Reports Apr 4, 2019 | 10:58 PMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir Chess 5: Anand beats Giri to go 2nd

Vishy Anand proved the doubters wrong again to beat Anish Giri in Round 5 in Shamkir – his second Top 5 scalp in the space of three days. He’s now second and half a point ahead of Ding Liren, after the Chinese no. 1 lost only his second classical game in 129, this time to David Navara. The big clash Carlsen-Mamedyarov was a battling draw, while Alexander Grischuk got the last win of the day, finally using his bishop pair to beat Veselin Topalov after an epic 6.5-hour struggle. “Basically the game shows how weak are humans,” he summed up.

No way out for Giri against Anand | photo: official website

Replay all the games so far in Shamkir using the selector below:

And here’s the Round 5 commentary from Arkadij Naiditsch, including the post-game press conferences with all the players:

The one game we didn’t mention in the introduction is Radjabov-Karjakin, a Catalan where Teimour managed to surprise Sergey, though not enough to threaten the end of the Azeri’s streak of 22 draws in a row in Shamkir. 

Karjakin was looking casual | photo: official website

The game had interesting moments, though the players seemed to be trying their hardest to extinguish all interest in the post-game press conference.Dragging themselves away from checking computer analysis of the game they responded to the question of what their expectations were for the next four rounds:

Radjabov: No expectations, just playing a game after game…

Karjakin: I also want to finish the tournament. I will go game by game.

The other draw, Carlsen-Mamedyarov, finished shortly afterwards, but was a much more vivid encounter. There was a weight of expectation, since this was a clash between the only two players to have won the Gashimov Memorial, with Magnus Carlsen doing it in 2014, 2015 and 2018 and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in 2016 and 2017.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich made the first move in Round 5 | photo: official website

Mamedyarov sprung an early surprise by playing the Tarrasch Defence (1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 c5 – of course you can also start with 1.d4), which got the World Champion thinking on move 4. Magnus said afterwards, “I was surprised, but I wasn’t particularly disappointed with the opening, since I got a playable position”. He was disappointed, however, with some of his moves, which gave Black the time to become active:


Here Mamedyarov went on the offensive with 18…h5! 19.Na4 h4, with Arkadij Naiditsch noting that Magnus isn’t particularly comfortable when people manage directly to attack him (but then, who is!?). After 24.Qe1 the tension was at its height:

Naiditsch wanted to see the pawn sac 24…g5!? 25.Qxb4, with the g-pawn vacating a square so the queen could swing over to the h-file. It could have been a fascinating fight, though it seems White always has enough compensation, but no more. In the game 24…hxg3 25.hxg3 Ne4! turned out to force simplifications. If White takes the b-pawn 26…Nxg3! would follow, while after 26.Nxe4 Bxe4 27.Bxe4 dxe4 28.Ra5! White had everything covered and the game ended in a repetition on move 37.

That meant Magnus dipped below 2850 on the live rating list again, but he remained in clear first in the tournament going into the rest day. Was he satisfied?

For me I feel it’s been a bit up and down. The score I think is very good - at least shared lead. Today I was not very happy. The result was ok, but I felt the quality of my play was not very high. So try to regroup on the free day and continue. The score is good, so I cannot complain.

Closest to Magnus are Karjakin, who beat Anish Giri in Round 2, and now Vishy Anand, who beat Giri in Round 5:

Anand 1:0 Giri: That escalated fast

In both Anand-Giri and Grischuk-Topalov the defeated player took full part in the press conference | photo: official website

Vishy Anand went for the 4.d3 Anti-Berlin, but wasn’t thrilled with how the first stage went:

The opening is no great shakes. Objectively it’s probably equal because White’s central pawns are compensated for by the bishops, but in practical play it felt much easier to be Black, because with White you have to watch out on many sides.

Both players, however, felt things were transformed starting on move 21, after 20…Qh5?! (Giri suggested 20…h6)


Giri said of said 21.Bc7!, “I blundered this very important move”, which he called, “really huge for White”. Vishy agreed, noting it deprived Black of the d8-square and also freed his d1-rook, since the bishop came to b6 to protect the d4-pawn. Mistakes often come in pairs, and after 21.Rd7 22.Bb6 Bb4?! Giri realised he’d also blundered 23.Ne1!


