by André Schulz
The first round of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir ended with five draws, and the second round also brought five draws. The most excitement offered the game between Anish Giri and Veselin Topalov but in the end the two players shared the point. | Photos: Shamkir Chess
The Vugar Gashimov Memorial had a peaceful start: the first round brought only five draws. Ding Liren came close to a win in round one but failed to convert his advantage. The second round followed the same script, with only minor roll changes.
Sergey Karjakin ½-½ Ding Liren
In round two the Chinese played with Black against Sergey Karjakin. Up to move ten Karjakin followed a game between Magnus Carlsen and Ding from 2017, and then the Russian Grandmaster deviated with the novelty 10.b3.
A few moves later a small skirmish ensued after which the game quickly petered out and was drawn after 27 moves.
Radoslaw Wojtaszek ½-½ Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov discussed a Catalan. Black took the pawn on c4 and gained time by blocking the attempts from White to regain the pawn. However, Black finally gave back the pawn but in return managed to free his position with e6-e5.
After this break, the game soon levelled out and was drawn in a rook and knight endgame.
Magnus Carlsen ½-½ David Navara
Against David Navara, Magnus Carlsen was ready for a theoretical duel in the Caro-Kann Defense, and in the Advance Variation he followed a game Wei Yi vs Navara from 2017 which Navara had won. But the Czech grandmaster was still the first to deviate from this predecessor. Carlsen then tried to create chances by attacking Black's centre but without much success.
By liquidating into an endgame Carlsen tried to bring tension into the game and he even managed to reach a pawn endgame with an extra-pawn — which, however, was a draw.
Three players in the Vugar Gashimov Memorial — Mamedyarov, Radjabov, and Mamedov — had played with Gashimov on the Azerbaijan national team. In round two Radjabov and Mamedov played the first Azeri derby, and discussed the main line of the Slav, with Radjabov playing White.
After 22 moves the game still two previous games but then Radjabov tried a new move with 23.h4.
However, this new move did not achieve much. Soon, a rook endgame was on the board where all queenside pawns vanished. A bit later the players decided to repeat moves and to share the point.
Topalov and Giri discussed a line of the English that is similar to the Sicilian Taimanov with colours reversed. But then White surprisingly decided to castle queenside.
This provoked Giri to attack on the queenside — and to sacrifice an exchange in the process.
After the exchange sacrifice, White's king was exposed enough to give Black adequate compensation — but not more. So, this game also ended in a draw.
Standings after two rounds
Games of round two