Gashimov Memorial 2017: 'I wish I could annotate them all'

4/30/2017 – These were the words that accompanied the present article, and it is no surprise. What a difference a day makes! After a snoozefest in the previous round, today the players unleashed their warrior spirit, and in no small way either. Three decisive games were the result, and in all of them the player with a lower score came on top. Of course, it caused a big upheaval in the tournament standings department. Report and predictions by Alex Yermolinsky.

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Gashimov Memorial 2017: "I wish I could annotate them all"

By Alex Yermolinsky

Now in its 4th edition, the Gashimov Memorial brings an attractive lineup of top players such as Wesley So, winner of pretty much anything he entered in the last many months, then Vladimir Kramnik who has been sitting pretty with his 2811 Elo since the London Classic, Sergey Karjakin, and of course last year’s winner, local hero Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.  

Vugar Gashimov (1986 - 2014)


Wesley So 2822
Vladimir Kramnik 2811
Sergey Karjakin 2783
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2772
Michael Adams 2761
Pentala Harikrishna 2758
Pavel Eljanov 2751
Radoslaw Wojtaszek 2745
Veselin Topalov 2741
Teimour Radjabov 2710

I begin with a game that won't have any impact on who wins the event, but I liked it because it had some fortress motifs.

Sergey Karjakin vs Pavel Eljanov (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017"] [Site "Shamkir AZE"] [Date "2017.04.29"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2783"] [BlackElo "2751"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2017.04.21"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 {Anything but the Berlin!} Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 (7... Nf5 8. Nf3 {is another popular line.}) 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. d4 Ne8 ({More common today is} 9... Bf6 10. Re1 Re8 {which Karjakin himself played three times as Black, including Game 12 of the World Championship match with Carlsen.}) 10. d5 {Of course, it's all about this push. White has to try to get something.} Bc5 $1 11. Re1 d6 12. Nc3 Bf5 13. Bd3 Qh4 { Eljanov seeks new ways.} ({Once again, a Karjakin-Carlsen game pops up, this time from Tal Memorial, 2013. Magnus chose} 13... Bxd3 14. Qxd3 Nf6 15. Na4 Re8 16. Bd2 Rxe1+ 17. Rxe1 Qd7 18. Nxc5 dxc5 {stood slightly worse, but defended with particular difficulty.}) 14. g3 ({It's interesting how White maintains a little pull, even as pieces get vacuumed off, e.g} 14. Be3 Bxe3 15. Rxe3 Bxd3 16. Qxd3 Nf6 17. Ne4 $1 {The problem for Black is the eventual Qd3-b5.}) 14... Qh3 15. Ne4 Bxe4 16. Rxe4 {[#] Just as Karjakin obtained the bishop pair, and was thinking long-term, there came the unexpected tactical twist.} Bxf2+ $1 17. Kxf2 Qxh2+ 18. Kf3 Qh5+ 19. g4 Qh3+ 20. Ke2 Qg2+ 21. Ke1 Nf6 {Barring blunders White doesn't really risk losing, but escaping the perpetual check is tough.} 22. Qe2 (22. Re2 Qg3+ 23. Kd2 Qf4+ 24. Ke1 ({no return from} 24. Kc3 $4 Nxd5+ 25. Kb3 Qb4#) 24... Qg3+ 25. Kd2 (25. Kf1 Nxg4 {and it's already Black who wants the game to continue.})) 22... Qg3+ $6 {First inaccuracy by Black.} ({ A draw was well within his reach after} 22... Qh1+ 23. Qf1 ({or} 23. Kd2 Rae8 24. Rxe8 Rxe8 25. Qf1 Ne4+ 26. Kd1 Nf2+ 27. Kd2 $11) 23... Qh4+ 24. Qf2 (24. Kd1 $2 {is a bad idea, and not only becasue it loses the g-pawn.} Nxe4 25. Bxe4 {Things would turn catastrophic for White after} f5 $1 26. Bxf5 Rae8 {e.g.} 27. Bf4 g6 28. Be6+ Rxe6 29. dxe6 Qxg4+ 30. Qe2 Qxf4 31. e7 Re8 $19) 24... Qh1+ 25. Qf1 $11) 23. Qf2 Nxe4 24. Qxg3 Nxg3 25. Kf2 {Just like that the knight is trapped.