Reports Apr 21, 2014 | 12:00 AMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir, Rd 1: Magnus masterclass

A magnificent positional game enabled World Champion Magnus Carlsen to beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and take an early lead at the Shamkir Chess 2014 tournament in honour of Vugar Gashimov. Fabiano Caruana missed a good opportunity to prevail with the black pieces against Hikaru Nakamura, while Sergey Karjakin had few realistic chances of squeezing out victory against Teimour Radjabov.

The Heydar Aliyev Center in Shamkir provided one of the most impressive chess venues we've seen in years! | photo: official website

Round 1 results:

Carlsen MagnusNOR1-0 Mamedyarov  ShakhriyarAZE
Nakamura HikaruUSA0.5-0.5 Caruana FabianoITA
Karjakin SergeyRUS0.5-0.5 Radjabov TeimourAZE

All the first round games were described live on the chess24 broadcast by none other than 7-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler, who when he can be prised away from playing himself is most people’s pick as the best chess commentator around. You can replay the full commentary, in which he was joined by another chess24 author, German Grandmaster Ilja Zaragatski, below:  

chess24’s Spanish editor, IM David Martínez, took a deep look at today’s games and what he described as an “absolute work of art” by Magnus Carlsen:

Describing Magnus Carlsen’s opening victory is the kind of task that leaves you resorting to a thesaurus. In a brutal exhibition of positional play he cut off all Mamedyarov’s possible avenues of escape in order to later exploit the poor position of his opponent’s dark-squared bishop with an extraordinary display of class. I recommend taking the time to savour all the nuances of the following game.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. ♘f3 ♘f6 4. ♘c3 e6 5. ♗g5 ♘bd7 6. e3 ♕a5 The Cambridge Springs used to be a very rare guest at elite level but in the last two years it's been gaining in importance due to the efforts of Dreev and Mamedyarov himself.

7. cxd5 This move is replacing the classical 7. Nd2 as the main line.

7... ♘xd5 8. ♖c1 Magnus employs a fashionable line. Our regular readers will recall that we recently commented on a victory of Cmilyte over Gunina using the same variation.

8... ♘xc3 9. bxc3 ♗a3 10. ♖c2 b6 11. ♗e2 White has to choose where he wants the bishops to be exchanged. Carlsen himself, with Black, faced 11. Bd3 against Gelfand and won in another great display of technique in the London Candidates.

11... ♗a6 12. 0-0 ♗xe2 13. ♕xe2 0-0 14. e4 In several games 14. Rd1 was chosen by White. Carlsen prefers to delay the decision about where to put the rook.

14... ♖ac8

14... e5 was the other natural option, preventing White playing e5. I think Carlsen's idea was to respond with 15. ♗h4 with the idea of putting this bishop on g3 and then trying to get the knight to f5 via h4.

15. e5 ♕a4 This move denies the white knight an easy route to e4 as Nd2 would now leave the c2-rook undefended. Carlsen, as always, has great flexibility of thought and tries to exploit his central majority.

15... c5? is no good due to 16. d5! exd5 17. e6!

16. c4 ♖fe8 17. ♖d1 As well as supporting the centre, as happens in the game, this rook is ready to swing along the third rank to the kingside if Black doesn't break.

17... c5 At the elite level we almost never see a player who's content to stand still and wait for his opponent's plans to take shape - even less so when the player in question is Mamedyarov!

I've got a bad feeling about this... | photo: official website

18. d5 exd5 19. ♖xd5 Magnus chooses the most solid option as it's unlikely he could fathom all the consequences of the pawn sacrifice with 19. cxd5. We'll also see he has a very deep insight into the position, and from this moment on he seals the fate of Black's worst piece, the a3-bishop. Magnus goes on to play brilliantly on the kingside, which the black bishop has no hope of reaching, and where he therefore has an extra piece.

