Shamkir: All games drawn, Anand misses big chance

by Antonio Pereira
3/31/2019 – The 2019 edition of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir kicked off with all games drawn in the first round — much like last year, when the first decisive game came in round four. That does not mean there was no fighting in the Azeri town, however, as Teimour Radjabov put pressure on Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand had David Navara against the ropes during most of their encounter. | Photo: Official site

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


A half point for everyone

The tournament in memory of Vugar Gashimov has reached its sixth edition. For a fourth time, World Champion Magnus Carlsen is leading an ever increasingly strong line-up. The first version had reached Category XXII, with a 2780 rating average, although it included only six players. This year, the ten-player single round robin is only two points short in average (2778) and includes six players from the top 10.

Round-up Show

Results from Round 1


The first game to finish was Alexander Grischuk vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The Berlin Defence with 5.e1 was tried yet again in an elite encounter, and the players followed recent theory until move 19. The fight kept going despite the total absence of imbalances until move 37, when the much expected peace treatise was signed in an almost perfectly symmetrical position.

Alexander Grischuk

Grischuk will arrive well rest in round two | Photo: Official site

Deep preparation was also seen in the game that faced Sergey Karjakin with the white pieces against Ding Liren. Karjakin followed the line that Jorden van Foreest had used against Ding at this year's Tata Steel Masters. The Chinese star had defeated his Dutch colleague after Van Foreest overestimated the strength of his position. Karjakin, on the other hand, accepted Ding's implicit draw offer:


White chased the black queen with 21.h6 and his rival responded with 21...f6. When Karjakin took his bishop back to f4, Ding Liren decided 22...g7 was his best option, and Sergey continued 23.h6. The draw was signed after the players reached the same position three times.

Ding Liren, Sergey Karjakin

This game never quite took off | Photo: Official site

Fighting draws

With the previously mentioned games clearly en route to finish peacefully, all eyes were put on Magnus Carlsen's game against Teimour Radjabov. Magnus has won all three editions he played in Shamkir, losing only twice in 28 games. Incidentally, the last player to beat him was Radjabov, who defeated the current World Champion with the black pieces in round five of the 2014 edition. This time, Teimour had the white pieces.

After the opening, an Italian, Black ended up with a small minus due to his doubled pawns on the b-file. 


Teimour chose 21.xb6, slightly wrecking Black's pawn structure, albeit giving up the bishop pair in the meantime. 

White was also the one better coordinated and Radjabov started looking for ways to get more activity, even offering a pawn for free on d3. Carlsen, nonetheless, defended accurately and simplified into an equal endgame when given the chance. The draw was signed after 41 moves.

Shamkir Chess 2019

The well-known playing hall | Photo: Official site

The player who lamented the most his inaugural draw must have been Viswanathan Anand. In a sharp Sicilian, his opponent David Navara made a couple of dubious decisions and ended up with an inferior position. The first regrettable decision by Anand arrived in move 32:


The computer shows the cold-blooded 33.h2 as the best option for White, avoiding any future skewer on the first rank while keeping all the trumps in the position. Instead, Anand went for 33.a4, allowing David to exchange a couple of rooks after 33...b1+ 34.xb1 (forced) ♛xa4. Black's position became easier to defend with less pieces on the board, but Anand was the one clearly on top nonetheless.

After this sequence, time pressure started to play a key role, as Navara had only a few minutes on his clock — the tournament in Shamkir only provides increment from move 61. Anand used his time advantage wisely and duly regained his advantage. Navara barely reached the time control, but his position seemed hopeless. Until...


Anand blundered with 41.e7?, despite having had 60 minutes added to his clock in the last move. The Indian missed that 41...d1+ is an immediate draw! If White captures with 42.♘xd1, Black can give perpetual check with the queen from a1 and d4. Certainly a hard pill to swallow for Vishy.

Vishy Anand, David Navara

An exciting game to follow...for everyone | Photo: Official site

The last game to finish was Anish Giri vs. Veselin Topalov. White was the one pressing all throughout the game, but the former FIDE World Champion showed he still has what it takes to defend against an elite player looking for the smallest hole to break through. The game lasted 50 moves.