} Rfe8 $2 {Leaving White with even one K-side pawn is dangerous, as the continution of the game demonstrates.} ({Pavel had to seize his chance and play} 25... f5 26. Kxg3 fxg4 27. Kxg4 Rae8 {The presence of two black rooks makes the white king feel a bit worried, as seen from a sample line,} 28. Bf4 h6 29. Bf5 $6 g5 $1 30. Bg3 Re3) 26. Kxg3 Re5 27. Bc4 $1 {Karjakin is very accurate.} (27. c4 {would leave Bd3 without support, which could be troublesome:} Rae8 28. Kf2 {forced because of the Re3 threat.} Re1 29. b3 h5 $1 30. gxh5 Rh1 {The rooks are raging.}) 27... Re1 28. b3 f6 29. Bb2 Rxa1 30. Bxa1 Kf7 31. Bd4 $14 {[#] Objectively it has to be a draw, but in practice Black just cannot relax.} a6 ({First question is, how to position the Q-side pawns.} 31... a5 32. a4 b6 {only seems safe from the first glance. In reality, White can further improve his position.} 33. Bb5 Ke7 34. Kh4 g6 (34... Rh8 35. Kh5 $1 {His majesty himself is doing a fine job paralyzing Black's pawns.}) 35. c3 Rh8 36. b4 axb4 37. cxb4 {and here Black has to realize he can no longer just sit on his position and, instead, seek counterplay starting with} h5 $1) 32. a4 Rh8 33. Be2 Re8 34. Kf2 Ke7 35. a5 {Now White has the eventual possibility of c4-c5.} Rf8 36. Kg3 Kd7 37. b4 Re8 38. Bd3 Ke7 $6 {Giving up a pawn is not going to help.} ({The right plan was} 38... Rh8 39. g5 fxg5 40. Bxg7 Rg8 41. Bh6 {and then} c6 $1 {attacking the center and trying to reduce the number of pawns while White is busy mopping up the K-side.} 42. Bxh7 (42. dxc6+ Kxc6 43. Kg4 d5) 42... Rh8 43. Bf5+ Kc7 44. Bxg5 cxd5 45. Bd3 $16 {is still very pleasant for White, but maybe there'a chance to hold.}) ({Of course, not} 38... h6 $2 39. Kh4 {and the king is through.}) 39. Bxh7 $16 Kd8 40. g5 fxg5 41. Bxg7 Re3+ 42. Kg4 Ra3 43. Bd4 c5 $6 {Self-destruct.} ({Perhaps Pavel didn't believe he could hold a fortress, but I suspect fatigue played a large part. Like it or not, Black had to stay put.} 43... Kc8 44. Kxg5 Ra4 45. c3 Ra1 46. Kf6 Rf1+ 47. Bf5+ Kb8 48. Kg6 Rf3 49. Bf6 Rf1 50. Be6 Rg1+ 51. Kf7 Rf1 52. Ke7 Rh1 53. Kd7 (53. c4 $2 {is one way for White to go wrong:} Rc1 54. b5 Rxc4 55. b6 c6 $1 {with the d5-pawn gone Balck can even sac his rook for any of the bishops and stil make a draw!}) 53... Rc1 {and here there's an elegant solution that involves a piece sac:} 54. Bf5 $1 Rf1 55. Bd8 Rxf5 56. Bxc7+ Ka8 57. Kxd6 Rh5 58. Ke6 Rh6+ 59. Kd7 Rh7+ 60. Kc8 Rh8+ 61. Bd8 {With the black king totally out of commission, the d-pawn will win the game for White.}) 44. dxc6 bxc6 45. Bb6+ Kc8 46. Be4 Ra4 47. c3 c5 $2 {Continuing in the same fashion..} ({Still,} 47... d5 {would make White sweat it out:} 48. Bf5+ Kb7 49. Kxg5 Ra1 50. Kf6 Rf1 51. Ke6 Rh1 52. Ke7 Rh5 53. Bd7 Rh7+ 54. Kd8 Rh8+ 55. Be8 Rg8 (55... Rh3 56. Bd4 Rh7 57. Bd7 Rh4 58. Bc8+ Kb8 59. Be5+ Ka7 60. Kc7) 56. Kd7 Rh8 57. Bd4 Rh6 (57... Rf8 58. Ke7 Rg8 59. Be5 Rg1 60. Kd6 { wins the c6-pawn.}) 58. Kd8 Rh7 59. Bd7 {finally getting to play Bc8+}) 48. Bc2 Ra3 49. bxc5 dxc5 50. c4 Ra2 51. Bf5+ Kb7 52. Be4+ Kc8 53. Bc6 Rc2 54. Bd5 Ra2 55. Kxg5 Kd7 56. Bb7 Rb2 57. Bxa6 Kc6 58. Kf6 1-0

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, neither player can be happy about their play in Shamkir. Sergey seems to have lost the momentum he gained from his great showing at the World Championship stage. It's a long way before the next Candidates, and Sergey needs to start winning tournaments and rating points to put fear in the hearts of his opponents. For Pavel the same blueprint of starting well and fading away as the tournament progresses is turning into a depressing pattern. Norway Chess 2016, Tata Steel earlier this year, and now this...

