forth: 28... g5!The computers still assess this position as equal, but from a practical standpoint Black's position seems nicer. His king is safer and his center is menacing. 29. Bc3Bc530. Bd2So is struggling to find a good plan. 30... f431. Qh3+Kb732. b4!The only move! 32... Bd433. Qd3White wants to block everything by putting his queen on e4 if he can. 33... Rd8
( 33... Qd7!34. Qe4Qg4+!Was a cute trick! White can't keep the Queen on e4. After 35. Qf3Qe6White's position is ready to collapse. )
34. b5Qe635. bxc6+Kxc636. f3White seems to have consolidated again and the Black king no longer is so secure. Maybe Black should be trying for a draw? 36... Rb837. Be1g438. Rd2The regrouping seems solid. 38... gxf3+
Pavel Eljanov outmaneuvered Teimour Radjabov in the endgame to win their Round 1 game.
Eljanov’s victory was achieved in a very different manner. He got the better of Radjabov in the opening, and then kept a minor edge through most of the game. Radjabov almost managed to equalize with some clever play. But then his sense of danger deserted him and he fell victim to an instructive example of positional chess by one of the world’s best strategic players.
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bb5Nf64. d3Bc55. Bxc6dxc66. O-ONd77. c3O-O8. d4Bd69. Bg5f610. Qb3+Kh811. Bh4b612. Nbd2Ba613. Rfe1Qe714. dxe5Nxe515. Nxe5Qxe516. Bg3Qe717. Bxd6cxd618. Rad1The bishop on a6 is looking misplaced. 18... Bc8!A surprising idea, but necessary as Black's bishop was quite passive. Eljanov is clearly taken by surprise, and in the next few moves Radjabov manages to equalize. 19. Qa4b520. Qa5Bg421. f3Be622. Nf1d523. exd5Qc5+24. Ne3Bxd525. a3Rfe8Radjabov doesn't worry about the exchange of queens, as Black's position seems fine. In hindsight, he should have probably avoided it.
( 25... Bf7!26. Qb4Qb627. Qd4c5!Avoiding the queen exchange reduces White's edge as his better pawn structure and better placed rooks are less important. White is still better, but it will be more difficult to make his advantages count. )
( 26... Qxb427. cxb4The pawn on c6 is a huge weakness now and Black will suffer for a long time trying to defend his position. 27... Bf728. Nf5 )
27. Qd4It is instructive to see how a player of Eljanov's class takes control. I have a feeling that Eljanov had already visualized what he was going to do in the endgame. 27... Qxd428. Rxd4Re729. Kf2Rae830. Rdd1Bb331. Nf5!The
minor piece endgame is visually, clearly better for White. 31... Rxe132. Rxe1Rxe133. Kxe1Be6This is the only way to save the pawns, but the Black bishop is bad bishop stuck behind his pawns. 34. Nd4
34. Nd4Bd5?Radjabov overlooks that his king isn't in time to get to c6 before White can simply target his bishop.
( 34... Bd7!35. Kd2Kg836. Ke3Kf7And Black is in time to get his King to d6. Then there isn't an easy way for White to improve, though he is clearly still better. He can continue: 37. b4Ke738. Ne2Kd639. Kd4 )
35. Kd2a6And the Black king won't be in time to reach d6 before the White king invades from c5.
( 35... Kg836. Kd3!Is what Radjabov clearly overlooked. Now b3 followed by c4 is a very strong threat. 36... Kf737. b3!Ke738. c4And Black is not in time to save the pawn on c6. )
36. Ke3Kg837. Nf5!Kf738. Kd4Be639. Ne3Ke740. Kc5It is all over after the White king
Successfully invades the dark squares. 40... Kd741. Kb6f542. f4g543. g3gxf444. gxf4Kd645. Kxa6Kc746. Ka5
Vladimir Kramnik could not break Wojtaszek's defenses in Round 1.
The game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia was another excellent example of strategic play in the endgame. Wojtaszek, who was White, did not get much out of the opening and probably expected the game would end in a draw without too effort. But Kramnik kept pressing and manufactured, seemingly out of nothing, a solid edge out in the endgame. The following sequence was particularly very instructive — by both the players.
61. Rc4White has been suffering for a while. Such positions are very hard to play, particularly against an opponent like Kramnik. Kramnik now played a particularly pretty move: 61... Nh6!?Avoiding Nxe5, which would lead to a better endgame for Black, but one that would likely end in a draw, though it is certainly not easy for White. Now, Kramnik is able to keep more pressure on White. 62. Ra4!An equally impressive response by Wojtaszek. He could have tried to defend everything passively and hope to ride it out, but that would be a lot of passive defense. He seems to have misplaced his rook, but he has a very, very ingenious defensive idea. 62... Rc563. Ra6The rook seems awkwardly placed, but White is threatening to play Nd8 and then sacrifice the knight, after which he should hold a draw easily. Kramnik tries to work around it, but there is no easy way to do that. 63... Kg464. Kf2Rc2+65. Ke1Rc566. Kf2Kh367. Kf3Rc3+68. Kf4Rxg369. Nd8!Rg4+70. Kf3Rg3+71. Kf4Rg672. Ra7Rg4+73. Kf3Rg874. Rd7Kh475. Ke2Rf876. Rd6Re877. Rd7Rf878. Rd6Sticking to the plan Wojtaszek found with Ra4! 78... Nf579. Rd7Kg480. Nxf7Kf481. Ra7Nd4+82. Kd3Nc683. Rc7
Certainly all credit to Wojtaszek for finding such an active way to defend!
Veselin Topalov, the former World Champion from Bulgaria, also had a slight edge against Michael Adams of Britain, but Topalov never had any serious winning chances. (On a side note, considering Topalov’s nightmarish form in some recent events, it at least seemed as if he played well.)
The last game, between Sergey Karjakin of Russia and Pentala Harikrishna of India, was a fairly uneventful draw. The opening battle probably was won by Harikrishna at home with some subtle preparation.
It will be interesting to see how So responds now that he has finally lost. Will he respond forcefully, as Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion, usually does when he suffers a setback?
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 80 in the world, he is a junior at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.
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