Anish Giri

Giri is the fourth highest rated player in the world at the moment | Photo: Official site

Round 2 pairings


All games



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 4/3/2019 11:15
"Judit Polgar was the strongest female player in the world for many years, but never women's world champion."

She never played for it, though.

A player that won the title in a cycle/tournament/match in which the strongest player(s) did not take part may technically and "officially" be the champion, simply due to whoever's in charge not being competent enough to make that happen (a relevant World Championship competition), but, at least in my opinion, to anyone who isn't completely incapable of critical thought, that should be a meaningless title.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 4/3/2019 12:03
The strongest player in the world is not the same as the world champion, and it was never a criterion to be world champion. Eg, Judit Polgar was the strongest female player in the world for many years, but never women's world champion.

There were several? players before Steinitz who were clearly #1 in the world, and I believe should be considered world champions, because the title didn't exist before then so they would not have had a chance to won it, but demonstrated it by playing top players all over the world, including in matches.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 4/2/2019 05:57
Topalov was also #1 by rating at one point, whereas the others were never anywhere near that high.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 4/2/2019 05:56
Topalov WAS the strongest at one point, I would say... Debatable, of course. But Ponomariov, Khalifman and Kasimdzhanov clearly weren't, nor did they face the absolute strongest in the World in the tournaments they won. Topalov didn't either, so, personally, I also don't consider him a champion of the uninterrupted line - the 16 -, but I think he was, nevertheless, the strongest around 2005-2007, at least for a bit. If Kramnik had played in San Luis, I'm 90% sure he would not have won over Topalov in that form. He hardly ever scored that heavily, even at his absolute best.
badibadibadi badibadibadi 4/2/2019 04:32
Topalov was #1 rated in the world in 2005, defeated Kasparov many times, and played two legit world champion matches against Kramnik and Anand
tom_70 tom_70 4/1/2019 10:03
@Chesspride. Your list is an April fools joke right?? You cannot include Khalifman, Ponomariov, Kazimshinov, or Topalov in any legitimate list of World Chess Champions. They were NEVER the strongest player among their peers. EVER.
Chesspride Chesspride 4/1/2019 10:00
Topalov absolutely is a former World Champion -- no asterisk needed. Those of us who lived through the private title claimant era (when certain players tried to privatize/steal the world championship title from the federations of the world/FIDE)...are very happy that FIDE won that battle and that we live in a time of an undisputed title under FIDE (and only FIDE). There are 20 World Champions (not 16) -- 1. Steinitz 2. Lasker 3. Capablanca 4. Alekhine 5. Euwe 4. Alekhine 6. Botvinnik 7. Smyslov 6. Botvinnik 8. Tal 6. Botvinnik 9. Petrosian 10. Spassky 11. Fischer 12. Karpov 13. Kasparov 12. Karpov 14. Khalifman 15. Anand 16. Ponomariov 17. Kazimzhinov 18. Topalov 19. Kramnink 15. Anand 20. Carlsen. The line is not hard to remember -- and based entirely on FIDE defeating the private title claimants and their weak organizations. BTW Steinitz said he considered himself the challenger against Zukertort -- who might easily be considered # 0.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 4/1/2019 09:37
Anand seems to have made many blunders with plenty of time on his clock. Something that he should have worked on a long time ago.
badibadibadi badibadibadi 4/1/2019 11:03
Topalov was maybe not world champion, but he was 2800+ (#1 rated at some point) and the one Kasparov lost his very last game to before retiring.
badibadibadi badibadibadi 4/1/2019 11:02
The thing is that computer chess which is even stronger than human chess 3k+ has a lower drawing rate than human chess.

Why is that ?
Abraxas79 Abraxas79 4/1/2019 04:28
Expect many more draws to come. Classical chess is dead. At least at this level. Put a fork into already.
Legend1 Legend1 4/1/2019 04:08
Please stop referring to Topalov as the former "World Champion". Topalov was a "FIDE World Champion" - not the same thing. (Same applies to the other FIDE World Champions, such as Ponomariov).