Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won the Gashimov Memorial after a final-round draw. Wesley So, Veselin Topalov and Valdimir Kramnik tied for second.

A loss in the penultimate round of the Gashimov Memorial did not prove to be too costly for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. With a draw in the final round on Sunday, he still clinched first place in the elite tournament.

Mamedyarov finished with 5.5 points. Wesley So of the United States, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Vladimir Kramnik tied for second, with 5 points apiece.

Before the final round of the tournament, which was held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, and which was named for Vugar Gashimov, a friend and teammate of Mamedyarov’s, who died in 2014 at age 27, there was the possibility that the finale would be quite exciting. Mamedyarov’s loss in the penultimate round had opened the door for So and Topalov, who trailed by half a point, to catch up if they could win.

But Topalov faced Mamedyarov, so a draw in their game would eliminate Topalov from contention. Meanwhile, So had Black against Pentala Harikrishna of India. Though Harikrishna had struggled throughout the tournament, So was unable to do much against him and that game also ended in a draw. Neither game was particularly interesting and they were the first to finish, wrapping up first place for Mamedyarov.

The other three games did not have an impact on the fight for first place, but they did produce some interesting battles. Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine had a really heartbreaking tournament. It always stings to lose a half point because of mistakes — it hurts twice as much to go from a win to a loss. But that happened to Eljanov three times during the tournament (!), including in the last round against Kramnik. Still, I think Eljanov’s overall form was good and if he can keep playing he did (at least early in the games), he will start winning consistently.

Pavel Eljanov vs. Vladimir Kramnik
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 9.4 | 30 Apr 2017 | ECO: E06 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. a4 Bd7 9. Qxc4 Bc6 10. Bf4 Nbd7 11. Nc3 Bd6 12. e3 Nb6 13. Qb3 Bxf4 14. gxf4 a5 15. Ne5 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Nbd5 17. Rg1 Rc8 18. Rac1 Nb4 19. Qc4 g6 20. Rgd1 c6 21. Qe2 Qe7 22. Nc4 Qc7 23. Qf3 Nbd5 24. h4 Rfd8 25. b3 Nxc3 26. Rxc3 Qe7 27. Ne5 Kg7 28. Kh3 c5 29. Rdc1 b6 30. dxc5 Rxc5 31. Rxc5 bxc5 32. Nc6 Qb7 33. Kg2 Rd5 34. Nxa5 Qb4 35. Nc4 Qxb3 36. a5 Qa2 37. Kf1 Rh5 38. Qe2 Qb3 39. Qc2 Qb7 40. Qb2 Qa8 41. Ke2 Rxh4 42. Rb1 Qg2 This is a very tense position but White's passed a-pawn gives him an edge.
43. Ne5? Too slow.
43. a6! There is nothing to worry about after this move. It was very strong, and Black would be in big trouble.
43... Rh2 44. Rf1  )
43... c4! Well calculated. The c-pawn will be an excellent source of counterplay.
44. Qd4?
44. Nd7 Rxf4! 45. exf4 Qe4+ With a perpetual check. Eljanov should have allowed this as his advantage has disappeared.  )
44. Nxc4 Rh2  )
44... c3! Again the pawn is immune to capture.
45. a6
45. Qxc3 Ne4! And White will have terrible problems on f2.  )
45. Nd7 This was most resilient though White would still have been in big trouble after:
45... Qg4+ 46. Kd3 Qf5+ 47. e4 Qh3+ 48. Kc4 Rxf4  )
45... c2! Whose pawn is faster now?
46. Rc1 Rh1! 47. Rxc2
47. Qb2 The computer evaluates this move as the most resilient, though White would still be in grave trouble after:
47... Rd1! 48. Rxd1 cxd1=Q+ 49. Kxd1 Qf1+ 50. Kc2 Qxa6  )
47... Qf1+ Black has lost the pawn on c2, but the White king lacks protection. In addition, the pawn on a6 will fall.
48. Kd2 Qd1+ 49. Kc3 Qa1+ 50. Kb3 Qxa6 Black is up a pawn up and the White king is exposed. The rest requires no comment.
51. Nc4 Rb1+ 52. Nb2 Ra1 53. Rc5 Ra3+ 54. Kb4 Ra2 55. Qc3 Qb6+ 56. Rb5 Qd6+ 57. Rc5 Ra8 58. Nd3 Rb8+ 59. Ka4 Qa6+ 60. Ra5 Qb7 61. Nc5 Qb1 62. Ka3 Kg8 63. Nb3 Nd5