19. cxd5 In principle this is a natural move, but one humans will reject as it gives up a pawn after 19... ♘xe5 20. ♘xe5 ♖xe5 21. ♕xe5 ♕xc2 but if you give Houdini some time to analyse here (and I say some time as at first it shows nothing), it indicates that White has an advantage after 22. ♖e1 , threatening mate in one. White can exploit the tempo Black needs for defending against that threat to seize the initiative. Let's look at some lines: 22... ♖f8 (22... h6 hopes to avoid the back-rank mates and gain a tempo, but 23. d6! maintains the initiative, and the pawn will cost Black a rook: 23... hxg5 24. d7 ♖f8 25. ♕d6 Threatening Qxf8. 25... ♖d8 26. ♕e7 ♖xd7 27. ♕xd7 and although Black still has drawing chances he should be in for a very hard time - his structure is bad and his bishop is somewhat disconnected from the play.) 23. ♗e7 ♖e8 24. d6 ♕a4 (24... ♕d3 is impossible because White ends up controlling d7. 25. ♕e2 ♕f5 26. ♕b5 Winning.) 25. g3 Eliminating back-rank issues. White's plan might be to play Re3-f3 and then coordinate with the queen to attack f7, or advance the h-pawn to create new weaknesses.

19... ♘f8 19... Nb8, heading for c6, was an interesting alternative since from there the knight threatens to jump to d4 and also hits the e5-pawn.

20. h4 Typical. In positions with a space advantage and no obvious central breaks advances on the flanks, both in the middlegame and the endgame, are always an alternative to keep in mind in order to create weak points.

20... h6 21. ♗e3 ♘g6? Mamedyarov wants to expel the rook from d5 but, as we'll see, it's not so simple since the d-file gains in importance.

21... ♖cd8 was an original way of exploiting the knight on f8 in order to fight for the file after 22. ♕d3 ♖d7 Black will double rooks and it's not clear what White's plan is to make progress. The tension around d5 prevents him from having a totally free hand.

22. ♕d3 ♖e6 Wanting to play Ne7 while preventing sacrifices on e6.

22... ♘e7 23. ♖d7 is very unpleasant for Black.

a) 23... b5 would be a normal move, trying to create immediate counterplay on the queenside, but it's violently refuted. 24. e6! fxe6 (24... bxc4 25. exf7+ ♔xf7 26. ♖xc4 With Ne5 to follow, and the rook swinging along the fourth rank...) 25. ♗xh6 gxh6 26. ♘e5 and the black king won't survive the imminent arrival of the white queen. Have you noticed how far away the black queen is?

b) 23... ♖c6 Preventing e6, but after 24. ♖d6 Black is completely pinned down.

23. h5 ♘e7 24. ♖d6 Magnus has already seen that this move will leave him with the better structure - and that's the kind of thing that makes Magnus very happy!

24. ♖d8+ is the start of a semi-forced variation. Although it gains material it does give Black some options - and that's not in Carlsen's style! 24... ♖xd8 25. ♕xd8+ ♔h7 26. ♖d2 , followed by Rd7, will wreak havoc with the black position. Mamedyarov would have to seek counterplay by sacrificing the knight, and therefore 26... ♗c1 is forced in order to weaken White's structure - and also exchange the bishop that's so little involved in play! 27. ♖d7 ♗xe3 28. fxe3 ♕xa2 29. ♖xe7 ♖xe7 30. ♕xe7 ♕xc4 31. ♕xa7 b5 and the black pawns could pose a real headache for White. I'm almost sure Magnus had seen this far and rejected the position as overly complicated.

24... ♗b4 The suffering that this bishop is enduring - locked in on the queenside by its own pawn structure - moves me to tears! From b4 it wants to control d2 in order to prevent White from doubling rooks.

25. ♖c1! A Karpov move in the sense that it asks your opponent: "Can you prevent my plan?" Besides being objectively strong such quiet moves are no fun to face at all, psychologically speaking!

25... ♖e8 26. ♖xe6 fxe6 27. ♘h4 And now for the light squares!

27... ♕c6 28. a3 ♗a5 29. ♖d1 It's soon going to be time to exploit the open file.

29... ♕c7 30. ♘g6!

