Reports May 1, 2014 | 2:13 PMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir, Rd 10: Carlsen wins in style

Magnus Carlsen went into the final round of the Gashimov Memorial needing only a draw for overall victory, but instead ended with a flourish by beating Fabiano Caruana. The World Champion reminded chess24’s Jan Gustafsson of the Incredible Hulk, as a sudden surge of fine moves overwhelmed the brave efforts of his Italian opponent. Caruana nevertheless finished in clear second, after the other two games were drawn.  

Magnus Carlsen collects first prize at the Gashimov Memorial | photo: Ahmed Mukhtar, official website

Round 10 results

Mamedyarov  ShakhriyarAZE ½ - ½Karjakin SergeyRUS
Nakamura HikaruUSA  ½ - ½Radjabov Teimour AZE
Carlsen MagnusNOR 1 - 0Caruana FabianoITA

Replay the live commentary

IM Lawrence Trent and GM Jan Gustafsson once again commentated live on all the day's action from our Hamburg studio. During the show they were joined by Russian star and chess24 video author Peter Svidler, and events were wrapped up by Lawrence playing blitz. He took on chess24 users and a certain Jan Gustafsson, who he described as "arguably the most boring player in the history of chess". If you missed it, check out the video below!

The Norwegian World Champion ended with 7 decisive games out of 10 rounds at the Gashimov Memorial, so it was perhaps fitting that on the final day he was yet again involved in far and away the game of the day.

Carlsen 1 - 0 Caruana

Carlsen focused on the decisive game | photo: Ahmed Mukhtar, official website

Huge credit of course also goes to Fabiano Caruana, who yet again acted in accordance with the tournament situation and position on the board rather than allowing himself to be overawed by his fearsome opponent. Jan Gustafsson annotates a spectacular encounter:

1. d4 Carlsen continues to use Shamkir as his own personal 1. d4 theme tournament. After the King's Indian (Radjabov) and the Queen's Indian (Karjakin) it's now the turn of the Grünfeld Indian.

1... ♘f6 2. ♘f3 g6 3. g3 ♗g7 4. ♗g2 c5 5. c3 At first glance a very humble attempt - without any great ambitions White protects his central pawn. At second glance, however, it confronts his opponent with an interesting psychological dilemma: if he exchanges on d4 and follows up with d5 he'll already be giving up on any chances to win the tournament. The ensuing symmetrical structures can hardly be won (by Black!). The alternatives, however, involve heading into unchartered territory and taking significantly more risks.

5... d5 Caruana sacrifices a pawn on move 5! It's obvious that he didn't want to play just to contain his opponent but was also looking for chances to win the game and the tournament. Objectively, however, I think this move is taking too many risks - a pawn is a pawn! It's curious also that Mamedyarov felt the same urge to give up his c-pawn on move 5 (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. Nf3? dxc4!). Is there really something to the stories about Carlsen's hypnotic skills? If Black has no desire to play the symmetrical variation after

5... cxd4 6. cxd4 d5 (it's considered perfectly ok for Black, but promises few winning chances), he could try

5... 0-0 6. dxc5 ♘a6 or

5... ♕c7 as alternatives. The latter was once played by Vugar Gashimov, in whose memory the tournament is being held.

6. dxc5 Naturally he snaps off the pawn.

6. 0-0 0-0 transposes to the game, but Black would have had a second opportunity to play (6... cxd4 )

6... 0-0 7. 0-0 Black has no easy way of regaining the c5-pawn, so it's time to come up with a plan. Caruana decides first to prevent b4, which would cement White's extra pawn.

7... a5 8. ♗e3

8. c4 is a curious computer recommendation. And probably the best move! White reacts to a5 and tries to benefit from the newly-created weaknesses on b5 and b6. After something like 8... dxc4 9. ♕xd8 ♖xd8 10. ♘e5 ♘a6 11. ♘xc4 ♘xc5 12. ♘b6 ♖a6 13. ♘xc8 ♖xc8 14. ♘c3 White swaps his extra pawn for the chance to comfortably apply pressure.

