Reports Apr 7, 2019 | 9:57 AMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir Chess 6: Karjakin strikes against Anand

Sergey Karjakin blitzed out 37 moves of preparation then outplayed Vishy Anand in an endgame to catch Magnus Carlsen in the Shamkir Chess lead with three rounds to go. No less than six players are a point behind the leaders on 50%, including Veselin Topalov, who pounced on a blunder by the out of form Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Magnus Carlsen admitted he was “just trying to stay afloat” against Ding Liren after an opening gone wrong, but he found a “very, very ugly” but sufficient solution to his problems.

The arrival of Karjakin's family in Shamkir gave him a boost just as Round 6 was starting | photo: official website

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

And here’s the day’s live commentary, including post-game interviews with the players:

Karjakin 1-0 Anand: Fabi has a lot to answer for

Radjabov observes what became the game of the day | photo: official website

Vishy Anand must by now be wishing he hadn’t chosen to champion the 10…Rd8 Queen’s Gambit Declined line that Fabiano Caruana used to surprise Magnus Carlsen in Game 2 of their London match. When Vishy played it in Round 2 against Magnus himself the World Champion decided to repeat the cautious 11.Be2 and went on to win what both players agreed should have been an equal ending. In Round 6 Sergey Karjakin instead played the principled 11.Nd2 that Levon Aronian had tried in a rapid game against Caruana in the London Chess Classic after the match.

Although the players followed a slightly different move order they ended up repeating exactly the same spectacular line with a long-term piece sacrifice by Black, and it was only on move 31 that we finally got a new move:

Sergey noted that the first line of the computer wasn’t going to shock anybody, but his preparation was just getting started, while he felt his opponent had been too relaxed:

Probably Vishy underestimated that White can still play here and the game is not over.

Sergey had clearly studied the position deeply, and immediately noticed when the former World Champion began to misplace his pieces. He felt Vishy made two serious mistakes in a row, beginning with 36…Nc6?!:


That allowed Karjakin to bring his knight back into the game with 37.Nf3!, and then 37…Rc8?! left Black defending passively after 38.Re6. Sergey instead suggested 37…Rb8, aiming to play actively with Rb6 next. 40…h5!? was another move he questioned, and despite both players having oceans of time it became deeply unpleasant for Vishy until he lost that pawn on move 52 and decided to resign:

Vishy has a tendency to cut short his suffering in such positions. Karjakin commented:

It’s not dead lost, but basically it should be lost… I expected him to play some more moves.

Spanish Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca takes an in-depth look at the game:

It was a big win for Karjakin, since he’d been tied with Anand for second place before the round and had now caught Carlsen in the lead. He has an excellent chance to fight for tournament victory since he plays David Navara in the next round and then has White against Magnus in Round 8.

Topalov 1-0 Mamedyarov: Where is Shak?

After a couple of years when Shakhriyar Mamedyarov performed as a stable 2800+ player, he’s had a miserable start to 2019. In 13 games in Wijk aan Zee he didn’t win once and lost twice, and now in six games in Shamkir he’s also lost twice without a win. His only classical victory of the year so far was against Sam Shankland in the Bundesliga.

It's not going to be Mamedyarov's year in Shamkir | photo: official website

It could have been very different, of course, if he’d converted a winning advantage against Vishy Anand in Round 3, but instead he blundered twice in the run-up to the time control. It was a similar story in Round 6, except all it took was one blunder to end the contest against Veselin Topalov. 29…Qc5? was a fatal error (29…Qe7! and the position is equal):


Shak had seen that 30.Rac1? runs into 30…Rc4!, and White has to give up his queen (31.Qe2? of course fails to 31…Rxc1), but missed that after 30…Rdc1!, as played in the game, 30…Rc4 is now met by 31.Qd1!, an option White didn’t have with the rook still on the d1-square. Such tactical nuances are of course easy to miss, but Mamedyarov had over an hour on his clock when he played the losing move.

For Topalov it was a bounce-back win immediately after the loss to Alexander Grischuk before the rest day and put him back on 50%, with five more players. Mamedyarov, the winner of two editions of Shamkir Chess and world no. 5, is in joint last place, with Anish Giri, the world no. 4!

Giri's remaining opponents are the world nos. 1, 5 and 3 - no-one said it was going to be easy! | photo: official website 

The remaining games in Shamkir on Saturday were drawn, with Giri-Navara the one that never quite got going. David Navara commented, “The most important moment was that this time my preparation proved to be good,” although the assessment of the opening depended on whether White could safely have grabbed a pawn on b7 on move 12:


Computers suggest he could, while after 12.Ne5 Qb6 Black was already more than fine until the game ended by repetition on move 26.

As you can see, it was an exhausting game | photo: official website

Alexander Grischuk described his position against Teimour Radjabov as “just great for White” after 15.Qa4, but in hindsight he may have hurried to regain his pawn by taking twice on c6. Teimour immediately seized the moment to go for active counterplay:


20…h5! with g5 and g4 swiftly following. The game looked like a thriller, with both players down to their last five minutes with 10 moves to go, but suddenly it fizzled out into a series of exchanges and a repetition that ended the game on exactly move 40.

Don't let pictures deceive you - 78-year-old arbiter Faik Gasanov was giving as good as he got in the rest day football! | photo: official website

You can watch some clips of the rest-day football below:

Last but not least was Ding Liren–Carlsen. The Chinese no. 1 had played five, drawn five classical games against Magnus, and their clash in the 2018 European Club Cup had been incredibly close to ending in victory for Ding. At first, in Shamkir Chess 2019, it seemed as though we were just going to get a dull draw similar to their last-round game at the same event in 2018, but as Magnus commented afterwards:

I got a kind of a tough position right from the opening. I don’t know what went wrong, but it became a bit unpleasant… I think the danger about these symmetrical positions is that the extra tempo can sometimes be a huge factor, and it’s also often seen in the Exchange Slav - either it’s a clear draw or, if Black cannot force the draw, it’s usually a bit unpleasant. If you get control of the only extra file you’re doing well.


The f4-bishop covers the b8-square, and the a7-pawn is in imminent danger. If Black had to resort to passive defence such as 25…Ra8 Magnus could see no equality, but he found a better option (one he prepared with 23…Re8!): 25…e5!

I was just trying to stay afloat and I was happy to find this move Re8 finally. Obviously it’s very, very ugly, just going for a rook ending a pawn down, but I couldn’t really see what he could do at that point, and anyway otherwise I don’t think I could equalise. 

Ding Liren agreed that the rook ending after 26.dxe5 Bxe5 27.Bxe5 Rxe5 was no more than a draw, so instead he went for 27.Rd3 Bxf4 28.gxf4, but if there were more practical chances there Magnus was the last person you could hope to convert them against, and the game ended in a 39-move draw.

That leaves Sergey Karjakin as the main challenger to Magnus, something we haven’t seen often in classical chess since their 2016 match:


Round 7 can be a big one, with Navara-Karjakin and Carlsen-Giri both games were the leaders are likely to look to win. Magnus will be hoping this is one game in which Black doesn’t go first... Tune in to all the action from 13:00 CET live here on chess24!

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