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

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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.


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