Shamkir: Five draws to start

by Johannes Fischer

The Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan began with five draws. The top game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Magnus Carlsen was rather unspectacular. The best chances for a victory were held by Chinese Grandmaster Ding Liren, but at the crucial moment against Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Ding lacked a killer instinct. | Photo:

5th Gashimov Memorial starts slowly

The Gashimov Memorial commemorates former Azerbaijani top player Vugar Gashimov, who died of a brain tumour at the age of just 27. The prize fund is 100,000 euros, of which the winner receives 25,000 euros. The players have two hours to make 40 moves, then one hour for 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30 seconds per move bonus starting from move 61.

S. Mamedyarov ½-½ M. Carlsen

In the first round, the drawing of lots dictated a meeting between the top two players, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who is currently number three in the world, and Magnus Carlsen, world champion and world number one.

But those who had hoped for an exciting and thrilling game were disappointed. In a Gruenfeld-Indian with g3, mass exchanges came thick and fast. After 41 moves, the draw was sealed.

The position after 15 moves already looks quite dry and had been reached before in a grandmaster game from 2016:

Once both bishops were exchanged ten moves later, the players used less than a minute per move for the duration of the rook ending.

Former Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili made the first move for Mamedyarov and Carlsen | Photo:

A. Giri ½-½ S. Karjakin

The game between Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin also ended in a draw. With a double-edged version of the Nimzo Indian, the game started promisingly, but before it got really exciting, Giri and Karjakin found a repetition and the game ended quickly.

26.Qe3 Qd4 27.Qf4+ In the event of a queen exchange if anyone is better it's black, and Giri has no promising continuation.

Sergey Karjakin and Anish Giri at the Opening Ceremony | Photo:

D. Navara ½-½ R. Mamedov

More spectacular was the game between David Navara and Rauf Mamedov, in which Navara responded to a Sicilian novelty from Mamedov with an enterprising bishop sacrifice to drag the opposing king into the open. This led to a wild tactical exchange but ultimately also ended in a quck draw by repetition.

V. Topalov ½-½ T. Radjabov

Veselin Topalov and Teimour Radjabov also fought hard. Radjabov opted for the Berlin defence, which Topalov opted for a fashionable variation, which was also employed at the Candidates tournament in Berlin in the game between Kramnik and Karjakin.

The players followed Kramnik-Karjakin (Berlin 2018) up to this point. There Kramnik played 18.Bg5. In this line, White sacrifices a pawn to advance out his pawn majority on the kingside. Topalov went for 18.Nd4, and soon sacrificed a second pawn (c3), yet another draw by repetition was the result.

Ding Liren ½-½ Radoslaw Wojtaszek

The longest game of the round was played by Ding Liren and Radoslaw Wojtaszek. This was a draw likely to disappoint Ding Liren who had reached a winning position through patient positional pressure. But in the tactical exploitation of his advantage, he overlooked a resource that allowed Wojtaszek to slip out and snare a draw.

A very tricky position! Ding played the natural looking 49.Ke3, but that led to a perpetual check draw after 49...Qd8!

49.fxe4 is similarly drawn after Qc3, heading or h3. But here 49.Ke2 would have won! Ding could collect the b7-bishop next and manage to avoid a perpetual.

Ding Liren missed a win | Photo:  shamkirchess .az

Standings after round one