That was the only decisive game of the round. I was quite amused by the engine evaluation of the final position in the game between Michael Adams of England and Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland:

Michael Adams vs. Radoslaw Wojtaszek
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 9 | 30 Apr 2017 | ECO: C84 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 b4 9. d3 d6 10. a5 Be6 11. Bxe6 fxe6 12. Nbd2 Rb8 13. c3 Rb5 14. c4 Rb8 15. Nb3 Qc8 16. Qe2 Nd7 17. d4 exd4 18. Nbxd4 Nxd4 19. Nxd4 Ne5 20. f4 c5 21. Nb3 Nc6 22. Be3 e5 23. f5 Bf6 24. Qd3 Nd4 25. Rf1 Qd8 26. Nd2 Bg5 27. Bxg5 Qxg5 28. Nf3 Qf6 29. b3 Rbe8 30. Ra2 g5 31. Qd1 Kf7 32. h3 Rh8 33. g3 h5 34. Ne1 h4 35. g4 Rh6 36. Ng2 Qd8 37. Ne3 Rf6 38. Nd5 Kg7 39. Kg2 Kh6 40. Rff2 Ref8 41. Qd3 R8f7 42. Kh2 Rf8 I find it amusing that the computer evaluates this position as more or less winning for White after:
43. Ne3
43. Nxf6 Qxf6 This is obviously nonsense. The position is completely blocked and the game will be drawn on move 93 after a very boring set of useless moves.  )
43... Rg8 44. Nd5

Teimour Radjabov, the other player in the tournament from Azerbaijan, tried an enterprising pawn sacrifice against Sergey Karjakin of Russia, but it never amounted to anything.

Teimour Radjabov vs. Sergey Karjakin
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 9 | 30 Apr 2017 | ECO: D41 | 1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Bc4 Nd7 12. O-O b6 13. a4 Bb7 14. Rfe1 Nf6 15. Bd3 h6 16. a5 bxa5 17. Rxa5 Qc7 18. Rc1 Qd8 19. Re1 Qc7 20. Qb4 Rfb8 21. Qa3 Rc8 22. h3 Qf4 23. d5!? This is a typical sacrifice in the Semi-Tarrasch Defense, but it did not bring Radjabov the dividends he wanted.
23. Re5 The computer suggests this move but Black still looks more or less okay.  )
23... exd5 24. e5 This is the point. Black does not have the d5 square for his knight and the bishop on b7 is blocked. White can hope to create an attack.
24... Ne4! This knight is excellently positioned in the center.
25. Qe7
25. Rxa7 Rxa7 26. Qxa7 Nc5 Black is fine as d4 cannot be stopped.  )
25... Bc6 26. e6 Rf8! Accurate defense from Karjakin.
27. exf7+ Rxf7 28. Qb4 Re8 29. Qd4 Ng5! A final precise move. Chances are equal.
30. Rxe8+ Bxe8 31. Qxf4 Rxf4 32. Nxg5 hxg5 33. Rxd5 g4! Trading off more pawns. The game is heading for a draw.
34. Rd8
34. hxg4 Rxg4 35. Ra5 Ra4  )
34... Kf7 35. Ra8 gxh3 36. Rxa7+ Kf6 37. gxh3 Bf7 38. Be2 Be6 39. Ra6 Ke7 40. Ra7+ Kf6 41. Ra6 Ke5

Mamedyarov has now reached a new peak rating, according to the Live Ratings site. It will be interesting to see if he can bring the same form to the upcoming Grand Prix in Moscow. He already tied for first in the first Grand Prix, so another good showing could put well on the road to qualifying for next year’s Candidates tournament.  


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.