Deficit of Ones and Zeros

Eteri Kublashvili reports from round two of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial 

The round two day in Shamkir started with an educational tour. The driving force of any tournament in Shamkir is Hojjat Asadullayev, who kindly agreed to accompany Nona Gaprindashvili, the film crew of Match TV Elmira Mirzoeva and Anton Skrypnik, as well as your correspondent, to the History Ethnography Museum and Lutheran Church. It is not every day that you get a chance to converse with the legend of chess while surrounded by historical exhibits, and the footage from church is also something infrequent. 

Nona Terentyevna is quite accustomed to communicating with TV people, having always been a focus of mass media’s attention. She is always ready to discuss, share something from her rich biography and express her opinion on various issues. Nona Gaprindashvili was true to herself this time as well, being easily-natured and open and letting us in the know of many interesting things.  

The fifth world champion is very popular in Shamkir, and the incredible level of the tournament and participation of outstanding chess players persuaded her into lingering here for a couple more days instead of leaving right after the opening. She is of very high opinion about Magnus Carlsen, who has been for so long already! Meanwhile, she does not believe him to look like a football player, and her knowledge on the subject is such that she can talk for hours. She argues that the advent of computer has changed everything in the way high-level chess functions, but good physical shape and robust nervous system are as important as ever. Nona Gaprindashvili keeps doing her morning exercises and is fond of table tennis and billiards.

However, let us go back to the tournament hall. The first move in the Carlsen-Navara game was made by Vugar Gashimov's nephew Khanlar Allahverdiyev. 

It took Sergey Karjakin and Ding Liren less than two hours to finish their duel: the opponents debated in Giuoco Piano. The middlegame sparkled with some exciting tactics, but all blows and counterblows simplified the position, and a draw by a repetition was agreed shortly after. There is little doubt that a draw as Black could not but please the Chinese grandmaster who, as we remember, still has a bitter aftertaste from a missed victory in round one. 

Ding Liren admitted that he had this line prepared from long ago, so that it only left him to retrieve if from memory during the game. So, this forced line didn’t take him by surprise.  

The Chinese grandmaster, a first-timer in Shamkir, praised the high level of event’s organization. He has had no time for sightseeing yet, however. On the other hand, he noted a big number of cars in a standby mode to take participants wherever they felt like, also adding being satisfied about the hotel, even if it is not as huge as the majority of hotels in China.  

A draw in the game Radjabov - Mamedov was explained to me by grandmaster Anar Allahverdiyev, a person in charge of commenting in Azeri: 

- This line of the Slav Defence used to be very popular and has been studied far and wide.  This continuation was seen in the Kramnik – Topalov match. Rustam Kasimdzhanov recorded a series about this line, claiming White’s superiority there. Meanwhile, Rauf carried out the correct Nb8-c6 to solve all his issues. Teimour tried to capitalize on the famous advantage of a bishop pair, but Rauf thwarted all threats with precise play, trading one of the opponent's bishops and crowning his strategy by the correct blow 29 ... Bd1. The trade of material was followed by a draw agreement. All in all, it turned out to be a combative draw.  

Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov delivered a relatively calm game, in which the Polish grandmaster employed a rare move that rather looked like an attempt to avoid walking into a theoretical preparation. White was for choice out of the opening, but Black’s defense was precise. Both grandmasters agreed in that White should have probably kept the queens on the board to be able to squeeze something more out of the position. As opposed to this, the trades solved all Black's problems and the position equalized. A draw by repetition was agreed after Black's move 31.   

This said, the world champion has failed to properly address the issue of a draw pestilence plaguing him so far. David Navara opted for the Caro-Kann Defence, not an infrequent tool in his hands.   

Commenting the game for our website Magnus was brief, “I think I was better to start with, but then I just let my edge go. I must have underestimated his counterplay.  

David’s assessment had more colors to it: “Magnus was advantageous out of the opening owing to my inaccurate play somewhere. I had an inferior pawn structure, while my opponent enjoyed a bishop pair at that. But then he mishandled the situation, which enabled me to carry out a central breakthrough and hold my position together.  

On the other hand, Veselin Topalov could outplay Anish Giri. White uncorked an offbeat plan with a long castling in the English opening, which Black met with a queenside pawn offensive. White stopped the opponent's play rather quickly and grabbed the semi-open a-file, while the neighboring file was being controlled by Black.

Topalov – Giri

Black rushed it somewhat with 30…a4? 

Anish criticized this move after the game: Stronger was 30...Qc6 31. Nxa5 Qe8 or 31...Qe6 with a decent compensation for the pawn because the white pieces are somewhat awkwardly placed along the a-file, the white b3-pawn being in their way. 

The game saw 31. bxa4 Rb4 32. Rb1! 

Anish praised this move. White soon won the exchange, and Black’s only chance was in the queen- and knight’s dances around the white king. His strategy worked: White committed an error when making the time control move.

40. Rd1? 

40. Rf2, promised more winning chances, whereas after 40…Qe2+ 41. Kb3 Nd4+Black returned material and the game ended in a draw shortly after.  

All contestants go neck to neck after two rounds; such compact distribution is rarely seen our days. Round three features the following pairings:  

Giri - Radjabov, Ding Liren - Topalov, Mamedyarov - Karjakin, Navara - Wojtaszek, Mamedov - Carlsen.