8... ♘c6 Caruana continues to be unconcerned about regaining the pawn and simply develops his pieces towards the centre. His attitude is enviable, and his reserves of self-confidence are absolutely understandable given his previous formidable play in the tournament. But the pawn... It was nevertheless well worth considering the concrete

8... ♘g4 9. ♗d4 e5! 10. h3 exd4 11. hxg4 dxc3 12. ♘xc3 ♗xg4 and I can't find anything better than 13. ♕xd5 ♕xd5 14. ♘xd5 a4! and here I think the white weaknesses on b2 and c5 and the black bishop pair give plenty of compensation for the pawn.

9. ♘a3 A knight on the rim is dim, but this square is nevertheless good as a springboard to b5.

9... a4 Ensuring that any knight appearing on a5 won't be anchored by a2-a4. Black also gains the a5-square for his heavy pieces.

10. ♕c1! A nice multi-purpose move. The queen frees the d1-square for the rook and prepares the option of playing Bh6.

10... e5 Occupying the centre, but leaving a hole on d6 - a target the white knight will be grateful for.

11. ♖d1 ♕e7

11... ♕a5 almost works, but fails to 12. b4! axb3 13. axb3 and b4 next will cement the white extra pawn and his advantage.

12. ♘b5 Here she comes!

12... ♗e6 The bishop reinforces the centre and gets out of the way of the knight that's going to appear on d6. Carlsen reacts very strongly:

13. ♘g5!

13. ♘d6 b6! and the white outpost is shakier than Helm's Deep.

13... ♗g4 14. ♘d6 But now! The alternative

14. f3 is the kind of thing a human is very reluctant to do. It restricts your own bishop and takes away the natural retreat from the g5-knight.

14... h6!

14... ♗xe2 15. ♖xd5! is the point of White's play. After 15... ♘xd5 (15... h6 16. ♖d2 ) 16. ♗xd5 he gets overwhelming compensation for the exchange.

15. ♘f3 In contrast to the situation after the immediate 13. Nd6, the h6-pawn is now attacked and Black needs to spend time protecting it.

15... ♔h7 A routine reaction, which nevertheless seems a little too slow in this position. It fits, however, into Black's whole approach to the game - unlike your commentator Caruana has faith in his position and plays natural moves rather than frantically trying to sharpen play in order to mask the absence of a pawn. That goal would be served here by something like

15... b6 after which 16. ♗xh6? fails. (16. h3 ♗xf3 17. ♗xf3 is stronger, but the situation is still unclear after 17... e4 18. ♗g2 ♖fd8 ) 16... bxc5 17. ♗xg7 ♔xg7 18. ♘b5 e4

16. h3 This move was criticised in the press conference by Carlsen, who favoured the immediate

16. b4! when after 16... axb3 17. axb3 ♖xa1 18. ♕xa1 Black, in contrast to the game, doesn't have the move 18... ♘e4 available to him due to 19. ♖xd5 White is better.

16... ♗e6 17. b4 axb3 18. axb3 ♖xa1 19. ♕xa1 ♘e4! Now Black also has an outpost, from where the knight not only attacks its white colleague, but also makes way for the f5-f4 advance. The position is suddenly anything but clear, and White has concrete problems to solve.

20. ♘d2

20. c4 looks tempting, but - as with the move in the game - it can be strongly countered by 20... d4! 21. ♘xe4 (21. ♗xd4 ♘xg3! 22. fxg3 exd4 ) 21... dxe3 22. fxe3 f5 23. ♘d6 e4 24. ♘d4 doesn't lose any material, but leaves the g2-bishop buried alive.

20. ♘xe4 dxe4 21. ♘d2 f5 couldn't seriously be considered. f4 is a very annoying threat.

20... f5 The obvious move, but it fails as Carlsen enters Hulk mode in the following complications in order to prove that Green White is better. You think the Hulk can't play chess?

