While Mamedyarov played a quick draw, Kramnik won a remarkable game and is now tied for second.

After a round that featured only one decisive result, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov continues to lead the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.  

Mamedyarov has 3 points, followed by four players — Michael Adams of England, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria —with 2.5 points apiece.

Mamedyarov, one of the two local players in the tournament, faced his compatriot, Teimour Radjabov, and the game ended in a quick draw. 

Most of the rest of the games were far more interesting, particularly Kramnik’s victory over Pentala Harikrishna of India. 

Kramnik, a former World Champion, has been playing 1. e4 quite a bit recently when he has White, and he often seems to obtain nutty positions (as well as good results). Round 4 on Monday was no exception as he sacrificed an entire rook but had long term compensation that Harikrishna could not quite handle.

Vladimir Kramnik vs. Pentala Harikrishna
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 4.5 | 24 Apr 2017 | ECO: C78 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 O-O 9. Nc3 Nb8 10. Ne2 Nbd7 11. c3 Bb7 12. Ng3 c5 13. Re1 Rc8 14. Nf5 c4 15. dxc4 Bxe4 16. Nxe7+ Qxe7 17. cxb5 axb5 18. Bg5 Nc5 19. Ba2 h6 20. Bh4 g5 21. Bg3 Bh7 22. Qe2 Kg7 23. Rad1 Nfe4 24. Rd5 f5 It looks like White is in some trouble. Black's pieces are centralized and extremely active, and the advance f4 would create some real problems for White. Facing this situation, Kramnik found an interesting plan:
25. Rxe5! This is played more out of necessity than by choice. Black is still much better, but the position has become complicated and White has a lot of counterplay.
25. h3 Saving the bishop would lead to disaster after
25... f4 26. Bh2 Bg8!  )
25... dxe5 26. Bxe5+ Nf6 27. Qxb5 White has three connected passed pawns for the rook that he sacrificed and extremely active pieces. While the engine initially evaluates the position as better for Black, the longer I let it run, the less of an edge it gave to Black. Over the board, White's play is very hard to contain.
27... Ne4 28. Bd4! A strong move. White keeps his bishop anchored on d4, making sure no pieces are on loose squares and shutting down the d-file.
28... Rfd8
28... Rfe8 This move was more accurate. The d-file is closed and only White can choose when to open it, so e8 is a better square for the Black rook.  )
29. h3 Rb8 30. Qe2 Bg8 31. Bb1! White avoids exchanging pieces. Chances are already about equal, according to the engine. That is a bad sign for a player who has an extra rook!
31... Qb7 32. b4 Re8 33. c4 Qc6?
33... Qa6 This move was best.
34. Qb2 Bxc4! And Black would still have an edge.  )
34. Qb2! Well calculated. Black cannot take the pawn on c4 and White's pieces have become more active.
34... Rbd8
34... Qxc4? 35. Bxe4 fxe4 36. Bxf6+  )
34... Bxc4? This move would only be good if the Black queen were on a6. The problem now is:
35. Ne5 White reduces his material inequality.
35... Rxe5 36. Bxe5  )
34... Kh7! This move was the most resilient, but though the machine indicates that chances are equal, any human would prefer to be White in this position.  )
35. c5! Qe6 36. b5! In addition to all of Black's other problems, White's queenside pawns are charging up the board! Harikrishna was also getting very low on time. The combination of all these factors proved too much for him to handle.
36... Kf8?
36... Kg6 37. Ne5+  )
36... Qb3! 37. Qa1 Kg6! This was the only way for Black to try to maintain the balance, but for a human to find those moves in time pressure is next to impossible.  )
37. c6 Black is now lost.
37... g4 38. hxg4 fxg4 39. Bxe4! gxf3
39... Nxe4 40. Rxe4! Qxe4 41. Bg7+ Ke7 42. Qf6#  )
40. Bxf6 Rd6 41. Bg7+ Kf7 42. Be5

While that win was the highlight of the round, Adams also played a fine game against Eljanov. Unfortunately for Adams, he let Eljanov off the hook, missing a strong continuation the game approached the first time control.