It doesn’t look it at a glance, but both players felt Black was already busted here, since White now has the fast and dangerous plan of playing f2-f4-f5-e5. In the game Giri responded with f5 himself after f4, but g4 at the right moment proved critical. Black could have put up some more resistance, but the game logically and swiftly ended with an overwhelming advantage for White:

Vishy commented, “I was also a bit surprised how good my position got so suddenly”. The result meant he’d bounced back from losing to the world no. 1 to beat the world nos 4 and 5 in the space of three rounds. Vishy himself is world no. 6 and could climb still higher before the tournament ends – not bad for a player who turns 50 this year! Asked about his longevity in the game, Vishy mentioned other old-timers such as Vassily Ivanchuk and Boris Gelfand, and half-joked about Vladimir Kramnik:

I think Vladdy could have gone on if he’d wanted. With a little less optimism he would have been fine!

Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca has analysed the game for us:

That was a big game for the standings at the top, but arguably the sensation of the round was world no. 3 Ding Liren falling to an incredibly rare defeat:

Navara 1-0 Ding Liren: No need to apologise

Grischuk watches the early stages of Navara-Ding Liren | photo: official website

Since Ding Liren’s unbeaten streak ended at a perfect 100 classical games with defeat to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Shenzhen last November, he’d gotten straight back in the groove:

The fact he remains unbeaten has less to do with solidity than a fantastic ability to calculate his way out of trouble:

That was on display in Shamkir against David Navara, since the players followed the Anti-Meran line that had famously been used by Anand to beat Kramnik – twice – with the black pieces in the games that decided their 2008 World Championship match. Vishy played 14…Bb7, while Ding went for 14…b4:


Here Navara chose the less common 15.Bf4 (15.Rd1 is the main line), and after a 22-minute think Ding Liren opted for 15…h5!?

Navara commented, “I was surprised by h5 and I became really optimistic - too optimistic!”, and indeed after that move Liren accelerated and found a string of moves approved by the computer. If he’d stayed solid with a move like 20…Qc6 nothing bad would have been likely to befall him, but 20…Rxa3!? was running some risks:


Here Navara went for the powerful line (“it surprisingly works”, he said) 21.Qxa3! Bxa3 22.Rxb6 Bxc1 23.Rc6! (the tactical trick on which this is all based) 23…Bxf4 24.Rc8+ Ke7 25.Rxh8 d3!


Tactical tricks connected to the d-pawn were keeping Black afloat, at least for now, with Navara feeling it should still have been a relatively easy draw. It's hard to say exactly where things went wrong for Ding after that - 34...Kd6!? instead of 34...Kf8! complicated the defence, while the knight went on a journey from which it would never return. 

In the final position 46.Re1 is about to follow next move, pinning the knight to the king (not that it has a square to jump to in any case!):

So after falling just short of beating Mamedyarov in a study-like ending the day before, Navara had pulled it off against an even tougher opponent on the very next day!

Defeat is not something Ding Liren has to deal with often | photo: official website

It was doubly impressive, since that was his first victory in Shamkir, after scoring only draws and a run of four losses in a row in 2018. Navara had every reason to be proud of himself, but of course he was downplaying his achievement after the game!

I was lucky today because my opponent usually plays better than today, and he missed something.

He apologised for interrupting the previous press conference (an interruption so subtle it went unnoticed), and then after taking us through the game in great depth ended, “I apologize for speaking too much!” He remains an unnecessarily modest fan favourite.

That left just one game going:

Grischuk 1-0 Topalov: Weak humans

Alexander Grischuk got back to 50% | photo: official website

Alexander Grischuk said he tricked his opponent just before the time control, and indeed with the players down to their last minute or two 40.b4! was very unpleasant to meet:


40…Nd7? would lose on the spot to 41.b5!, and suddenly the queen has to leave the defence of the e6-pawn. Instead after 40…axb4 41.axb4 h5 42.Qf4 Nd7 Black had avoided the immediate crisis, but was left with two miserable knights against White’s dominant bishop pair. Grischuk correctly assessed that he had a bigger advantage after 43.Ba6! rather than immediately aiming to simplify and win a pawn with 43.Qc7, but it was the start of what would be something of a nightmare for him.

He lamented that he was “completely outplayed” in the next phase of the game, but he noted how difficult the positions that arose were for humans:

He had the impression he was just shuffling around the pieces aimlessly at some point, but if it was tough for White it was at least as tough for Black, and the bishop pair gradually did its job!

Alexander concluded, “Basically the game shows how weak are humans…”, but when he recovers from the 6.5 hour ordeal he’ll probably realise he didn’t do so badly!

That left Magnus Carlsen as the sole leader with four rounds to go, while below him the standings were shaken up. Anand and Ding Liren traded places, and Anish Giri finds himself in sole last place:


Friday is a rest day and then the players are back for the final four rounds starting Saturday, when Ding Liren-Carlsen looks like the obvious game to watch! Tune in to all the action from 13:00 CET live here on chess24!

See also:


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