20... d4! was stronger, adding further fuel to the fire. This was perhaps Caruana's last chance to switch from "natural moves" to "chaos". A possible line is 21. ♗xe4 dxe3 22. fxe3 ♕g5 23. ♘f1 ♗xh3 24. ♗g2 ♗xg2 25. ♔xg2 e4! and the battered white kingside leaves Black with absolutely legitimate hopes. All three outcomes are possible.

20... ♘xd6 21. cxd6 ♕xd6 22. ♘c4 nevertheless leaves White on top e.g. 22... ♕e7 or (22... ♕d8 23. ♗c5 ♖g8 24. ♗xd5 ♗xd5 25. e4 ) 23. ♗xd5 ♗xh3 24. b4

21. ♘2xe4 dxe4 In contrast to the above variation after 20. Nxe4, White is left with a monster on d6 rather than a mouse on d2. That keeps him in control, although he still has to endure the black initiative.

22. ♕b1

22. b4 f4 23. ♕c1 was Peter Svidler's suggestion during our live show. White gives up a full bishop in order to maintain his structure, and after 23... fxe3 24. ♕xe3 is actually on top. Very beautiful, but Carlsen instead proves he's also better without a sacrifice.

22... f4 23. ♗d2 e3 Forced. The white structure is softened up, but not quite enough.

24. ♗e1 ♗f5

24... exf2+ 25. ♗xf2 fxg3 26. ♗xg3 ♕g5 was a better try, but after 27. ♕d3! White continues to press. Black simply doesn't have enough pieces in the attack.

25. ♕c1

25. ♘xf5 gxf5 26. g4! is Houdini's solution. The advanced black pawn mass looks threatening, but nothing works - 26... ♕xc5 27. gxf5 ♔h8 28. f6 ♖xf6 29. ♕d3 with a clear edge.

25... h5 With time running out the Italian puts up a fierce fight, with this move not only giving his bishop a square on h6 but also preparing to oust a white piece appearing on g3.

26. fxe3 fxg3 27. ♗xg3 Two pawns are two pawns...

27... ♕g5 Again the most natural move, but one impressively refuted by Carlsen. The best at least practical chances were promised by

27... h4 28. ♗f2 e4 gaining maximum space. Nothing concrete is threatened, but although White is still on top after, for instance, 29. ♕d2 ♕g5 30. ♕d5! Carlsen would still have some (calculating) work ahead of him.

28. e4! The game's star move! At the cost of a pawn Carlsen not only stabilises the position but also, in no time at all, seizes the initiative.

28... ♕xg3 29. ♖d3! A useful zwischenzug - the queen is first forced back.

29... ♕h4 30. exf5 gxf5 31. e4! That 31. e4! is the idea of 28. e4! and decides the game isn't something you see every day. Especially if like Carlsen you usually play 1. e4. He consistently avoided that in Shamkir, but the two e4s in this game will no doubt have eliminated any withdrawal symptoms... On to the idea: White prevents Black's e4 and takes control of the light squares while preventing his opponent from getting any play on the dark squares. The e5-pawn stands in the way of Black's pieces. In middlegames with opposite-coloured bishop the initiative is decisive, as a rule, and that now belongs to Carlsen.

31... fxe4

31... f4 doesn't alter the fundamental problem: 32. ♕d1+−

32. ♗xe4+ ♔h8 33. ♕e3 An extra pawn, centralised forces, a weak black king, passive black pieces, b7 a goner - White is on the verge of victory. That both sides were in mild time trouble altered nothing, as Magnus smoothly reached move 40.

33... ♖f4 34. ♗g2 ♕e7 35. ♕e2 ♕h4 36. b4 e4 Giving up the troublesome pawn and gaining the e5-square, but doing nothing to alter the overall situation.

37. ♘xe4 ♘e5 38. ♖d5 ♔g8 39. b5 ♖f5 40. c6 With the time control negotiated Caruana's list of problems to deal with now gets an addition: an unstoppable passed pawn on c6. The end is nigh!

40... bxc6 41. bxc6 ♕e7 42. ♘d6 ♖g5 43. ♘b5! All roads lead to Rome, but this is the fastest way to send Caruana home.

