Reports Apr 4, 2019 | 9:20 AMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir Chess 4: Mamedyarov escapes

David Navara missing mate-in-27 on move 70 of his clash with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the closest we came to a decisive game in Round 4 of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, though Vishy Anand had Ding Liren on the ropes after the Chinese no. 1’s aggressive opening backfired. Elsewhere the main curiosity was that Karjakin-Grischuk and Topalov-Carlsen were only a move away from ending in exactly the same position, with Magnus describing himself as “a little disappointed” it didn’t happen.

Mamedyarov-Navara would end up being by far the longest and most hard-fought game of the round | photo: official website

Replay all the games from Shamkir Chess 2019 using the selector below:

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

Identical twin draws

Giri pays a visit to Carlsen-Topalov | photo: official website

It’s the hope that kills you! Topalov-Carlsen seemed like a great chance for an exciting battle:

Alas, Topalov said he was caught slightly off-guard in the opening and went for a “small try” that immediately fizzled out to nothing:


Black has some slight issues – for instance he can’t develop the b8-knight without allowing a Nd7 fork – but Magnus quickly played 15…Re8, and after 16.Rac1 Nc6 17.Nxc6 Qxc6 18.Qxc6 bxc6 19.Rxc6 Re2 he recovered the pawn with a simple draw. He commented:

There isn’t so much to say, just that Re8, I think it’s an important move, and then it’s just a dead draw.

Karjakin-Grischuk finished even faster, with Karjakin going for the rare 13.e4 and then 14.Qb4:


Grischuk commented:

I got slightly lucky because this is the line I looked at before the game against Ding Liren. It’s considered to be drawish, so I didn’t really look at it, but then I decided to check before him… This Qb4 is one game, maybe a novelty, and it’s quite unpleasant for Black. I found only one clear way, because everywhere Black is worse otherwise.

Grischuk quoted some tips by Botvinnik after the game | photo: official website

That one game was actually Caruana-Svidler in the 2011 World Cup, a classical game Peter drew in 23 moves - he would go on to win their match in rapid games and win the World Cup. In Shamkir Grischuk played 14…dxe4 15.Bxe4 but then chose 15…e5 instead of Svidler’s 15…Be6. He noted that later 21…Qc4 was an important move and after that the game hurtled towards a draw in 32 moves. 

The inevitable press conference question about quick draws saw Grischuk respond that you could add some “unnatural motivation for the players” such as 5 points for a win, but he didn’t see the draws in themselves as a problem:

I think what’s bad is if you make short draw after short, but if you make one or two or three I think it’s completely fine. Even Botvinnik said you should not try to show your maximum in each game but show your maximum in the competition, or even in the year or season.

In this case, at least, we got some amusement from the situation, since the games finished in almost exactly the same positions:

Magnus had noticed that during the game, and commented:

I was a little disappointed at the end as I wanted to have the same final position!

All it would have taken would have been for Topalov to play 32.Rg1 instead of 32.Kf3 and keep repeating that position instead.

Giri ½-½ Radjabov: In search of a breakthrough  

Teimour Radjabov is a very hard man to beat | photo: official website

The other relatively quiet draw, Giri-Radjabov, was a tense encounter, since it was always a question of whether Anish Giri had a breakthrough that would topple Black’s passive position:


For instance here, 22.Nxb5!? was playable (Giri eventually opted for 22.h4), but the question in all these positions was whether it would give White anything more than full compensation for the sacrificed piece. Computer analysis suggests no, but there was a dialogue of the players about that:

Radjabov: The only thing that made me happy is that I knew this position is generally fine, at least by the evaluation of the comp.

Giri: The computers will change, but the position will stay!

Anish felt computers will eventually find a way. AlphaZero, are you watching?

Ding Liren-Anand: Not all g4s are good

Ding Liren's early g4 didn't work out so well | photo: official website

Vishy Anand’s rollercoaster ride in Shamkir continued as his fourth game got off to a fascinating start:

Those questions would remain unanswered since Vishy, never a fan of sharing opening information, decided to skip the first stage of the game in the post-game press conference. It’s clear, however, that taking the g-pawn is even less attractive than usual, since rather than getting dynamic compensation White can simply win it back by capturing on h7.

It seems Vishy won the opening battle, since by around move 19 White was in serious danger:


The computer’s plan of playing 19…Rad8 and then aiming for c5 to break open the white centre looks strong, since 20.0-0-0 is impossible due to 20…Bd3! and Black is winning. In the game after 19…Bd3 20.Qd1 b5 and a pawn exchange the white king was trapped in the centre, but the structure around it was at least solid. Ding Liren also found counterplay, with 25.g6 at least ensuring that in the subsequent play Black also had to be careful:


It was another example of why Ding Liren is so hard to beat, and though even in the final position the computer likes Black Vishy concluded that it was “difficult to do anything constructive” and repeated moves.

Vishy seems back on track after the loss to Magnus | photo: official website

Mamedyarov ½-½ Navara: All rook endings are drawn

Despite playing last year as well David Navara is yet to win a game in Shamkir, but he came very close against Mamedyarov in Round 4 | photo: official website

This was a real fight between two players who were on a -1 score and eager to alter that situation. You can check out Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca's analysis of the game:

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was willing to gamble:


24.f3!? gxh4 25.fxe4 Bxe4 opened up the black king position at the expense of a pawn, but after 26.Qf2 Qe7 (not 26…Bxb1 27.Qxf7+ and White wins) Black had everything covered, and when queens were soon traded off it was just a question of whether David Navara could win the rook ending a pawn up.

He found resource after resource, but ultimately the one clear chance came after the mistake 70.Kh1 (70.Kf1 is a draw):

Tablebases tell us the fastest mate is actually in 27 moves. As you can see, Navara had just over a minute on his clock at this point, and 70…Rg7 let the win slip. He needed to play 70…Rg8!, and said afterwards he’d seen 71.e7 f2 72.Re6+ Kf3 73.Rf6+ Kg3 74.Rf8 but not how he wins:


After the game he found 74…Rh8, “not a resource that you normally find when you are very short of time”. 74…Rg4 also works, with the point that the white king is rapidly getting mated in the corner of the board.

It’s interesting to see the difference that 70…Rg8 would have made if play had continued exactly as it had in the game. Here’s the game up to 77.h6, but with the black rook on g8:


The winning move is 77…Kf4, but of course Navara couldn’t play that with his rook on g7, so he had to play 77…Rg1 instead. Also if White had played the alternative 75.e7 the difference is that with a rook on g7 you’re forced to take on e7, while with the rook on g8 you have an extra tempo for a winning king move. Rook endings are tough!

After that 85-move epic Black against Carlsen is probably not what Mamedyarov needs! | photo: official website

So that leaves the scores unchanged except for the addition of half a point all round (the draw cost Magnus 1.4 rating points, but at least made his live rating a nice round 2850!):


Round 5 is the last round before the rest day, and Carlsen-Mamedyarov is the obvious game to watch. Magnus won the same clash in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. Tune in to all the action from 13:00 CET live here on chess24!

See also:


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