No one doubts his ability, but Sergey Karjakin seems to have been suffering from Post-World Championship Blues. Hopefully he will shake out of it soon and remember what a formidable warrior he can be.

Another not-too-happy customer is Kramnik. Two consecutive losses to So and Mamedyarov sandwiched around the free day (should have played soccer?) not only ended his hopes of winning the tournament, but also hurt him in the rat(ing) race for the spot in the Candidates. At least he was able to bounce back today.

The great Russian has had a challenging event, marked by wins and losses. A lack of rhythm maybe?

Vladimir Kramnik vs Michael Adams (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017"] [Site "Shamkir AZE"] [Date "2017.04.29"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Adams, Michael"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2811"] [BlackElo "2761"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2017.04.21"] 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 26. c4 $1 {[#] For a long time White has maintained a slight but persistent pull, and, finally, as Adams started getting a bit uncomfortable on the clock, Kramnik turned the screw.} Red8 $2 {A big error. It was hard enough to contain White's threats to infiltrate on the b-file, but with two files open it'll become simply impossible.} (26... d4 {was the only way to continue:} 27. Nf5 Ne7 28. Nxe7+ Rdxe7 {Perhaps, Mickey worried about his a-pawn after} 29. c5 {but then there's } Nh5 30. Nd2 Qg6 31. Nc4 Qg4 {with some counterchances, provided by the Nf4 idea.}) 27. cxd5 cxd5 28. Rb5 Ne7 $2 ({Once again,} 28... dxe4 29. dxe4 Nh5 { and hope for the best.}) 29. Rc5 Rd6 30. Rc1 Ra6 31. Qb2 Ng6 32. Qb7 Ne7 {[#]} 33. Nf5 $1 {White drives the stake through the heart of Black's position.} Rd7 ({The endgame after} 33... Nxf5 34. exf5 Qb6 (34... Qd6 35. Nxe5) 35. Qxb6 Rxb6 36. Nxe5 {wouldn't be any fun to play against Vladimir Kramnik.}) 34. Rc7 Rb6 35. Qa7 Ra6 36. Qb8+ Kh7 37. Rc8 $1 Ng6 (37... Nxf5 38. exf5 Qxf5 39. Nxe5 { is just mate from h8.}) 38. Rh1 $1 {A very elegant switching of the tracks.} Nh5 39. Ng5+ hxg5 40. hxg5 Ngf4+ 41. gxf4 1-0

Adams hasn't been doing too badly recently. Keeping his rating on the north side of 2750 isn't a small feat these days. Mickey just needs to survive the last game to count the event as a modest success.

