Aeroflot Open: Suleymanli catches up with Mamedov

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
2/27/2020 – A young gun from Azerbaijan caught up with his more experienced compatriot Rauf Mamedov in the lead of the very strong Aeroflot Open. 14-year-old Aydin Suleymanli won three games in a row to reach a 6/8 score and will have the black pieces against the former sole leader in round nine. Eight players are a half point behind the Azerbaijani duo. | Photo: Boris Dolmatovsky

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A 14-year-old from Azerbaijan

In the last World Youth Championship, played in October 2019, Aydin Suleymanli was the only player in the event who won his section (Open U-14) by a full point margin. The International Master is joining a pack of very young players quickly making a name for themselves in the elite circuit, as he is sharing the lead of the famously strong Aeroflot Open in Moscow.

Suleymanli, talking to Sagar Shah a couple of months ago, showed incredible maturity in analysing his game and mentioned that at his young age he already considers himself to be a professional chess player:

The Azerbaijani arrived in the Russian capital as the 71st seed, but we should not forget that last year's winner Kaido Kulaots was only the 62nd highest-rated player of the event. Will we see another unexpected champion at the Aeroflot Open? This time it would not be a 43-year-old making a comeback but a promising talent who did not even get his grandmaster title yet!

After seeing the host of prodigies coming from India, Jonathan Tisdall quipped:

The first of the three consecutive wins by the youngster came in round six, when he got to neutralize Vasif Durabayli's massive pawn centre with the black pieces. Durabayli allowed an unfavourable simplification on move 31:


White spent nine minutes on 31.e6, a move that Suleymanli had calculated, noticing that 31...f5 (played almost immediately) was good for him. Now the best White has is 32.xc2 xc2 33.xc2 xc2 34.c6 and Black is in time to defend against the scary-looking connected passers:


Already a rook and a knight up Black can go for 34...b5, as he would have no issues giving back material after 35.c7 ♜5xb7. Durabayli went on to miss a chance to get a draw during time trouble, but Suleymanli was the more pragmatic player throughout and was rewarded with a 41-move win.


On Tuesday, Suleymanli had the white pieces against the experienced Israeli grandmaster Ilia Smirin. Brave play by both sides during the opening led to a sharp tactical struggle. Smirin was behind in development and had the weaker king when he decided to grab material on the f-file:


White can respond to 16...xf4 with 17.ad1, threatening to capture the rook and deflect the queen from the defence of d8. At this point, the computer gives 17...♞d7 as the best alternative for Black, but it is difficult for a human to leave the light-squared bishop and the a8-rook stranded like that on the back rank. Thus, Smirin went for 17...e6 after over a half hour. 

What followed was a strong demonstration by the Azerbaijani, who never let go of the initiative, delaying once and again chances to grab material, preferring to increase the pressure against the opposite king. Smirin saw it necessary to give up his queen, but by then he was already dead lost:


White opened up lines for his queen and rook tandem with 28.f5 and got the win five moves later.


Rauf Mamedov

Rauf Mamedov will need to face an in-form Aydin Suleymanli in the deciding ninth round | Photo: Boris Dolmatovsky

In round eight, the 14-year-old was paired up against Parham Maghsoodloo, already a seasoned grandmaster in these opens at 19! The Iranian star is rated exactly two-hundred points above Suleymanli and, true to his style, decided to challenge his rival by capturing the two pawns Black offered him out of the opening:


Maghsoodloo was apparently out of book here, as he had spent eight minutes on his previous 7.b3 and now needed six minutes to play 8.xb7. During the sequence 8...b4 9.c1 0-0 10.xc7 xc7 11.xc7 the Iranian continued to invest much more time than Suleymanli, when in fact they were following theory until move 12.

From this point on, the Azerbaijani showed great positional understanding and precise calculation to make use of his initiative until getting a 27-move victory. As pointed out by Sagar Shah — see his full analysis below — this game would make Mark Dvoretsky proud!


Suleymanli will play Black in the last round against Mamedov, while on boards two to five eight players currently standing on 5½ out of 8 will need the all-Azerbaijani duel to end in a draw if they want to get a chance to end up sharing first place.

Standings after Round 8 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Suleymanli Aydin 6,0 4
2 Mamedov Rauf 6,0 4
3 Sjugirov Sanan 5,5 4
4 Adhiban B. 5,5 4
5 Paravyan David 5,5 4
6 Yilmaz Mustafa 5,5 4
7 Jumabayev Rinat 5,5 4
  Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 5,5 4
9 Shimanov Aleksandr 5,5 4
10 Petrosyan Manuel 5,5 3
11 Aleksandrov Aleksej 5,0 4
12 Idani Pouya 5,0 4
13 Asadli Vugar 5,0 4
14 Sarana Alexey 5,0 4
15 Sethuraman S.P. 5,0 4
16 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 5,0 4
17 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 5,0 4
18 Antipov Mikhail Al. 5,0 4
19 Zhou Jianchao 5,0 4
20 Smirin Ilia 5,0 3
21 Svane Rasmus 5,0 3
22 Bharath Subramaniyam H 4,5 4
23 Nesterov Arseniy 4,5 4
24 Vaibhav Suri 4,5 4
25 Aryan Chopra 4,5 4

...97 players  

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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