He leads the Gashimov Memorial after three rounds after he beat Pavel Eljanov, the leader through Round 2.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is the new leader of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, after he took advantage of mistakes by Pavel Eljanov to win their Round 3 encounter. 

Mamedyarov, of Azerbaijan, now has 2.5 points, trailed by Eljanov of Ukraine, the leader after Round 2, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, and Michael Adams of Britain, who each have 2 points.

As in the first two rounds, there were two decisive results in Round 3. (Adams was the other winner, beating Sergey Karjakin of Russia.) It’s very rare to see a high level tournament in which Black wins more games than White, but so far Black has accounted for five of the six wins!

Eljanov came close to beating Mamedyarov, but failed to capitalize on his chances and eventually succumbed because of his mistakes:

Pavel Eljanov vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 3.3 | 23 Apr 2017 | ECO: E68 | 0-1
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O O-O 5. d4 d6 6. c4 Nbd7 7. Nc3 e5 8. e4 exd4 9. Nxd4 Re8 10. b3 a6 11. Be3 Rb8 12. a4 a5 13. Ndb5 b6 14. Qc2 Nc5 15. Rad1 Bb7 16. f3 Qe7 17. Rfe1 Rbd8 18. Bf2 c6 19. Nd4 Qc7 20. g4 Nfd7 21. Bh4 Bf6 22. Bg3 Na6 23. Na2 Ndc5 24. f4 Qe7 25. g5 Bg7 26. h4 f6 27. gxf6 Bxf6 28. h5 Qg7 29. Bf2 Nc7 30. hxg6 hxg6 31. Nc3 N7e6 32. Nce2 Nxd4 33. Nxd4 Rd7 34. Nf3 Bc8 35. e5 dxe5 36. fxe5 Rxd1 37. Qxd1 Be7 38. Nd4 Bg5 39. Bxc6 Rf8 40. Nf3 Qh6 41. Bxc5 bxc5 42. Qd5+ Kg7 43. e6 Rf5 White had played a great game up to this point and has a big advantage. He is up a pawn and, more importantly, the Black bishop on c8 is a piece of dead wood. Still, with his king exposed, White needs to play precisely, which he did not manage to do.
44. Re5? This is a big mistake.
44. e7! This was the simplest path to victory, and not wildly difficult to calculate. The point is that after:
44... Rxd5 45. e8=Q Both the rook on d5 and the bishop on c8 are attacked, while Black has no checks. The game is effectively decided.  )
44. Qd6 This also wins  )
44... Qh3! Well spotted. Now Black is fine as the pawn on e6 cannot be saved.
45. Qxc5
45. e7 Qg3+ 46. Kh1 Qh3+  )
45. Rxf5? This position looks crushing for White, but...
45... Be3#!  )
45. Nxg5 Rf1#  )
45... Qg3+ 46. Kf1 Rxf3+ 47. Bxf3 Qxf3+ White now has to defend very precisely to hold on. His king is exposed and the Black bishops are springing to life.
48. Qf2 Qd1+ 49. Qe1 Qd3+! Of course Black does not want a draw.
49... Qf3+ 50. Qf2 With a repetition.  )
50. Qe2 Qg3! White is under enormous pressure. He cannot exchange queens and Black's pieces are ready to invade.
51. Qe4?
51. Rxa5! This was the only move to maintain the balance but it's basically impossible for a human to find.  )
51... Qh3+ Black repeats the position once before finding the right way forward.
51... Bh4  )
52. Qg2 Qd3+ 53. Qe2 Qg3 54. Qe4 Bh4! Again, Black avoids a draw.
55. Qe3 Qh2! Another excellent move.
56. Rd5
56. e7 This is not good because of:
56... Bh3+  )
56. Rb5 This move offered more resistance, but it is very hard for a human to find. Black might still win after:
56... Qh1+ 57. Ke2 Bxe6  )
56... Qh1+! Mamedyarov has always been good at finding forcing continuations, and here he shows his strength.
57. Ke2 Qe1+ 58. Kf3 Qg3+
58... Bxe6 This was a faster win but the move in the game is sufficient.  )
59. Ke2 Qe1+ 60. Kd3
60. Kf3 I doubt Mamedyarov would have repeated the position again.
60... Bxe6  )
60... Qd1+! 61. Ke4
61. Kc3 Bf6+ 62. Rd4 Bxe6  )
61... Bb7! Simple and deadly. Black wins material.
62. Ke5 Bxd5 63. cxd5 Be7! A final accurate move to finish off the game. The king cannot be allowed to get to d6.
64. Qa7 Qe2+ 65. Kf4 g5+ 66. Kg3 Kf6 A somewhat lucky win for Mamedyarov, but ultimately the score is all that matters.

Adams was the beneficiary of a blunder just before time control and then a premature resignation by Karjakin.

