With another victory, the tournament leader has stretched his lead.

The Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, which is named for Vugar Gashimov, is turning into a showcase for one of his former teammates: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. With a victory in Round 6, his third of the competition, Mamedyarov now leads the tournament by a full point.

He has 4.5 points; his nearest rivals — Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Michael Adams of England and Wesley So of the United States — have 3.5 points apiece.

Mamedyarov’s latest win was against Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, a former World Champion, and it involved a bit of luck, as Mamedyarov was in a little trouble early on. But all credit also has to be given to Mamedyarov for seizing his chances when they come. Caissa, the mythical goddess of chess, does seems to be looking out for him. 

Kramnik, Vladimir vs. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 6 | 27 Apr 2017 | 1-0
18. Ree1 a5?! This move has a very clear idea: Black wants to play Nb4, which is a better location for the knight than on c6. Relocating the knight will also help Black defend his queenside. Black's last move has a basic flaw, however.
19. Rac1?
19. Bb5 This move looks completely automatic to me. It prevents Nb4 and the bishop is excellent positioned on b5. White can then begin to pile up on the c-file. I'm sure both players saw this but had some idea in mind for what Black could play -- I just do not know what it could be.
19... f4 20. Rac1 No fear. Black's threats are inconsequential and the threat is Rc5. White would be much better.  )
19... Nb4 Black has achieved his goal. He might still be a little worse but his position is much better than it could have been.
20. Bf1?
20. e6! Rxe6 21. Ne5 And White would have had good compensation for being down a pawn.  )
20... f4! Black is already better. His kingside play is very dangerous.
21. e6 Bxe6 22. Ne5 Qd6 23. Qf3 Nf6 24. Qxf4 c6 25. f3 Nd7 26. Nb3 Rf8 27. Qe3 Bf5 28. Qd2 Na2 29. Ra1 Nb4 30. Nxd7?
30. Rac1 White had no business declining a draw by avoiding a repetition.  )
30... Bxd7 31. Qc3 b6 32. Re5 Rae8 33. Rae1 Qg6 34. Nd2 Qc2! Not the only good move, but the most natural one for a human. Black will clearly have an edge in the ending.
35. f4 Rxe5 36. dxe5 Be6 37. Qxc2 Nxc2 38. Rc1 Nb4 39. Nf3 c5 White's kingside pawn majority is well blockaded, while Black's is making headway in the center.
40. h4 Kf7 41. h5? A puzzling move, particularly considering the first time control had just passed. Nevertheless, White's position was already quite difficult.
41... Bg4 42. Nh4 Bxh5 Black wins a pawn. The rest of the game was a bit messy, with errors on both sides, but Black was always firmly in control.
43. Nf5 Bg4 44. Ne3 Bd7 45. Bg2 d4 46. Nc4 Bxa4 47. Nxb6 Bc2 48. Nc4 d3 49. Nd2 a4 50. Kf2 c4 51. Ke3 Rc8 52. Ne4 Kf8 53. Nc3 Rb8 54. Rf1 Na6 55. f5 Rxb2 56. f6 Nc7 57. Bh3 d2 58. Bg4 a3 59. e6 gxf6 60. Rxf6+ Kg8 61. e7 a2 62. Ra6 d1=Q 63. Nxd1 Bxd1 64. Ra8+ Kg7 65. Bxd1 Rb1 66. Rxa2 Rxd1 67. Ra7 Ne8 68. Ra4 Rd3+ 69. Kf4 c3

There were two other decisive results in Round 6: Topalov beat Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, the tournament’s early leader, and So ground down Sergey Karjakin of Russia. Eljanov, who had squandered an excellent position in Round 3 against Mamedyarov, did it again against Topalov. It must be a tough pill for him to swallow as he would be leading the tournament if he had won those games.

