Reports Apr 23, 2015 | 8:22 PMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir R6: Caruana saves the day

Fabiano Caruana and Vladimir Kramnik conspired to play a full-blooded game of chess while elsewhere it was almost an unofficial rest day | photo: Shamkir Chess 

The title of this article was going to be “whatever”, Anish Giri’s description of his feelings after a bloodless draw against Magnus Carlsen, but the spectre of five draws was averted when Vladimir Kramnik misplayed himself into trouble on move 29 against Fabiano Caruana and couldn’t turn back the tide in the prolonged agony that followed. Carlsen now leads by half a point going into the final three rounds, with Kramnik up next.

We have a video by IM Lawrence Trent on Fabiano Caruana’s win, but let’s first take the draws in the order the players shuffled into the post-game press conferences:

1. Giri ½-½ Carlsen

Carlsen didn't share Giri's amusement at the first-move preparations | photo: Shamkir Chess

This was an absolute non-event, although it wasn’t only amateur internet kibitzers who wondered about the generous computer evaluation in White’s favour after 11…Ne5:

It seems, though, that the players both “knew” there was nothing more than a forced draw on offer, and after 12.Nxe5 Qxe5 13.0-0 the game was essentially over in a handful of moves. All that remained was the unseemly struggle either to reach the required 40 moves or repeat the position. In the end the players did the latter, but only after blitzing all the way to move 37.

Elmira Mirzoeva's new hairstyle was definitely the highlight of the press conference | photo: Shamkir Chess

The usual follow-up to such draws in big tournaments with a live broadcast is a lively press conference where the players burn up some of the energy they didn’t put into the game. Today, though, that didn’t happen. Instead the players subtly apportioned blame. First Magnus:

I think Anish really likes his plus score against me. He’s entitled to that.

Giri admitted what he’d played was very safe for White, but certainly wasn’t going to take all the responsibility for that:

If he plays a solid opening I have to go all-out or play for a small plus. If he defends well you’re not going to get much with a small plus… My emotion after such a game is, “whatever”.

The theme of the “drawn” press conferences was the rest day and especially the football, which Carlsen noted was “less dramatic than last year”. You can watch some of the action below:

Carlsen was asked if he’d end his chess career if he was offered the chance to play for Real Madrid:

If I was given such an offer as a football player I would ask them to examine their brains.

You can watch the full press conference below:

Stay tuned for more on the football and other rest-day revelations…

2. Mamedov ½-½ Anand

The day’s second draw was more of a fully-fledged affair, but you might still say that the biggest moment of interest was the first move. 

Mamedov had no reason to despair in his first classical game against the former World Champion... | photo: Shamkir Chess 

Mamedov opened 1.e4, as he had in his first three draws with the white pieces, to which Vishy responded with an old favourite he hasn’t used too much of late, 1…c6, the Caro-Kann. Mamedov admitted it caught him off guard, but added…

Six years ago Vishy played it against me in a rapid in Baku.

In fact they’d only met before in that tournament, and that was the only game where Vishy played Black against Rauf (it was also a draw). Anand’s explanation also noted the flaw in his reasoning:

I thought it would be nice to surprise him a little bit, although I noticed this wasn’t a very brilliant surprise as I played it against him last. It’s nice to be a little unpredictable, but it didn’t work out in terms of what I wanted to get.

Both players agreed the line played was again very solid and the draw by repetition that arose was logical.

It was probably this guy's first proper game against the former World Champion as well | photo: Shamkir Chess

That just left the topic of the rest day, with Vishy mentioning the simultaneous display he took part in and then that, “I even went and checked out the music a little bit”. When people were confused he clarified – “the party, if you like!”. He also explained that he could hear it from his room, so it was tough to avoid!

Vishy later added a detail that had been hushed up by those on site – Magnus Carlsen’s team (that also included his father, Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave) had lost 7:1!

Vishy was asked if he had any cunning plans to adapt his strategy for the rest of the event:

I will try to think up something clever, but to announce it in advance doesn’t seem very promising…

You can watch the whole press conference below:

3. So ½ - ½ Mamedyarov

After Magnus Carlsen’s quick draw this game soon developed into a chance for Wesley So to join him in the Shamkir Chess lead. 

