Shamkir Round 3: The spell holds - all draws

by Alex Yermolinsky
4/22/2018 – At the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijani, the curious "remis-sery" (to use a cross-language pun) could not be broken in the third round either. The ten top grandmasters have played fifteen games; because none of them was decided, there are naturally also ten "leaders" with 1½ points. GM Alex Yermolinsky reports that things could have changed today round three, which saw the Bulgarian ex-FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov miss a winning chance against Ding Liren. Unfortunately, of the two ways in which Topalov could sacrifice his knight, Topalov chose the wrong one, and Ding could save the game in a draw. | Photo:

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Ten "leaders"

All five games were drawn again today. I don't think we, as spectators, should be overly concerned with that. The games were fairly interesting, and it's only a matter of time before the scoreboard lights up with victories. 

Magnus Carlsen keeps on experimenting with various g7-g6 openings. There may be two reasons for that. One is to make a push toward sharpening his play with Black, and the other is to force his opponent in the upcoming World Championship match, Fabiano Caruana, to study additional openings in his preparation.

The Pirc Defense Magnus tried today against Rauf Mamedov worked out well enough to equalize easily, but there wasn't enough left in the position for Carlsen to make his trademark push for a win.

Rauf Mamedov ½-½ Magnus Carlsen (annotated by GM Alex Yermolinsky)

This is just a minor setback for Magnus Carlsen, but it continues the disturbing pattern of shedding rating points which has lately been plaguing his play in classical tournaments. Trying new things with Black is admirable, but Magnus has to expect more of the same solid play from his opposition. It is tough to be a World Champion when every next opponent brings his “A” game to the table.


Even this pleading expression could not bring the world champion a solution to the "draw problem" | Photo:

The two of the recent contenders on the Candidates Tournament, Shakhriar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin, faced each other again today. Shakh uncorked a new idea in a beaten-up line of the Qc2 Nimzo, but he met with an unrelenting will of Sergey to stay solid and play for equality.

In the wake of the Candidates, Karjakin made a statement about his future plans of rising up in the rating list to qualify for next event. I guess, not losing games remains his top priority.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ½-½ Sergey Karjakin


Karjakin's opponents have a common problem: he's a brilliant defender and tough to beat | Photo:

One guy he couldn't care less for ratings and invitations is Veselin Topalov. Veselin seems to thrive in the low-pressure environment of just a “nice tournament”, and he's not afraid of going for a win, no matter White or Black. Today he played a beautiful game against Ding Liren, all until a strange miss right at the finish line.

Ding Liren ½-½ Veselin Topalov

Topalov with fans

Topalov is still an international star | Photo:

Giri-Radjabov and Navara-Wojtaszek were less eventful. The players with the white pieces gave more than a token effort, but it wasn't enough to get much going.

Giri and Radjabov

Anish Giri and Teimour Radjabov

Wojtaszek and Navara

Just one Elo point separates the Polish and Czech grandmasters | Photo:

Standings after three rounds


Games of round three



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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