Shamkir Round 5: Carlsen and Topalov score

by André Schulz
4/24/2018 – After a lethargic start, the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir has slowly gained momentum. On Monday two games were decided: Magnus Carlsen celebrated his first win, against Radoslaw Wojtaszek, and Veselin Topalov made it two in a row by beating David Navara with the black pieces. Topalov continues in sole first place as we reach the one and only rest day. | Photos:

How to combat rare lines as Black How to combat rare lines as Black

A complete repertoire for Black is set out to be used against moves such as 1.Nf3, 1.f4, 1.g3, 1.Nc3, 1.b3, 1.b4 and 1.g4. The author uses content from his own notebooks to provide a full explanation of how to proceed.


Topalov leads at the half-way mark

Even after four rounds, the Vugar Gashimov Memorial had not really gotten going; 19 of the 20 games ended in draws. The single game that found a winner was Veselin Topalov's defeat of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the fourth round. Now, two more wins give the impression that the tournament seems to be gaining pace.

Tuesday is the rest day, so Magnus Carlsen will have plenty of time to mull over his upcoming white game against Topalov in round seven. But first he'll have to get by his former challenger Sergey Karjakin with the black pieces on Wednesday.


In Monday's fifth round, Carlsen finally scored his first victory in the tournament. His opening can perhaps be understood as an homage to Vugar Gashimov:


Gashimov played this original move a total of nine times from 2006 to 2009 and won six of these games. However, after 3...cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 the Azeri top grandmaster continued with 5.Bb5. Carlsen chose the odd-looking queen retreat 5.Qd2 instead and then fianchettoed his bishop to b2 — creative! This approach is not entirely new, but the few predecessor games were all between beginner or amateur players. Does the World Champion play like a beginner? Hardly! First appearances can be deceptive, of course, because in fact, the Norwegian had in mind an interesting deployment plan. 

A few moves later, it looked like this:


An almost normal Sicilian, but the Ng1 did not move to d4, but to g5 (better?).

Wojtaszek kept the game in balance for a long time and got a couple of extra chances from the World Champion, but finally, the Polish grandmaster's luck ran out:


Black's last rook move was a mistake. Carlsen quickly swapped rooks and played 28.Rh2, attacking the bishop and threatening mate in three.

Ding Liren played in constricting style in a Bf4 variation of the Queen's Gambit declined against Teimour Radjabov. 


Here White played the rare 14.Qe2, whereas 14.Bxa6 is most common. Gradually, Black freed himself on the queenside and then even had easier play. A simplification combination eventually resulted in an even endgame with a rook, minor piece and pawns, and a draw soon followed on the 40th move.

There was also the same Bf4 variation (maybe one should call it the "Blackburne variation?") in the game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Anish Giri. This time, however White refrained from the space grabbing c4-c5, and Black took the opportunity to do so himself. The players followed the game Vachier Lagrave-Adams, from the 2012 Istanbul Olympiad through 18 moves, until Mamedyarov deviated with 19.Qd3. After a queen exchange, a balanced endgame with a rook and minor pieces and a symmetrical pawn structure ensued, in which neither side could make inroads.

Against Rauf Mamedov, Sergey Karjakin chose the Sicilian defence and then had to deal with 3.Bb5. Karjakin opted for 3...Bd7 and you can also find many predecessors through move 16.


After a few tactical skirmishes, the suspense dissolved in the endgame to a draw.

Scoring his second victory in the tournament was Veselin Topalov, who won Monday with black against David Navara.

Topalov and Navara

Taopalov und Navara

Topalov gained the bishop pair in the middle game, which became a strong asset after both pairs of rooks and the queens were exchanged.


Navara's a5 pawn is weak and after the decisive mistake 44.Nd2? it drops off. 44...Bb4 45.Bb3 Bxb3 46.Nxb3 c5 with c4 to follow. With two connected pawns on the queenside, a win for the Bulgarian was no longer in doubt.


Standings after five rounds


All games of round five



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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