43... ♕e6 44. ♖d8+ ♔h7 45. ♕e4+ ♖g6 46. c7 ♕a6 47. c8Q ♕a1+! This looks like a spite check, but it contains a final and extremely nasty trap!

48. ♔f2! The game would have had a different outcome after the "natural"

48. ♔h2 - 48... ♘f3+! 49. ♕xf3 (49. ♗xf3 ♕g1# ) 49... ♗e5+ 50. ♕g3 ♗xg3# Just imagine the reaction! But ok, Carlsen had of course seen the trap and after the move in the game his extra queen proves decisive.

48... ♕b2+ 49. ♔e1 And the World Champion wins yet another tournament! Caruana was also convincing and played incredibly well, although that's not duly represented in his +1 result. He wanted to beat Carlsen with Black and win the tournament! That didn't pan out, but it wasn't only his win in the first half of the event against the same opponent that left him looking like perhaps the most prominent future rival for Carlsen. For now that role is taken by Anand, if the two ultimately still compete for the crown in 2014. Were there really no bids for the match?


After the game Carlsen was again interviewed by Norwegian TV and, thanks to the efforts of Tarjei Svensen, we bring you a translation of his comments to Cathrine Eide of TV 2:

Magnus Carlsen, what are your thoughts on winning this tournament in Shamkir?

Well, yes, it’s nice. It was a very interesting and complicated game in the last round. But I… well, I played better in the last part before the time control, and that was decisive.

You say it was a complicated game, but you were ahead on time and our computers showed that you were better all the way. Didn’t you kind of outplay him in this game?

Well, I won a pawn early on, but he had some compensation. So even though I thought I was better, he does have counterplay. It was a combination of me defending well and him not playing precisely enough, which eventually made it clear that it wasn’t sufficient.

What do you think about how you finished the tournament by playing against Caruana?

I enjoyed it! Actually I didn’t know what would happen today. I wasn’t sure what I should play in the opening, and then yesterday I had great problems sleeping, as for some reason I had too much energy. Then I thought I’d found a brilliant idea in the opening that I had to check with Peter Heine before the round. It turned out that it was just nonsense. (smiles)

Carlsen talks to Cathrine Eide | screenshot: TV 2

So I had no idea what to do in the opening and the decisions were made offhandedly. It showed he was in an aggressive mood that he sacrificed a pawn. It was similar to the game against Mamedyarov where I was a pawn up. Both of us overestimated our positions a bit, but I was probably more accurate in the end.

How much psychology was involved in this “thriller”?

I don’t know. I was just trying to play chess. But of course it was a bit weird, for example, in the opening where I was trying to do what he wants and then he suddenly thought for 30 minutes figuring out what to do. It becomes… last rounds have their own rules. That’s just the way it is.

How do you rate this game compared to your other games in the tournament?

It was better than some of the others. Complicated and fun, especially as I won the game.

What do you think about having won the tournament in memory of Vugar Gashimov?

I’m very happy about that, obviously. It wasn’t clear half-way through that it would end like this. And Gashimov was a very good guy – a good chess player who was fun to be around. It’s been nice to see his family have been here and enjoyed the chess during the tournament.

How will you celebrate the tournament victory?

First I have to relax. I’m tired and exhausted right now, so I’ll see how I’m feeling in a couple of hours.

Mamedyarov 1/2 – 1/2 Karjakin

The opening of a game that is perhaps destined to remain a mystery | photo: Ahmed Mukhtar, official website

This game hands-down won the prize for the most bizarre of the round, and perhaps the tournament. As you can see from our broadcast, after blitzing out a novelty on move 18 Mamedyarov thought one and a half hours on his next two moves! He quipped afterwards, “if you don't think on the last day, when are you going to think?” 

chess24’s German editor IM Georgios Souleidis takes a closer look at the key stages:

18. g5 A new attempt, which is also the move given by Houdini. In Round 5, also against Karjakin, Nakamura chose

18. exf3 and after 18... ♘e5 19. ♔g2 g5 20. ♕xg5 axb5 21. ♕e3 b4 22. ♘e2 ♘d5 23. ♕e4 ♖xc1 24. ♗xc1 e6 the position on the board was equal.