30. f4 was also good, but Carlsen accelerates play a little on this occasion in order to avoid a possible counterattack with 30... b5 31. cxb5 c4 32. ♕d7 ♕xd7 33. ♖xd7 ♘d5 , hitting the bishop and then advancing the c-pawn... White is better, but why go to all this trouble?

30... ♘xg6

30... b5 31. cxb5 c4 no longer has the same effect, because after 32. ♕d7 ♕xd7 33. ♖xd7 ♘d5 the bishop isn't hanging and you can capture with 34. ♖xa7 and then deal with stopping the c-pawn.

31. ♕xg6 ♕f7 32. ♖d3! Again sending a message to Mamedyarov and his dark-squared bishop - you're not stepping foot on c3!

32... a6 33. a4 Once again avoiding any counterplay.

33... ♖f8 34. g4 Without the bishop Black won't be able to handle the white majority on the kingside.

34... ♕e8 35. ♖d6 ♕xa4 Desperation, but who wouldn't be desperate? Standing still would do little to stop Carlsen crashing through on the kingside sooner or later.

36. ♕xe6+ ♔h8 37. ♗xh6! ♕a1+ 38. ♔g2 ♖xf2+ A last vain attempt to complicate matters.

39. ♔xf2 ♕e1+ 40. ♔g2 ♕e4+ 41. ♔h3 ♕h1+ 42. ♔g3 ♕e1+ 43. ♔f4 ♗d2+ Finally the bishop does something!

44. ♖xd2 Farewell bishop.

44... ♕xd2+ 45. ♔f5 gxh6 46. ♕e8+ ♔g7 47. ♕e7+ With Kg6 to follow. An absolute work of art from Carlsen, who smothered all Mamedyarov's attempts to get counterplay while exploiting to perfection the existence of a single bad piece - the bishop on a3.


Magnus Carlsen gave yet another masterclass | photo: official website

While there’s little to say about the game between Karjakin and Radjabov – the Azeri player easily held an ending a pawn down – the same certainly isn’t true about Nakamura – Caruana. Fabiano seized the initiative with the black pieces and after the time control was on the verge of victory.

Nakamura has a space advantage, controls the c-file and his knight can easily get to the d4-square. How did his position manage to end up so bad so soon? Pay attention to the upcoming moves as they're very instructive.

41... a5! A good move. Caruana looks to win the c5-square for his knight.

42. b5 Although objectively the position remains equal this move gives Black too much freedom of action. The queenside is closed which doesn't help White as a4 remains weak while b6, as we'll see, instead reinforces the position of the black knight.

42. bxa5 bxa5 43. ♗f5 was the best option as in case of 43... ♘c5 you can respond with 44. e5 as there's no b6-pawn to support the black knight.

42. ♗xd7 , eliminating the knight, would be logical, but it runs into some concealed and very interesting dynamic play. 42... ♕xd7 43. b5 It seems the position is under control, but... 43... ♕g4! 44. ♖e3 (44. ♘d2 is impossible due to 44... ♕d1+ 45. ♔g2 ♖xe4 What a blow! 46. ♕xe4 ♕xd2+ and the rook is regained. ; 44. ♕xb6 ♕xe4 and when d5 falls the white king isn't going to be very happy.) 44... f5! 45. ♕xb6 f4 Viva dynamics! This is how modern chess works - strategic considerations, such as the b7-bishop being bad, lose out to concrete considerations. The white king is in trouble! 46. ♕d8+ ♔f7 47. ♖d3 fxg3 48. ♕xd6 ♕xe4 and the position is torture for White.

42... ♘c5 43. ♖e3 ♗c8! If you have an inactive piece - activate it!

44. ♗g2

44. ♗xc8 ♕xc8 threatens both to enter on g4 and to play f5, once again destabilising the white centre.

