Gashimov Memorial B: Eljanov and Motylev shine

by Albert Silver
4/30/2014 – While the main focus of the chess fans and media was on the top event with Carlsen and Co., it would be remiss to ignore the no less exciting B tournament, which brought together five strong foreign players against five Azeri grandmasters. After a rocket start by Bacrot, Eljanov took over in a key win in round seven, while Motylev also finished strong. Large illustrated report.

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The Vugar Gashimov Memorial, is being held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, from the 20th to 30th of April, in memory of the great Vugar Gashimov, who passed away on the 10th of January 2014. The tournament is divided into two groups. The A Group features six players: World Champion Magnus Carlsen (2881), Fabiano Caruana (2783), Sergey Karjakin (2772), Hikaru Nakamura (2772), and the two Azeri players Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2760) and Teimour Radjabov (2713). The B group consists of ten players, the top five seeds from various countries and the bottom five are all from Azerbaijan.

The grand playing venue

Vugar Gashimov would be proud to have such a magnificent event held in his honor. There can be no doubt that this tribute to him as both a player and a remarkable human being was of the highest quality possible, and went beyond the qualities and conditions one would expect of a ‘mere’ elite tournament.

Anatoly Karpov sent his personal best wishes and congratulations

True, Azerbaijan is a nation in which chess holds a prominent position, yet nevertheless, the organizers went that extra distance in nearly every aspect. Consider just how extensively the tournament was promoted throughout the city of Baku, Garry Kasparov’s hometown.

All over Baku one could find billboards of all sizes...

... as well as numerous electronic signs advertising the tournament.

Nevertheless, it went deeper as their online presence was second to none, and an example for many. Of course it had the expected official website, with video coverage and grandmaster commentary, and while important, is nothing new. However, they also made peerless use of the major social networks, including Twitter, a superbly well-worked Facebook page dedicated to the tournament, and even an exclusive Instagram account, a first as far as we know.

The Facebook page was very well taken care of, with many
updates, and a plethora of pictures

They even had a dedicated Instagram account for the competition

The magnificent battles that took place in the A tournament  have been well-documented, but it would be remiss to ignore the equally exciting B tournament, split between five top foreigners, and five strong Azerbaijan players, giving them a chance at top level competition they might not get very often.

At the midway point, after five rounds, French player Etienne Bacrot was on top of the world with 4.0/5 and a 2863 performance that rivaled any by the players in the A tournament.  This was compounded by a fifth round win over Rauf Mamedov in a mere 26 moves, after a tactical oversight cost the game.

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem B 2014"] [Site "Shamkir AZE"] [Date "2014.04.24"] [Round "5.3"] [White "Bacrot, Etienne"] [Black "Mamedov, Rauf"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A89"] [WhiteElo "2722"] [BlackElo "2660"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4rr1k/pp1b2bp/1q1pp1p1/4np2/2PN4/1P2P1P1/PB2QPBP/2RR2K1 b - - 0 21"] [PlyCount "10"] [EventDate "2014.03.20"] 21... Nf7 $2 {Diagram [#]} 22. c5 $1 {[%cal Rd1d7] A vicious blow that exploits the rook's x-ray attack on the bishop.} Qa5 ({Taking with} 22... dxc5 $2 {allows the discovered attack} 23. Nxf5 exf5 (23... Bxb2 24. Qxb2+ e5 25. Rxd7) 24. Rxd7) 23. Bxb7 e5 24. c6 exd4 25. cxd7 Rb8 26. Bc6 1-0

In the meantime, Alexander Motylev, who had just been crowned the European Champion with the most dominating score in history, was having trouble breaking away from the pack, and stood at a sedate 50%. Solid, considering the company he was in, but certainly not what he had come for.

The next rounds completely turned the tournament on its head, and the turning point was unquestionably the decisive round seven game between Etienne Bacrot and Pavel Eljanov.

[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem B 2014"] [Site "Shamkir AZE"] [Date "2014.04.27"] [Round "7.3"] [White "Bacrot, Etienne"] [Black "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D43"] [WhiteElo "2722"] [BlackElo "2732"] [PlyCount "114"] [EventDate "2014.03.20"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. e3 g6 8. Be2 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. e4 Nd7 11. cxd5 exd5 12. exd5 c5 13. Ne4 Qb6 14. dxc5 Nxc5 15. Nxc5 Qxc5 16. Rc1 Qb4 17. b3 Bf5 18. Bd3 Bd7 19. h3 Rac8 20. Qd2 Qd6 21. Be2 a6 22. Rfd1 Rfe8 23. Bf1 Bf5 24. g3 Rxc1 25. Qxc1 Rc8 {Although White's advantage has dissipated, he still has an extra pawn, though well compensated for by Black's bishop pair.} 26. Qf4 $2 {This move really is quite incomprehensible, and one must ask whether this was based on some hallucination on Bacrot's part, or nerves got the better of him. It is true that one often advises to exchange pieces when up material, in this case a pawn, but not at any cost.} Qxf4 27. gxf4 {White's pawn structure is shattered and the only thing he has in his favor is the extra passed d-pawn. Unfortunately he blunders this away in the very next move.} Bf8 28. d6 $4 Rd8 29. d7 Rxd7 30. Rxd7 Bxd7 {Black is more than ready to plpay this endgame in which he has a power pair of bishops and superior pawn structure.} 31. Ne5 Be8 32. Bg2 b6 33. Bc6 Bxc6 34. Nxc6 Bd6 35. f5 Kg7 36. fxg6 fxg6 37. Kg2 Kf6 38. Kf3 Kf5 39. a4 h5 40. b4 g5 41. Nd4+ Ke5 42. Nc2 Bc7 43. Ke3 Kd5 44. Kd3 Bd8 45. f3 Be7 46. Ne3+ Ke5 47. Nc4+ Kf4 48. Nxb6 Kxf3 49. Nd5 Bd6 50. Nf6 Bxb4 51. Nxh5 Kg2 52. Ke4 Kxh3 53. Kf5 Be7 54. Ke6 Bd8 55. Kd7 Ba5 56. Nf6 Be1 57. Kc8 a5 0-1

Etienne Bacrot wonders what happened to a tournament that seemed under control

Bacrot was unable to recover from this in the next day in round eight, and ran
into a belligerent Motylev who outfoxed him on the white side of a Berlin to
transition into a won endgame.

In round nine, Motylev completed his comeback with a victory over Gadir Guseinov, leaving him in clear second with 5.5/9 and a 2738 performance, while Pavel Eljanov, the most consistent player throughout the event, took a deserved first with 6.0/9.

The prize ceremony was also broadcast live

Everyone was there, and it included simultaneous translation to and from English

A proud Pavel Eljanov receives his award for first prize

The media was there in mass as the photgraphers jostled to get the best shots

The final group photo with the organizers, sponsors, and players


Tiebreak: Number of Wins

Images from the official web site


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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