Gashimov Memorial: Magnus Carlsen is third time winner

by Albert Silver
4/29/2018 – The writing was on the wall, and the last round clash between Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren remained somewhat anticlimactic as they drew after just 27 moves. To be fair, Magnus never gave his opponent a chance to liven things up. The one decisive game of the last round was Sergey Karjakin’s win over Veselin Topalov. A great tournament victory for the World Champion with signs of what is to come. | Photo: Shamkir Chess

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There was only one player capable of knocking Magnus Carlsen off the top spot, and that was Ding Liren, his rival who trailed just a half-point behind. These Hollywood finales between the two leaders fighting for all the marbles are always a mixed bag, since it is impossible to predict how they will pan out.

Will they nobly draw their swords with a valiant ‘en garde’ and proceed to try to cut each other to ribbons? Or will they draw out the Treaty, sign the negotiations, whilst posing for the cameras? There have certainly been times when the World Champion portrayed a ‘death to draws’ attitude, but today was not the day, and it is quite understandable. After the terrible drought in elite round-robins last year, a type of event that had been his signature bread-and-butter until now, he wanted to secure his return, signaled by his win at Wijk aan Zee.

Ding and Carlsen

The game between the leaders was uneventful | Photo: Shamkir Chess

Ding Liren’s task of trying to force a win with black was unenviable, to say the least, and one cannot begrudge him the inability to make a fight of it. It takes two to battle after all, and his opponent held the white pieces and came equipped with fire extinguishers to put out the smallest hint of a spark. The weapon of choice was the Four Knights Defense, an opening that tends to only appear at the top in order to remind everyone why it never does.

Magnus Carlsen ½-½ Ding Liren

[Event "5th Shamkir Chess 2018"] [Site "Shamkir"] [Date "2018.04.28"] [Round "9"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C48"] [WhiteElo "2843"] [BlackElo "2778"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventCountry "AZE"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Nd4 5. Nxd4 exd4 6. e5 dxc3 7. exf6 Qxf6 8. Qe2+ Qe7 9. dxc3 Qxe2+ 10. Kxe2 Bc5 {It doesn't take an oracle to predict where this game is headed.} ({The databases are full of thrilling games in this line like the following:} 10... c6 11. Bd3 d5 12. c4 Be6 13. cxd5 Bxd5 14. f3 {1/2-1/2 (14) Bauer,C (2612)-Degraeve,J (2569) Belfort 2010}) 11. Be3 Bxe3 12. Kxe3 c6 13. Bd3 d5 14. Rae1 Ke7 15. c4 dxc4 16. Bxc4 Rd8 17. Rd1 Be6 18. Bxe6 Kxe6 19. Rhe1 Rxd1 20. Rxd1 $11 Re8 21. f4 f5 22. Kf3 Re7 23. Re1+ Kf6 24. Rd1 Ke6 25. Re1+ Kf6 26. Rd1 Ke6 27. Re1+ 1/2-1/2

Rocket Repertoire: The Four Knights

Like a fine wine, the Four Knights only improves with age, establishing itself as an extremely effective way of meeting 1...e5. On the outside this opening seems deceptively quiet, yet apparently natural moves can often lead to some devastating attacks.

For most of the players, it was a lukewarm tournament with seven of the ten competitors scoring within a half-point of the 50% mark. As a result, the one decisive game between two such players had the result of pushing one, Sergey Karjakin, into clear third, while the loser, Veselin Topalov, was relegated to penultimate in the standings.


Topalov had started great and seemed to be the man to beat — and he was by Carlsen, Wojtaszek, and Karjakin | Photo: Shamkir Chess

Sergey Karjakin 1-0 Veselin Topalov

[Event "5th Shamkir Chess 2018"] [Site "Shamkir"] [Date "2018.04.28"] [Round "9"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Topalov, Veselin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2778"] [BlackElo "2749"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventCountry "AZE"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Na4 Bb6 7. a3 O-O (7... h6 8. h3 O-O 9. O-O Be6 10. Re1 Bxc4 11. dxc4 Nd4 12. Nh4 Nd7 13. g3 Qf6 14. Nxb6 Nxb6 {1-0 (55) Artemiev,V (2691)-Mamedyarov,S (2799) Huaian 2017}) 8. O-O Ne7 9. Nxb6 axb6 10. Bg5 Be6 11. Bxf6 $14 gxf6 12. Nh4 d5 13. exd5 Nxd5 14. d4 c6 15. Re1 $16 b5 16. Bxd5 cxd5 17. Qh5 (17. dxe5 $6 fxe5 18. Qh5 Ra4 $11) 17... e4 18. f3 (18. c3 $142) 18... b4 19. fxe4 dxe4 20. Rxe4 Ra5 21. Qh6 Qd5 22. Rf4 bxa3 23. bxa3 Qg5 24. Qxf6 Qxf6 25. Rxf6 Rc8 26. Rf2 b5 27. Rd2 b4 $14 28. a4 Bd7 29. Kf2 Rxa4 30. Rb1 Rc4 31. Rb2 Kf8 32. g3 Bh3 33. Nf3 f6 $1 34. Ke3 Bg4 {[#]} 35. Ne1 $1 $16 Ke7 36. Ng2 Bh3 37. Nf4 Be6 38. d5 Bf5 39. d6+ Kd8 40. Nd5 Ra3+ 41. Kf2 Be4 42. Nb6 $36 (42. Rxb4 $2 Bxd5 43. Rb8+ Kd7 $19 44. Rxd5 Rxc2+ 45. Ke1 Rxh2 {and Black wins.}) 42... Rc5 43. Rxb4 Rh5 44. Ke1 $18 ( {But not} 44. Rxe4 $2 Rxh2+ 45. Ke1 Ra1+ 46. Rd1 Rh1+ 47. Kf2 Rhxd1 $19) 44... Bc6 45. Re2 Ra6 46. c4 Ra1+ (46... Bb5 $16 47. g4 (47. cxb5 Rxb6 48. Rf2 Rhxb5 $18) (47. Rxb5 Rxb5 48. cxb5 Rxb6 $18) 47... Rc5 48. Rxb5 (48. cxb5 Rxb6 49. Re7 Re5+ 50. Rxe5 fxe5 $18) 48... Rxb5 49. cxb5 Rxb6) 47. Kd2 Rf5 $2 (47... Ra2+ 48. Kd3 Rxe2 49. Kxe2 Rxh2+ 50. Ke3 Rh5) 48. Re7 {[#] Black must now prevent Rc7.} Ra2+ (48... Rff1 $142 49. Nd5 Rfd1+ 50. Ke2 Re1+ 51. Kf2 Reb1 52. Rxb1 Rxb1 53. Nxf6 Rd1) 49. Kc3 1-0

In spite of the slightly anticlimactic final day, it was a good tournament, with plenty of promise. For Magnus Carlsen, it marked a return to his winning ways, which will do wonders for his self-confidence, and hopefully to wipe away the specter of doubt and frustration that had been casting its shadow. The win and his games, also sent a powerful message to the other side of the world, in St. Louis, to his Challenger. More than the win, however important, there was also a sign of something fresh in his game against Anish Giri, a battle that had shown a far more aggressive and pro-active Carlsen. It is a welcome evolution, hopefully a permanent addition, and that means preparing and playing against him will be that much harder. There are still six months to go, but this can be seen as the first signs of the buildup.

Gentlemen, start your motors!

Final standings


All games



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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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