44... ♗g4 45. ♘e1

45. e5 , looking to eliminate the weakness, was an option. 45... ♗c8 Returning to b7 now that d5 is a possible weakness. White would still have to suffer a lot to hold this position as he's constantly tied down by the weaknesses on a4 and d5. (45... ♗xf3 wins a pawn, but the ending isn't clear: 46. ♗xf3 dxe5 47. ♖xe5 ♖xe5 48. ♕xe5 ♘xa4 49. d6 Advanced pawns are more valuable in queen endings.)

45... ♗h5 46. ♘c2? Dreaming of an active future for this knight, but there's no time.

46. ♘d3 , looking to exchange knights, was more sensible and might have been sufficient to secure the draw.

46... ♗g6 47. ♕c4 ♖e8 Making way for the queen without losing sight of e4. 47...Rc7 was also interesting, with a similar idea but with the additional possibility of discovered checks.

48. ♘d4

48. ♕d4 This prevents Qf6, but Black can opt for 48... f5 49. exf5 ♗xf5 50. ♖xe8+ ♕xe8 and once again the white weaknesses on a4 and d5 would be a long-term headache for Nakamura.

48... ♕f6 49. ♘b3 Nakamura finally seeks to eliminate the black knight that's brought him so much trouble, but it's too late! The activity of the rest of the pieces will now do a lot of damage.

49... ♘xb3 50. ♖xb3 ♕a1+ 51. ♔f2 f5! Demolishing the white structure!

52. ♖e3 fxe4 53. ♗xe4 ♕e5 54. ♔f3 ♗xe4+ After demonstrating exquisite technique Caruana fails to find the finishing touch and decides to keep pursuing technical means.

54... ♗h5+! 55. ♔f2 (55. ♔g2 ♕b2+ transposes.) 55... ♕f6+ 56. ♔g2 (56. ♔g1 ♖f8 Threatening to enter on f2 and there's no way to parry the threat because e2 is controlled by the bishop and the white queen has to keep an eye on f1.) 56... ♕b2+ 57. ♔g1 ♕d2 and the bishop falls because there's no way to keep supporting it with the rook.

55. ♖xe4 ♕f5+ 56. ♔e3 ♖c8 The coordination of the black rook and queen is much superior to White's so Nakamura has to tread carefully.

57. ♕d3 ♖f8! Continuing to coordinate the pieces.

58. ♔d2

58. ♖f4 simply seems like a bad move for a human, leading to a lost ending, but in actual fact it's holdable. 58... ♕xd3+ 59. ♔xd3 ♖xf4 60. gxf4 Nobody would want to get involved in this ending with this structure, but White can achieve a draw. 60... ♔f7 61. ♔e4 ♔f6 62. ♔e3 ♔f5 63. ♔f3 g5 (63... g6 64. h3 brings Black nothing new.) 64. fxg5 ♔xg5 65. ♔g3 ♔f5 And the race begins! 66. ♔h4 ♔e5 67. ♔h5 ♔xd5 68. ♔xh6 ♔c4 69. h4 d5 70. h5 d4 71. ♔g6 d3 72. h6 d2 73. h7 d1Q 74. h8Q and in practice I suppose Black would often win this ending but the key is that the immediate 74... ♕xa4? 75. ♕c8+ holds the position because it's impossible to take on b5 due to Qe8.

58... ♕g5+ 59. ♔c2 ♖f2+ 60. ♔b3 ♕f6? A mistake that offers the draw on a plate.

60... ♖xh2 would have been the natural move. 61. ♖e8+ (61. ♖c4 ♕e5! 62. ♖c8+ ♔f7 63. ♕f3+ ♔g6 Escaping from the checks.) 61... ♔f7 62. ♖e3 and although it's never easy to convert such an advantage a pawn is a pawn!

61. ♖e2 The white rook cancels out the black one, ensuring the draw.


Nakamura had to fight very hard to draw against Caruana | official website

So after the first round Magnus Carlsen is in a familiar first place while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will be hoping he’ll recover from his bad start the way he did at the recent Candidates Tournament.

Don’t miss Round 2, when Carlsen has the white pieces against Nakamura. You can follow it live with commentary by Peter Svidler here on chess24!

See also:

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