Veselin Topalov vs. Pavel Eljanov
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 6 | 27 Apr 2017 | ECO: E17 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. Nc3 Ne4 7. Bd2 Bf6 8. Qc2 Nxd2 9. Qxd2 d6 10. h4 Nd7 11. Rd1 O-O 12. Qc2 c6 13. e4 Qc7 14. Ng5 e5 15. d5 h6 16. Nf3 a6 17. dxc6 Qxc6 18. Bf1 Rfc8 19. a4 Nc5 20. Nd2 Ne6 21. Qb1 Nd4 22. Bh3 Rf8 23. Rc1 Bd8 24. O-O f5 25. Kh2 f4 26. Qd3 Kh8 27. b3 Bc8 28. Bxc8 Qxc8 29. Ne2 Nxe2 30. Qxe2 Ra7 31. Rc3 b5 32. Rd3 bxa4 33. bxa4 Raf7 34. Rxd6 Bxh4! Black crashes through on the kingside. White should not be able to survive.
35. Rd5
35. gxh4? f3 36. Qe3 Rf4! And Black should win.  )
35... f3? This is a mistake. Black clearly was hoping to give mate on g2, but it does not quite work out and he was better off leaving the tension on the f-file.
35... Qe6 36. c5 Bg5 And White would be in big trouble.  )
36. Qd3 Qg4 Black has some nasty threats, but White can stop them.
37. Rh1! The king will retreat to g1 and then the rook on h1 is an excellent defender.
37. c5 Qh5! And Black would have a decisive edge.
38. Kg1 Qg5 39. Kh2 Rf4  )
37... Bg5 38. c5 The White king is now reasonably safe, and White also has some counterplay.
38... Rb8? Black goes further astray.
38... Bxd2 I would take the knight as it is about to become much more useful, while the bishop is no longer contributing to the attack.
39. Qxd2 Qxe4 40. Re1 Qxa4 41. Rdxe5 And a draw is very likely.  )
39. Nc4 Rfb7 40. Nb6 Rxb6? A tough decision to have to make on the last move before time control. The sacrifice looks very tempting but it is not good.
40... Rf7! This suggestion by the computer would have maintained equality.  )
41. cxb6 Rxb6 Black has a lot of threats, including playing Rb2, but with accurate play White can keep his extra material and eventually win the game.
42. Rxe5! Basically forced, but it is a very good move. The point is that Black cannot safely play Rb2.
42... Bh4
42... Rb2? 43. Re8+ Kh7 44. e5+ g6 45. Rf1 And it turns out that White's king is safer than Black's. Black would soon be checkmated.  )
43. Qc3 Rg6 44. Qe1 Bg5 45. Rf5 Rd6 46. Rf8+ Kh7 47. e5 White was now able to consolidate his position and with his extra material he had no trouble to win the game.
47... Rd3 48. e6 Be7 49. Rf4 Qh5+ 50. Kg1 Qd5 51. Qe4+ Qxe4 52. Rxe4 Kg6 53. Kh2 Rd2 54. Rf1 Kf5 55. Re3 Kg4 56. Kg1 g5 57. Rc1 Ra2 58. Kf1 Rxa4 59. Rc7 Bb4 60. Rc4+

Chances were roughly equal in the game between So and Karjakin, and then Karjakin made a small error and So exploited it efficiently. 

Wesley So vs. Sergey Karjakin
Gashimov Memorial | Shamkir AZE | Round 6 | 27 Apr 2017 | ECO: A35 | 1-0
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. e3 e6 5. d4 d5 6. a3 a6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. b4 Ba7 9. Bb2 O-O 10. h3 h6 11. Rc1 Re8 12. Bd3 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Qxd1+ 14. Rxd1 b5 15. Bd3 Bb7 16. Ke2 Kf8 17. Rhg1 Rad8 18. Bb1 Ne7 19. Nd2 Bb6 20. g4 Ned5 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Nb3 f6 23. Bg6 Re7 24. Rc1 Red7 25. Rgd1 Ne7 26. Rxd7 Rxd7 27. Bb1 This position looks completely equal. But even in quiet positions, accuracy is needed.
27... Rc7? This allows White's pieces to gain some space.
27... Bd5 Simple and strong after which Black is absolutely fine.
28. Nc5 Bxc5 29. Rxc5 Bc4+ 30. Ke1 Kf7 The Black bishop on c4 will be hard to maneuver around and it is hard for White to come up with a plan. I'd expect a draw in, at most, a few more moves.  )
28. Rxc7 Bxc7 29. Nc5 Bc8 Black's pieces are pushed backward for a moment allowing So to take control of the game.
30. Ba2! Now e6 is a cause of concern.
30... Nd5 31. f4! Trying to undermine the knight on d5 by playing f5.
31... Bd6? This is an error but it's hard to play good defense when under pressure, particularly when there is not much time left on the clock to the first time control.
31... a5! Black should have tried to trade some pawns.  )
32. Bd4 Kf7 33. Kd3 Ne7 34. Ne4! Another good move. White attacks the bishop on d6 while it cannot retreat to e7.
34... Bc7 35. f5! Forceful and strong. Sometimes So can make very strong players almost look like amateurs.
35... Nc6 White now wins a pawn. After that, So's technique was excellent and he converted his advantage.
36. fxe6+ Bxe6 37. Bxe6+ Kxe6 38. Nc5+ Ke7 39. Nxa6 Bd6 40. Bc5 Ne5+ 41. Ke4 Nc4 42. Kd5 Bxc5 43. Kxc5 Nxa3 44. Nc7 Kd7 45. Nxb5 Nc2 46. Nd4 Nxe3 47. Nf5 Nd1 48. Kb6 g6 49. Nxh6 Ne3 50. b5 f5 51. Ka6 fxg4 52. hxg4 Nd5 53. b6 Kc6 54. b7 Nc7+ 55. Ka7 Nb5+ 56. Ka8 Nc7+ 57. Kb8 Nb5 58. Ka8 Nc7+ 59. Kb8 Nb5 60. Nf7 Kb6 61. g5 Ka6 62. Nd8 Kb6 63. Kc8 Nd6+ 64. Kd7

The other two games, between Adams and Pentala Harikrishna of India, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland and Teimour Radjabov, a compatriot of Mamedyarov’s, were fairly balanced draws.

In Round 7 on Friday, Mamedyarov will have White against Adams, while Topalov will have Black against Radjabov and So will have Black against Eljanov. 


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.