Reports Apr 2, 2019 | 11:06 AMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir Chess 2: Carlsen beats Anand

Magnus Carlsen beat Vishy Anand for a second game in a row as the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir exploded into life in Round 2. It was April Fools’ Day, but no joke that Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin played one of the wildest elite level games we’ve seen in a while before Sergey picked up a full point. Ding Liren was the other winner, after unleashing a tactical blow on Alexander Grischuk in the middlegame. David Navara survived another opening disaster to draw, this time against Veselin Topalov, while Mamedyarov-Radjabov was the only dull and predictable draw.

Anand blundered in a close-to-drawn position against Carlsen for a second game in a row | photo: official website

You can replay all the games from the Shamkir Chess 2019 using the selector below:

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Arkadij Naiditsch, including the post-game press conferences with all the players:

Another bad day at the office for Vishy

The players got some help with the first move! | photo: official website

The big clash of the day, Carlsen-Anand, got off to a curious start, as Vishy repeated the 10…Rd8 line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined that Fabiano Caruana had used to rock Carlsen in Game 2 of their World Championship match in London.

Back then Magnus thought for 17 minutes before “chickening out” with the safe 11.Be2, but it seems his intuition was good, since he played that move again in Shamkir. In the meantime Levon Aronian had tried 11.Nd2 against Fabi in the Grand Chess Tour finals in London, and been met by powerful play that led to a draw.

Magnus was the first to vary, meeting 11…Ne4 with 12.cxd5 instead of his earlier 12.0-0, but soon the game was beginning to look very drawish. Magnus commented, “I was sort of reconciled with the thought I didn’t have much at this point”:

Here, however, was where Vishy committed the first of what he considered three blunders. Instead of 25…Qc5!, “a fairly simple draw” (Anand), he went for 25…Qc3?! Magnus agreed with the assessment:

25…Qc3 is really bad. It goes from being from being a pretty much equal position to one where I can press and he has to defend accurately.

26.Qxc3 Rxc3 27.a5! Rxb1 28.Rxb1 Rc5?! A second blunder – Anand: “28…Ra3 is still a fairly comfortable hold”. 29.a6 g6? The last clear blunder of the game – 29…Bc8! was no bed of roses, but had to be tried.


After 30.Rb7! Magnus Carlsen was the last player in the world you wanted to be sitting opposite, since he demonstrated in the game, and then later in the press conference, exactly how to convert his advantage.

Spanish Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca has analysed the game for us:

Vishy Anand, who had dramatically missed a win on the first day, was understandably not looking forward to spending too much time in the press conference, and requested that he could leave after giving some thoughts on the game. He did so, and Magnus had no complaints whatsoever!

I think he behaved absolutely normally… And besides, I’m certainly not one to give lessons on leaving press conferences prematurely!

Magnus was alone in the press conference after the first couple of minutes | photo: official website

Magnus, who was a draw away from losing his no. 1 spot in Wijk aan Zee in January, is now up to 2847.9 on the live rating list, with a gap of over 30 points to 2nd place Fabiano Caruana, as well as topping the rapid and blitz lists. He was asked what he thought about the system in Shamkir where there was no 30 seconds a move increment until move 61:

In general I believe in classical chess it’s a good idea not to have increment because it gives an extra dimension to the game in that you have to spend your time well and ration it rather than just relying on the increment… It’s a very nice change of pace.


No April Fools

Karjakin got a very bad position after the opening, but did better than just defend it | photo: official website

The second game to finish decisively was Giri-Karjakin, with two players at times unfairly known for cautious chess playing a slugfest. It was Anish Giri who struck first, after striking gold with his preparation in the Giuoco Piano when he found 10.d4!?


Sergey Karjakin was kicking himself afterwards for not having looked at this “natural human move”, but it’s also a novelty not shown by the computer (at least at a lower depth). Sergey began to sink into thought over his next few moves, took on d4 at the worst possible moment, and admitted that after 17.Ra3! he wanted just to start a new game. He was given a second chance, however, on move 20:


Now was the time for 20.Bxh6!! gxh6 21.Nh4! and then 22.Rg3+ and 23.Qh5. 

Those last three moves were Giri’s plan, but after he started with 20.Nh4?! he was hit by 20…Qe8! and he realised his weak e-pawn stops his attack (21.Rg3 runs into 21…Rxe5!). The difference after first sacrificing a piece is that swinging the rook to g3 comes with check, giving White a crucial extra tempo.