Sergey Karjakin vs. Michael Adams
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 3 | 23 Apr 2017 | ECO: D37 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 a6 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bf4 Bd6 7. Bg3 O-O 8. e3 Bf5 9. Qb3 Bxg3 10. hxg3 Nc6 11. Be2 Qd6 12. O-O Ne7 13. Ne5 h5 14. Rfc1 Ng4 15. Na4 b6 16. Qc3 Rfc8 17. Nd3 Bd7 18. b3 Ng6 19. Qb4 Qf6 20. Nc3 Qf5 21. a4 a5 22. Qa3 Nf6 23. Ra2 Qg5 24. Ne1 c5 25. Nf3 Qh6 26. dxc5 Rxc5 27. Nb5 Rac8 28. Rxc5 Rxc5 29. b4 axb4 30. Qxb4 Ne4 31. Bf1 h4 32. gxh4 Bxb5 33. axb5 Nxh4 34. Nxh4 Qxh4 35. Qd4 Rc1 36. Qe5 Qd8 37. Qf5 g6 38. Qe5 Qc8 39. g3? A blunder.
39. Ra1! White's position is not much fun, but he should be okay for the time being.
39... Rxa1 40. Qxa1 Qc2 41. Qe1 Black is a bit better, but the game is far from decided.  )
39... Rxf1+ Karjakin, presumably disgusted with himself, resigned at this point. If he had played one more move and gotten more time to think, he would have realized he could continue:
40. Kxf1 Qc4+ White loses his rook, but the game is far from decided.
41. Re2! Nd2+
41... Nc3 42. Qe8+ Kg7 43. Qe5+ Kh7 44. Qe7  )
42. Kg2!
42. Ke1 Qc1#  )
42. Kg1 Nf3+  )
42... Qxe2 43. Qe8+ Kg7 44. Qe5+ And Black has a hard time escaping the checks. The point is that:
44... Kh7 Can be met by
45. Qf4! When the threat of Qxf7 is very hard to deal with because the king has no safe hiding spot. According to the computer, Black's only way to win is:
45... Qf1+! 46. Kh2 Qc4! 47. Qxf7+ Kh6 But even in this position, white can continue. Black's king is so exposed that White could still hope for a perpetual check, or to exchange enough pawns to force a draw.
48. Kh3

The other games were draws, but not without some fireworks. The game between Wesley So of the United States and Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland was very exciting for a while, but a series of exchanges led to a quiet ending.

Wesley So vs. Radoslaw Wojtaszek
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 3 | 23 Apr 2017 | ECO: D02 | 1/2-1/2
1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. Bf4 Bf5 4. e3 e6 5. c4 Bxb1 6. Qxb1 Bb4+ 7. Kd1 Bd6 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. c5 Bf8 11. Qc2 c6 12. b4 a6 13. Bd3 Nd7 14. Ke2 g5 15. h3 Bg7 16. a4 Qe7 17. Rad1 O-O 18. g4 e5 19. Bh7+ Kh8 20. Bf5 exd4 21. h4!? White does not bother taking back on d4 and allows his center to fall apart; his kingside play will be faster.
21... Ne5
21... dxe3 This was possible, and would have been my choice. After
22. hxg5 Ne5! 23. gxh6 Bf6 Black should not be worse in this messy position  )
22. Nxd4 gxh4! This is Black's best attempt to keep the h-file closed.
23. Bd3! The threat is Nf5.
23... Qg5 24. Rdg1 Nxd3 25. Qxd3 Bxd4! This was not the only move, but it's definitely the safest. A White knight arriving on f5 could be very dangerous for Black.
25... a5 26. f4 Qg6 27. Nf5 axb4 28. Rxh4 This position looks very dangerous for Black.  )
26. Qxd4+ Qg7 White has a nominal advantage with his better pawn structure but it should not be enough to win.
27. Qd2 Keeping queens on the board is the more ambitious way to play, but White is definitely not better.
27. Rxh4 Qxd4 28. exd4 Rae8+ 29. Kd3 Kg7 I have a hard time seeing a player as strong as Wojtaszek losing in this position.  )
27... Qf6 28. g5!? More fuel on the fire!
28... hxg5 29. f4 Rg8! The only move to hold everything together, but not a hard one to find. There was no other way to prevent Rxg5.
30. fxg5 Qe5! A very tough move and Wojtaszek deserves full credit for finding it.
30... Rxg5! 31. Rxh4+ Kg8 32. Rxg5+ Qxg5 33. Qd4 And Black would be mated.
33... Qg2+ 34. Ke1 Qg3+ 35. Kd2 Qf2+ 36. Kc1 Qe1+ 37. Kb2 Qe2+ 38. Ka3  )
31. Rxh4+ Kg7 32. g6 Rh8 33. gxf7+ Kxf7 Black's king is surprisingly safe. Indeed, White is the one who should be worried about his king safety. So made the mature decision to exchange the queens and force a draw.
34. Qd4 Qxd4 35. Rxd4 Rag8 36. Rf1+ Ke7 37. Rdf4 Rf8 38. Rxf8 Rxf8 39. Rxf8 Kxf8 40. e4 dxe4

In Round 4, Mamedyarov will face Teimour Radjabov, his compatriot. Usually these two draw their games, but with Mamedyarov leading, I have a feeling we might see them fight this time.


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.