His lead has been shaved to half a point heading into the last round on Sunday.

After Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost in the penultimate round, the Gashimov Memorial will be decided in the last round. 

Mamedyarov, who is from Azerbaijan, where the tournament is being held, has led since Round 3. He retained the lead after his loss because his closest rivals, Wesley So of the United States and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, only drew in Round 8, so they closed the gap with Mamedyarov, but they did not catch him. Mamedyarov has 5 points, So and Topalov have 4.5 points apiece.

Mamedyarov, who had Black, was quickly demolished by Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland. 

Radoslaw Wojtaszek vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Gashimov Memorial | 0:17:33-0:04:33 | Round 7 | 29 Apr 2017 | ECO: D85 | 1-0
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Qb3 Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. e4 Bg4 8. Bb5+ c6 9. Ng5 O-O 10. Be2 Bxe2 11. Nxe2 Na6 12. Qh3 h6 13. Nf3 This is a very sharp position but is still well-known and has been played before. Mamedyarov chose the most common move:
13... h5
13... Qd7 It has to be said that the computer evaluates this move more highly.  )
14. Rg1! Very energetic, and obviously not very subtle! White wants it all.
14... Nb4? 15. g4! Not fearing the loss of the rook. I have to wonder if Mamedyarov was caught by surprise in the opening and forgot or confused his preparation.
15... Qd7
15... Nc2+ 16. Kf1 Nxa1 17. gxh5 And Black will be mated.  )
16. Qh4! Nc2+
16... Bf6 17. Bg5 Was also very dangerous for Black.  )
17. Kf1 Nxd4 18. Nexd4 Bxd4 19. gxh5 One look at this position is enough to realize the kind of trouble Black's king is in.
19... Bf6 20. Bg5! A pawn on the queenside is totally unimportant in a position like this one. White just needs more firepower against the Black king.
20... Bxb2 21. Re1! Wojtaszek was still playing very quickly at this point, and may have still been in his preparation. Black is dead lost.
21... Qd3+ 22. Kg2 f6 23. Bh6! g5 24. Nxg5! Well calculated.
24... Rf7
24... fxg5 25. Qxg5+ Kh8 26. Bxf8! Rxf8 27. Qh6+ Kg8 28. Kh1+ Kf7 29. Qg6#  )
25. Nxf7 Kxf7 26. Re3 White is up an exchange as well as having a raging attack against the Black king. The rest requires no comment.
26... Qc2 27. Rg3 Bd4 28. Rg7+ Ke6 29. Qg4+ Kd6 30. Be3 Bxe3 31. Qg3+

There were two other decisive results in Round 8. One of them was a win by Vladimir Kramnik of Russia over Michael Adams of England. Kramnik once again played 1.e4, which had been a very atypical move for him for a long time (though he has been playing it regularly in recent months), and he won a very nice game.

Vladimir Kramnik vs. Michael Adams
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 8 | 29 Apr 2017 | ECO: C50 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 h6 7. Re1 O-O 8. Nbd2 a6 9. Nf1 Re8 10. a4 Ba7 11. b4 Be6 12. Bxe6 Rxe6 13. Be3 Qd7 14. b5 Ne7 15. bxa6 bxa6 16. Bxa7 Rxa7 17. Qb3 c6 18. Rab1 Ng6 19. g3 a5 20. Ne3 Re8 21. Nc4 Kh7 22. Qc2 Qe6 23. Ne3 d5 24. Kg2 Kg8 25. h4 Rd7 This position looks pretty balanced, but Black is actually under a lot of pressure. The knight on g6 is badly misplaced and White has control of the only open file.
26. c4! Creating more tension in the center.
26... Red8?
26... dxe4 This would be my choice, though after:
27. dxe4 White would still be slightly better.  )
26... d4 The computer suggests this move, but it looks ridiculous to me. Black closes the d-file and leaves White in total control of the only open line.
27. Nf5  )
27. cxd5! Loosening Black's control over b5.
27... cxd5 28. Rb5! And Black would not be able to avoid material losses. White's activity is too great and the Black pawns are too vulnerable.
28... Ne7 29. Rc5! Positional domination -- Black cannot get a knight to c6 and now has nothing to do but wait.
29. Rxa5 dxe4 30. dxe4 Nc6 And being able to play Nd4 would give Black some counterplay.  )
29... Rd6 30. Rc1
30. Nxe5!? This is the computer's choice, but I see no reason to criticize Kramnik's play.
30... Qxe5 31. Nc4  )
30... Ra6 A very sad move for Black to have to make.
31. Qb2! Putting more pressure on the vulnerable center pawns.
31... Ng6 32. Qb7 Ne7 33. Nf5! Rd7
33... Nxf5 34. exf5 And Black loses a lot of material. For example:
34... Qd6 35. Nxe5!  )
34. Rc7 Rb6 35. Qa7 Ra6 36. Qb8+ Kh7 37. Rc8! Well calculated.
37... Ng6
37... Nxc8 38. Rxc8 Black will soon be checkmated.  )
38. Rh1! A nice final touch; the threat of Ng5 is decisive.
38... Nh5 39. Ng5+ hxg5 40. hxg5 Nf4+ 41. gxf4

The other decisive result was the victory of Sergey Karjakin of Russia over Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine. What looked to me to be a very interesting technical endgame reached an abrupt conclusion when Eljanov made a bad decision:

Sergey Karjakin vs. Pavel Eljanov
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 8.1 | 29 Apr 2017 | ECO: C67 | 1-0
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 Ne8 10. d5 Bc5 11. Re1 d6 12. Nc3 Bf5 13. Bd3 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Ne4 Bxe4 16. Rxe4 Bxf2+ 17. Kxf2 Qxh2+ 18. Kf3 Qh5+ 19. g4 Qh3+ 20. Ke2 Qg2+ 21. Ke1 Nf6 22. Qe2 Qg3+ 23. Qf2 Nxe4 24. Qxg3 Nxg3 25. Kf2 Rfe8 26. Kxg3 Re5 27. Bc4 Re1 28. b3 f6 29. Bb2 Rxa1 30. Bxa1 Kf7 31. Bd4 a6 32. a4 Rh8 33. Be2 Re8 34. Kf2 Ke7 35. a5 Rf8 36. Kg3 Kd7 37. b4 Re8 38. Bd3 Ke7 39. Bxh7 Kd8 40. g5 fxg5 41. Bxg7 Re3+ 42. Kg4 Ra3 43. Bd4 c5 44. dxc6 bxc6 45. Bb6+ Kc8 46. Be4 Ra4 47. c3 If Black can trade off two pairs of pawns, he may be able to hold. Eljanov's next move fails to accomplish that.
47... c5? This move looks very natural, trying to orchestrate trades, but fails:
47... Ra3! This may have held. White can definitely play on after:
48. Bxc6 Rxc3 49. Bd5 Black has a reasonably solid position and a passed pawn, and can try to hold off any advances. It's unclear whether Black is losing.  )
48. Bc2! Ra3 49. bxc5! dxc5
49... Rxc3 50. Bf5+ Kb7 51. cxd6  )
50. c4! Black was only able to trade off one pair of pawns. With two white pawns left on the board, Black cannot surivive.
50... Ra2 51. Bf5+ Kb7 52. Be4+ Kc8 53. Bc6 Rc2 54. Bd5 Ra2 55. Kxg5 Kd7 56. Bb7 Rb2 57. Bxa6 Kc6 58. Kf6

In the final round, Mamedyarov has White against Topalov, while So has Black against Pentala Harikrishna of India. 


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.