Mamedyarov explained afterwards that although no-one had known how So would perform before the tournament started any draw against him was now a good result | photo: Shamkir Chess

After blitzing out 21 moves of known theory Mamedyarov sank into a 31 minute think on move 21, but although both players were soon on their own it was only 23.Rd4! that hadn’t been encountered before (Gelfand had played 23.Nxe7 against Akopian and won in the Karen Asrian Memorial in Yerevan in 2008). So hadn’t expected 23…Ne6, but it seems it wasn’t as strong as he’d thought, since his chances were still excellent in the position after 25…Rd8:

Wesley thought for only 4 minutes 51 seconds here before playing 26.Qd3?!, when the position soon liquidated into a draw, but it seems this is more evidence of one flaw we learned about from Wesley’s motivational notes in St. Louis and also saw in his loss to Vishy – he has a tendency to move too fast in critical positions.

He’d correctly seen here that his intended 26.Rxe7 Nxe7 27.Nxe7 wasn’t so good because of 27…Nd4!, but he could instead have played 26.Rxd8 and e.g. 26…Bxd8 27.Nfd6 Ng5 (Mamedyarov’s suggestion) and then either just 28.Bg2 or the trick 28.Qb3!, when although Black can take the bishop with check he then has to defend against the threat of mate-in-one. Wesley pointed that out in the post-game press conference, so it remained a mystery why he hadn’t at least tried some of these lines.

In any case, a draw wasn’t a bad result for either player to consolidate after Round 5 (a win for Mamedyarov and a loss for So). Wesley summed up his aims for the remaining three games:

My last two games were not my best results, but I just have to deal with it. There are three games left against very good opponents and I have Black in two of those games, so I’ll have to defend well.

He has White in the other game against Magnus Carlsen, so he still very much has it in his own hands to win the tournament.

Mamedyarov, meanwhile, revealed that he’d spent the night before the game playing blitz (and even bullet) until 4am, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave one of his opponents!

4. Adams ½ - ½ Vachier-Lagrave

No photo is needed for this clash when we have this tweet!

Although Maxime again tried to play creatively in the opening against his English opponent’s English Opening, this looked like a game with draw written all over it. The outcome was thrown into some doubt, though, when the Frenchman “blundered a pawn” (in his words), after 19…b5!?:

He commented:

I thought it was just a draw by force by b5, which was a tad optimistic, in hindsight.

Instead Adams was able to smoothly pick up a pawn on the queenside, but although they say the queen is a bad blockader Maxime's 25…Qa3! threw a spanner in the works of any plans to exploit the extra pawn:

Maxime was relieved to eventually escape:

I was just lucky that my oversight was not of such big consequences.

Adams summed things up when he was asked if he ever felt he could win:

At some stages I was making a bit of progress but around the time control we seemed to come to a bit of an impasse. It seems to be impossible to keep the major pieces on in any sensible way. Black is too active. It becomes quite practical for Black because he’s just offering the exchange all the time and I’m not sure what I’m doing.

The game lasted to move 59, but by then it was just a typical opposite-coloured bishop ending where an extra pawn made no difference.

You can watch the press conference below:

Perhaps a reason for all the draws had been the rest day, with Mickey Adams apparently accurately summing it up when he concluded:

It was quite a busy free day, actually!

Fabiano Caruana was rumoured to have danced at the party (no surprise to anyone who was at the 2014 Olympiad!), and then he threw his own party against Vladimir Kramnik the next day…

Kramnik 0-1 Caruana

Kramnik had a bewildered look after losing his second 6-hour game in a row

After this game both players were in complete agreement about how the game had initially gone. When someone asked Vlad if his opening choice had been a mistake he was flabbergasted:

I got a very nice edge without any kind of risk, so it would have been hard to choose anything better!

Caruana didn’t disagree:

It wasn’t heading anywhere close to a win and I was expecting to fight for my life in this game after 20 moves. But sometimes things happen this way.

IM Lawrence Trent takes a look at the game from the point at which it all went wrong for Kramnik:

You can also watch the post-game press conference, which might perhaps be summed up by two phrases – “I’m missing just one little tempi in all lines” (Kramnik) and “I think everything wins” (Caruana). As usual when it comes to Caruana, objective truth seemed to be on his side:

That meant the standings at the very top were unaffected by today’s round, with only Caruana and Kramnik swapping places:

The standings might be dramatically altered by tomorrow’s round, though. Caruana has White against So, while Kramnik follows two 6-hour losses in a row with Black against Magnus Carlsen. Don’t miss all the games live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST. You can also watch on our free mobile apps:


See also:

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