Shamkir Round 1: Carlsen and Mamedyarov draw

The big showdown between two-time winners Magnus Carlsen and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ended in anti-climax on Thursday as the 2018 Gashimov Memorial began in Shamkir with five draws. A sharp opening led only to mass exchanges and an inevitably peaceful outcome, but there were battles on the other boards. Ding Liren-Wojtaszek in particular lasted over six hours and saw the Chinese no. 1 come incredibly close to starting with a win before his Candidates draw curse returned.

Particularly after Vladimir Kramnik’s withdrawal there was one game everyone was waiting to see in Shamkir, and we didn’t have to wait long. World no. 1 Magnus Carlsen was paired against official world no. 2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, with the two players between them having won the previous four editions of the tournament. At the opening press conference Magnus commented that Shak was his main rival, “according both to rating and recent form”, though he was less politically correct for local fans when asked if he’d ever thought during the Candidates Tournament that the Azeri no. 1 would emerge as his challenger: read more...