Interviews Aug 8, 2018 | 9:48 AMby Colin McGourty

Mamedyarov on beating Carlsen in Biel

In Berlin Shakhriyar Mamedyarov narrowly missed out on qualifying to play a match against Magnus Carlsen, but since then he’s gone on to reach a career best live rating of 2817 after beating Magnus in Biel. They’ll meet again in the Sinquefield Cup, but before heading to Saint Louis Mamedyarov has been in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he’s given a master class and simultaneous displays. He talked about that to Teimour Tushiev for Media.Az.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Zviad Izoria and co. at the Bay Area Chess summer camp | photo: Bay Area Chess Facebook

The next absolutely top event on the chess calendar is the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz that starts this Saturday (11 August), with Mamedyarov the 2nd seed:

That 5-day tournament has exactly the same format as the Grand Chess Tour events in Leuven and Paris, while a week later it’s the classical Sinquefield Cup, where Leinier Dominguez will be replaced as a wild card by none other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

You could forgive Mamedyarov for taking a complete break since winning the exhausting 10-round Grandmaster Tournament in Biel, but instead he arrived in the US early to give a summer camp in the US Chess Federation’s Chess Club of the Year, Bay Area Chess. 

From there he talked to Teimour Tushiev for Media.Az (we've translated the interview from Russian):   

Teimour Tushiev: First of all, congratulations on your impressive win. Can you share your feelings?

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov: Many thanks for the congratulations. The win feels really good, actually. You could say that all the hard work that I’ve done over the whole recent period has borne fruit. Finally everything went well for me and no bad luck followed. I’m very glad that the tournament ended so well.

You were one of the tournament favourites, but did you expect to score such a convincing win?

On paper I was of course a favourite, but you know that all of the players in the tournament were very strong, so it was essential to prove that it was no accident that I was one of the favourites. I’m very glad that I gathered myself together and performed at a very high level.

In general the success in Switzerland means an awful lot to me. Previously in other events I also had a lot of wins, for example in the Tal Memorial in Moscow I had a +3 score, but at certain moments in games I let wins slip and couldn’t win the tournament. This time I again achieved a big points advantage and was able to convert that into tournament victory.

You scored one of the key wins in the tournament in the penultimate round against Magnus Carlsen. Was your mood going into the game affected by his recent statement about alleged arranged draws in your games against Sergey Karjakin?

Mamedyarov not only beat Carlsen in Biel but finished 1.5 points clear of the World Champion in 1st place | photo: Lennart Ootes, Biel Chess 2018 

Of course that was a very important game, which I put serious focus on. I’ve changed my style of play a little. I used to play more aggressively, while now you might say I play more wisely. Ultimately such an approach has brought results. Of course I’m always very glad to beat the number one in world chess and show that I can compete as an equal with the reigning World Champion.

On the game itself against Magnus Carlsen, then it was clear that he was nervous and took a lot of risks. I took advantage of that and, thanks to the pressure I applied, he was unable to save the game.

As for the mood before the game against Magnus, that didn’t depend on any kind of statements. You know, any chess player can say something like that in the heat of the moment. We didn’t even touch on that topic when we talked with each other – probably he’s already realised his mistake. I always take all games seriously, including a game against the Norwegian grandmaster.

In a few days the next major tournament starts, the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, where you’ll again play against Carlsen. Do you think he’ll go all-out for revenge?

Most likely, yes. I’m sure he’ll concentrate even more seriously on the game against me, as every player tries to strike back after a painful defeat.  

In any case, for now I’m not thinking about any of that. I arrived in Cupertino, where I’m relaxing with my childhood friend, the Azeri chess player Faik Aleskerov, and also Zviad Izoria. The weather is excellent here and the conditions are good for recovering after such a tough tournament. It’s already the second year that Faik Aleskerov, Zviad Izoria and myself have been running a simultaneous display and master class for children.

There’s a little time to relax before the tournament in St. Louis. We’re even waiting for our friend Rauf Mamedov, who in the coming days will join us. We’re holding a teaching/training session together.

By the way, after the victory in Switzerland you set a personal record on the live rating list. Can you overtake Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen in the near future?

Of course it’s nice to increase your rating. Previously I’ve been in both 2nd place on the ranking list and 4th place about 10 years ago. Nevertheless, you always want to be number one in the world, so that’s what we’ll strive towards.

For now Mamedyarov is the only player in touching distance of Carlsen and Caruana | source: 2700chess

The main team event this year will be the Olympiad in Batumi. It’s precisely Olympiad medals that are missing in Azerbaijan’s trophy cabinet...

Of course that’s one of the main events this year. In previous Olympiads we were often unlucky. We frequently found ourselves in the top positions over the whole course of the event, but at the end we lost important points and dropped out of the medal places. Nevertheless, we’ll do everything in our power to win medals in the Olympiad in Batumi. Moreover, all the leading Azeri chess players have increased their ratings recently, which also give us great hope.

You’ll be able to watch Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in action in the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz that starts at 20:00 CEST on Saturday with the first three rounds of rapid chess. Follow all the games with commentary in English, Russian and Spanish here on chess24.

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