Endgame Lesson from the Champion

Round 2 of the sixth Vugar Gashimov Memorial reported by Eteri Kublashvili

Round two has given us first wins and losses. Three have been three decisive games.

Magnus Carlsen has outplayed his long-standing opponent Viswanathan Anand. Being the first player, the world champion was only slightly better out of the opening. However, Black erred on move 25, obviously underestimating the opponent's followup.

Carlsen - Anand


Stronger is 25…Qc5.

26. Qxc3 Rxc3 ran into a very potent 27. a5! It is this rejoinder that is likely to have been overlooked by the Indian GM. 

27…Rxb1 28. Rxb1 Rc5

This response of Black's is also not quite up to the mark. Anand noted in post-mortem that 28…Ra3 should have been preferred instead. 

29. a6 g6?

Tougher is 29…Bc8, which can be followed by something like: 30. Rb8 g6! (30…Kh7? 31. Rb7! Rc1+ 31. Kh2 Bxb7 32. axb7 Rb1 33. Bd3+) 31. Bg4 f5.

30. Rb7 Rc1+ 31. Kh2 Rс2 32. Bb5. The world champion went on to confidently convert this endgame after doing away with the a7-pawn. Vishy Anand resigned on move 43. 

At the press conference Magnus Carlsen gave a clear and detailed explanation of how to bring White’s edge home via gradually eliminating the d5-pawn and creating a second passer.   

Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin opened with Giuoco Piano, in which White managed to get a substantial edge after employing a promising idea 10. d4. White’s middlegame edge by move 18 was such that Sergey Karjakin came in the open about his desire to resign then and there. Nevertheless, there came a critical moment when Anish hesitated to come up with the bishop sacrifice.

Giri – Karjakin

Both GMs agreed that 20. Bxh6! was a likely decider as giving White a powerful onslaught after building up with Nh4, Rg3, Qh5.

Instead, Anish came up with an immediate 20.Nh4, which allowed Black to consolidate after 20…Qe8 21. Qe2 Nc6 22. Nf3 Rd8 23. Kh2 f5.

Black was out of the woods, and the position became more or less equal. It was White’s overaggressive reaction that landed him in an inferior position.

24. g4?! fxg4 25. Qd3 g6

During the press conference the players voiced 25…g5! as a stronger move.

26. Qxd5+ Be6 27. Qe4 gxf3 28. Rg1 Bf7 29. Ba2?

Anish said that a lot of fight was in store yet after the preferable 29. Qh4. 

29…Bxa2 30. Rxg6+ Qxg6 31. Qxg6+ Rg7 32. Qxg7+ Kxg7 33. Rxa2 Rd1 34. Ra1 Kf7 White resigns. 

Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk opened with the Benoni defense, in which the Chinese grandmaster uncorked a curious novelty on move 11. White delivered an unexpected blow on move 20 in what was a complex middlegame position.  

Ding Liren – Grischuk

20. Bxh5! c4  

Alexander shared his initial intention of playing 20…b5 with complex lines arising afterwards, but changed his mind in favor of 20…c4. The Russian GM evaluated the setup arising after 21. Bf3 Nc5 22. Qc2 Nb3 23. Rxb3 cxb3 24. Qxb3 as inferior for him.  

“I was nearly losing, but then the tables turned and it was close to a draw.

Nevertheless, Black’s inaccuracy allowed Ding Liren to bring his edge home with precise play after a number of transformations that gave White as many as four pawns for a knight and with queens still on the board.  

Mamedyarov – Radjabov was an uneventful draw in the Catalan. A draw was agreed on move 41. At the press conference I asked the grandmasters to comment on Emil Sutovsky’s recent post on Facebook, in which the FIDE Director General voiced negatively about quick draws. In general, Azeri players do not agree with the way the question is put and voiced arguments of their own. Thus, in Teimour Radjabov’s point of view one should be cautions when making any such statements, because the rules of chess do not prohibit draws after all and because the players made their decisions based on the current situation on the board.

Veselin Topalov and David Navara opened with the Caro-Kann that crystallized into the pawn structure typical of the French Defense. The Czech GM admitted to having been taken by surprise in the opening yet another time. White got an edge, but Black was defending well despite the time pressure. The Bulgarian grandmaster attributed his letting go of the edge to an imprecise performance of his. Mass trades transposed into a better for White knight ending that required an increased precision of Black. Nevertheless, the drawish tendencies prevailed and the GMs agreed to a draw on move 55. 

Tournament standings after round 2:

1-3. Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin, Ding Liren - 1.5; 4-7. Teimour Radjabov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, David Navara, Veselin Topalov - 1; 

8-10. Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand, Alexander Grischuk - 0.5.

Pairings of round three:

Karjakin - Topalov, Grischuk - Giri, Radjabov - Ding Liren, Anand - Mamedyarov, Navara - Carlsen.