Mamedyarov entered today's game as sole leader, a full point ahead of the field. It is easy to advise caution, but the tiger never changes his stripes. No matter what Shak is always going to be Shak, and that's what makes him great. He just needs to make sure he doesn't mix his lines in sharp openings anymore.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek entered round eight witha minus one score. He was armed to the teeth and pulled out the heavy artillery (preparation). A spectacular game with razor sharp tactics.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017"] [Site "Shamkir AZE"] [Date "2017.04.29"] [Round "8.3"] [White "Wojtaszek, Radoslaw"] [Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2745"] [BlackElo "2772"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2017.04.21"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Qb3 Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. e4 Bg4 (7... Bxd4 {is high on the not recommended list.} 8. Bh6 Be6 9. Qc2 c5 10. Nxd4 cxd4 11. Rd1 $16 {Novoselski-Djuric, 1990}) 8. Bb5+ c6 9. Ng5 $1 {The ownership of this unexpected idea belongs to Illescas, although he lost to Negi in 2010. Ever since, it has drawn a lot of attention from top players: Nakamura, Topalov, Aronian, Navara etc..} O-O 10. Be2 Bxe2 (10... Bc8 11. h4 $1) 11. Nxe2 {Somehow the d4-pawn survived.} Na6 $5 {Shak is not the kind of man to back down, but what follows requires Black to walk a tightrope - perhaps, not the most optimal strategy when the tournament victory needs to be secured above anything else.} ({Wojtaszek had already had a game in this line. His opponent (Jumabaev, 2016) chose wisely:} 11... h6 12. Nf3 Na6 13. Be3 {White has a normal opening advantage, and the pawn on h6 may cause Black some headache later in the game, but, more importantly, he's not getting mated any time soon. }) 12. Qh3 h6 13. Nf3 h5 14. Rg1 Nb4 $2 {I am not familiar with this move.} ({ All I know is that Sutovsky played} 14... Nd7 {twice in 2013. The thematic} 15. e5 {is best, and this is what Cheparinov used against Sutovsky:} ({Emil survived against Jakovenko after} 15. g4 Nf6) 15... Nb4 16. g4 Nc2+ 17. Kf1 Nxe5 18. Nxe5 Bxe5 19. gxh5 Qc8 20. Rg4 Qf5 21. dxe5 Rad8 22. hxg6 {Here Black played the unfortunate} Rd1+ (22... fxg6 23. Nf4 Rd1+ {was the right move order. According to the engines, this, like near every other forced line in today's chess, should end in a draw.}) 23. Kg2 Ne1+ (23... fxg6 24. Qb3+) 24. Kg3 Qf3+ 25. Kh4 Qxf2+ 26. Kg5 {and White is winning. An absolute brilliancy from Ivan Cheparinov. I know the Short-Timman king walk was instructive, but in that game Black could barely move his pieces. This one has a much higher degree of difficulty.}) 15. g4 $1 {Radoslaw is not going to be denied!} Qd7 ( 15... Nc2+ 16. Kf1 Nxa1 17. gxh5 Qd7 18. Qh4 {doesn't really change anything.}) 16. Qh4 $1 Nc2+ 17. Kf1 Nxd4 {Rejecting the rook must not have easy to Mamedyarov.} (17... Nxa1 18. gxh5 {[#] Here Black won't be able to save his king without suffering heavy losses. One line goes as follows:} Bf6 (18... Nc2 19. hxg6 fxg6 20. Ng5 Rf6 21. Qh7+ Kf8 22. e5 Rf5 23. Qxg6 Rxg5 24. Rxg5 e6 25. Qxc2) (18... Nd5 $5 19. exd5 cxd5 20. hxg6 fxg6 21. Ng5 Rf6 22. Qh7+ Kf8 23. Nf4 Qf5 24. Nge6+ Rxe6 25. Nxe6+ Qxe6 26. Rxg6 Qg8 27. Rxg7) 19. Bg5 Bg7 20. h6 $1 Bf6 21. Bxf6 exf6 22. Ng3 $1 (22. Qxf6 $4 Qh3+) 22... Kh7 23. Qxf6 Qh3+ 24. Rg2 Qxh6 25. Ng5+ Kg8 26. Nf5 {curtains.}) 18. Nexd4 Bxd4 19. gxh5 Bf6 20. Bg5 {Looks to me White just got himself a free ride.} Bxb2 21. Re1 Qd3+ 22. Kg2 f6 23. Bh6 g5 {A desperate attempt to stop the flood.} 24. Nxg5 $1 {When the levee breaks....} Rf7 25. Nxf7 Kxf7 26. Re3 Qc2 27. Rg3 Bd4 28. Rg7+ Ke6 29. Qg4+ Kd6 30. Be3 Bxe3 31. Qg3+ 1-0

With this win Wojtaszek climbed to fifty per cent score, which is going to be short of having any chance of winning the whole thing. The people he opened the door for actually failed to capitalize on it..

Things didn't go as planned for the leader Mamedyarov, and he will need to cover his bases in the last round

So put his trademark endgame positional squeeze on Radjabov, but Teimour refused to give in and reached a safe draw in an instructive same color bishop ending. Note how the weakness of White's K-side pawns enabled Black to escape.

Topalov also gave it a full ride against Harikrishna. Toward the end Veselin was able to win two minor pieces for Pentala's rook, but his knight got stuck in the enemy camp. In retrospect, 46.Bg3 may have been the better choice.

Veselin Topalov gave it a strong go in round eight. Should he win in round nine agianst the leader, who can say what the standings will look like?

Anyway, what is going to happen tomorrow? I, for one, do not expect a whole lot of action. Mamedyarov-Topalov is, of course, the big game, but I doubt Veselin would go all in with the black pieces. He has won enough tournaments in his illustrious career not to worry too much about another one. So is facing the unfortunate Harikrishna, but Pentala has White, and, honestly, I don't see Wesley taking any big chances. I look for Radjabov and Karjakin to be the guys to hit the bar first.

Wesley So is another player witha mathematical chance at first, though he will need to win for any chance

In short, we may have five draws again, although, I have been wrong before......

Standings after eight rounds

(click for high-res)

Photos from official site


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Aeonmiguel Aeonmiguel 4/30/2017 01:44
I like the way Yermolinsky annotate games, very informative and engaging.
kungfu_panda kungfu_panda 4/30/2017 11:28
Hello,games are really nice, Looks like clash of the titans. Very Interesting tournament....
sedarpl sedarpl 4/30/2017 11:21
Nice win Radoslaw! :)
blueflare blueflare 4/30/2017 10:22
Wesley has a great chance tomorow, facing the least while mamedya faces topa