Michael Adams vs. Pavel Eljanov
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 4.2 | 24 Apr 2017 | ECO: C50 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 a6 7. a4 Ba7 8. Na3 h6 9. Nc2 O-O 10. Be3 Bxe3 11. Nxe3 Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. a5 d5 14. Qb3 Qd6 15. exd5 exd5 16. c4 Kh7 17. Nxd5 Rad8 18. Qxb7 Nxd5 19. cxd5 Qxd5 20. Rac1 Rd6 21. Nd2 Rg6 22. Ne4 Qxd3 23. Ng3 Nd4 24. Rc3 Ne2+ 25. Nxe2 Qxe2 26. Re3 Qd2 27. Qe4 Qxb2 28. Rg3 Rf6 29. Rxg6 Rxg6 30. g3 Qd4 31. Qf5 Qd5 32. Re1 Qxa5 33. Rxe5 Qa1+ 34. Kg2 Qc1 Black is up a pawn, but his pieces are badly coordinated. The pinned rook is a major problem. Adams tried to target it, but chose the wrong plan.
35. h4? This lets Black off the hook
35. Re6! This was the way to go, hitting the pinned rook at once. After the forced move
35... Qg5 36. Qd3! Black is completely paralyzed, and unable to prevent the simple plan of h3 followed by f4. For example:
...  a5 37. h3 a4 38. g4! a3 39. f4! And Black can resign.  )
35... Qc6+! The queen comes back to the defense just in time.
36. Kg1 Qf6 37. Qe4 Qc6 38. Qd3 Kh8! And the pin is broken. Now White has to fight for a draw. Fortunately for Adams, that was not too difficult.
39. Qd8+ Kh7 40. Qd3 Kh8 41. Qd8+ Kh7 42. Qd3

The other games were rather quiet. Topalov lost a pawn for no reason in an endgame against Wesley So of the United States. But Topalov still had no trouble holding a draw:

Veselin Topalov vs. Wesley So
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 4 | 24 Apr 2017 | ECO: C67 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. d4 Bf6 10. Re1 Re8 11. c3 Rxe1 12. Qxe1 Ne8 13. Bf4 d5 14. Bd3 g6 15. Nd2 c6 16. Nf3 Ng7 17. Qe2 Bf5 18. Bxf5 Nxf5 19. Re1 Ng7 20. Ne5 Bxe5 21. Qxe5 f6 22. Qe7 Qxe7 23. Rxe7 Re8 24. Rxe8+ Nxe8 25. Kf1 Kf7 26. Ke2 h5 27. a4 g5 28. Bb8 a6 29. h3 Ng7 30. a5 Kg6 31. g4 f5 32. f3 Ne6 33. b4 Nd8 34. Bc7 Nf7 35. Kf2 hxg4 36. hxg4 Kf6 37. Kg3 Ke6 38. Bb8 Nh6 39. Kh3 fxg4+ 40. fxg4 Ng8 41. Ba7 This loses the pawn on c3, which was totally unnecessary. But it does not even come close to changing the result of the game.
41. Bg3 Nf6 42. Be1 Would be my choice, which would also have led to a draw.  )
41... Nf6 White can no longer save the pawn on c3.
42. Bc5 Ne4 43. Kg2 Nxc3 44. Kf3 White has a fortress as Black's four pawn vs. on three pawn queenside majority is completely immobile, the Black king has no route to enter the position, and all of White's pawns are firmly protected. The rest of the game changed nothing about the evaluation of the position.
44... Ne4 45. Kg2 Nf6
45... Nxc5 46. bxc5 Is an obvious draw as Black is not going to play b6.  )
46. Kf3 Kd7 47. Kg3 Kc7 48. Kf3 Ne4
48... Nd7?! Black's only idea would be to play b6, but this creates more problems than it solves:
49. Be7! And Black has to figure out how not to lose.  )
49. Bb6+ Kd7 50. Bc5 Nd6 51. Ke3 Kc7 52. Bb6+ Kc8 53. Bc5 Nc4+ 54. Ke2 Kd7 55. Kd3 Ke6 56. Ke2 Kf6 57. Kf3 Nd2+ 58. Ke2 Ne4 59. Ke3 Kg6 60. Ke2 Nf6 61. Kf3 Kf7 62. Kg3 Ke6 63. Kf3 Kf7 64. Kg3 Ke6

In Round 5, I have a feeling that Harikrishna, who is in last place and really struggling, will come out aggressively with White against Mamedyarov.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 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 was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.