What followed was truly wild, with Sergey better, then level again, then finally winning after Giri took one liberty too many:


White’s attack looks fantastic, and any king move loses, but Black has 30…Rg7, or the even better move he played in the game, 30…Qxg6! 31.Qxg6+ Rg7 and if the queen tries to move 32…Rg2+ is mate-in-3. After the forced 32.Qxg7+ White’s position was in ruins and he resigned a couple of moves later.

Ding Liren beats Grischuk

If Ding Liren can start winning games regularly against players like Grischuk the sky is the limit | photo: official website

World no. 3 Ding Liren came armed with the novelty 11.Nf1 compared to the 11.Bf4 Levon Aronian had played against Grischuk in one of the most memorable games of the Berlin Candidates, where Levon missed an open goal and saw his chances of challenging Magnus fade. Grischuk was immediately burning up time, but was “very happy” when he got to play 18…Qc7, at least until it was met by 19.f4!, when he made the retreat 19…Nd7?! (he didn’t believe in 19…Ng4, though it seems to work tactically):


20.Bxh5! was a fine bolt from the blue, with the point that after 20…gxh5 21.Qxh5 the bishop on h3 has no squares!

A tough day at the office! | photo: official website

Grischuk tried to forget that unfortunate incident with 20…c4, but admitted, “I was completely lost and then I almost got lucky... but not quite”. Despite getting down to seconds by move 40 he had chances to equalise the position, but Ding Liren managed to keep applying pressure and in the end won a study-like game:


Grischuk correctly noted afterwards that if he didn’t have the f3-rook in this position he’d be able to draw by perpetual check with 49…Qh5+, but there’s no good way to get rid of that rook. He played 49…Rxf5 and was dead lost, but there was a final chance on move 60:


Commentator Arkadij Naiditsch’s first choice was 60.Kg6, which he assumed was winning, but Grischuk had spotted that he manages to give a perpetual there. Unfortunately for him, Ding Liren correctly played the alternative 60.g4!, when after 60…Qxg4+ White has mate-in-5 starting with 61.Kg6, while after 60…Nxg4 White could win the knight with check. Grischuk now had the luxury of increments, but all needed to do was avoid some traps in the queen ending before Black resigned on move 77.

Two very different draws

Fan favourite David Navara entering the building after signing some autographs for young chess fans | photo: official website

The remaining games were drawn, but Topalov-Navara could easily have brought victory to Veselin Topalov. David Navara was outprepared for a second day in a row, and commented, “It was kind of silly - I was out of book on move 6 again!” He was taken by surprise by 6.Qg4 in the Caro-Kann, though he mentioned he knew that it had been covered by Adhiban in the New in Chess Yearbook.


Once again he was in serious trouble, both on the board and on the clock, but once again, as against Vishy, he managed to find enough resources to hold a draw, this time in 55 moves.

Mamedyarov-Radjabov was no thriller | photo: official website

Mamedyarov-Radjabov, meanwhile, ended in a quick and uneventful draw, a result which you could safely have predicted before the tournament began:

Statistics fans might note that that was Teimour’s 19th draw in a row in Shamkir, while he’s now gone 34 games without a win since he beat Magnus Carlsen with Black during the first edition on 24th April 2014. The organiser of the event, Mahir Mamedov, had told the Russian Chess Federation’s Eteri Kublashvili after last year’s event:

As we can see, this year there were a lot of draws: both fighting, and not so much. Let’s say in some games it was obvious there would be a draw. A lot of “relaxed” games were played, where you couldn’t particularly sense any internal struggle.

That must disappoint the organisers?

Of course it’s disappointing. We’re not putting on the tournament to be accused of organising everything for friends, so let's say they can come here for a rest, make draws and then go their separate ways. After all, a tournament in memory of Vugar Gashimov implies a struggle!

Teimour Radjabov defended the players as simply doing what they considered best within the rules | photo: official website

This year FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky had commented on his Facebook page of the Grischuk-Mamedyarov draw in the first round:

A draw in a round-robin, cobbled together in an hour, should be equated with deceiving the public’s trust. The complaints are to White, of course.

When Radjabov was asked about that he felt a FIDE official should use different language:

I think it should be done in a more careful manner in general. You first of all have to think about the rules that exist…

His point was that the players were just following the rules, and that if FIDE want to exclude drawn games they should consider the rules of chess or individual competitions. Given what happened in the remaining games of the day, however, quick draws didn’t feel like a big issue!

Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin are therefore the early leaders in Shamkir, with some juicy looking ties such as Navara-Carlsen, Karjakin-Topalov and Anand-Mamedyarov in Round 3. Tune in to all the action from 13:00 CET live here on chess24!

See also:


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