18... ♘d5 Before this move neither player had used any significant amount of time, but Karjakin now took almost half an hour in order to remember his analysis. Ultimately he was no longer sure what he'd analysed before and said he tried to calculate this move as far as possible at the board.

18... ♗b7 19. gxf6 ♗xf6 is a logical alternative.

19. ♗xd7 Mamedyarov took more than 20 minutes for this move. Somewhat surprising, given 18...Nd5 is Houdini's first choice and something hard to overlook...

19. ♘xd5 ♖xc1 (19... ♕xd2? 20. ♘xe7+! ♔h8 21. ♘xc8+− Karjakin) 20. ♗xc1 (20. ♗xa5? ♖xd1+ 21. ♗f1 ♗xd5−+ ) 20... ♗xe2 (20... ♘e5! seems to equalise at this point. Houdini gives the forced variation: 21. ♗f1 ♗xd5 22. ♖xd5 axb5= ) 21. ♗xd7 ♗xd1 22. ♗xe8 ♕e1+ 23. ♔g2 ♗e2 24. ♘e3 ♕xc1 was shown by Karjakin during the press conference, but he wasn't sure of the evaluation. Houdini shows, however, that after 25. b6± White has a clear edge, which given the strong outside passed pawn on the b-file is no great surprise.

19... ♖xc3 This move and the following ones seem to work out well for me (Karjakin).

20. ♗xc3 For this move Mamedyarov thought a whopping hour and four minutes, making it pretty clear he hadn't prepared this variation with 18...Nd5, despite playing the 18. g5 novelty. In the press conference he gave the following not entirely error-free lines that had given him a headache:

20. exf3 ♖xc1 21. ♗xa5? (21. ♗xc1 ♖d8 22. ♖xd5 ♕e1+ 23. ♔g2 ♕xc1 24. ♕g4 axb5 25. ♗xb5 e6 26. ♖d3= Houdini) 21... ♖xd1+ 22. ♔g2 ♗e5 (22... ♖b8 23. bxa6 ♗e5−+ Houdini) 23. ♗xe8 axb5 (23... ♘f4+ 24. ♕xf4 ♗xf4 25. bxa6+− ) 24. f4 (24. ♗xf7+! ♔xf7 25. ♕xh7+ ♔f8 26. h4 ♘f4+ 27. ♔h2! ♘e2+ 28. f4! ♘xf4 29. ♗b6 ♘d5+ 30. ♔g2± and the white king is out of danger (Houdini).) 24... ♘xf4+ 25. ♔f3? (25. ♔g3 is quite possible if you have Houdini as an aid. None of the discovered checks with the knight is decisive.) 25... ♖d3+ 26. ♔g4 h5+ 27. gxh6 f5+ 28. ♔g5 ♗f6+ 29. ♔xf4 e5# Mamedyarov

20... ♘xc3 Play remains very forced.

21. ♖xc3 ♕xc3 22. ♗xe8 ♗xe2 23. ♕f4 Once more forcing events. Saving the rook with

23. ♖b1 seems to get White into difficulties after 23... ♕d2! 24. b6 ♗d3! and White has to pull the emergency brake here with 25. ♖f1 After (25. b7? ♗xb1 26. b8Q ♕e1+ 27. ♔g2 ♗e4+ Black wins in all lines, e.g. 28. f3 ♕e2+ 29. ♕f2 ♗xf3+ 30. ♔g3 ♗e5+ and mate.) 25... ♗xf1 26. ♔xf1 Black can at any point give perpetual check, if needed.

23... ♗xd1 24. ♕xf7+ ♔h8 25. ♗c6! The threat is mate-in-2 with Qe8+, but Black has a good riposte.

25... ♗xb3! The Russian thought for ten minutes over this move, but definitely not to decide whether it was good or not. He was looking at the alternative

25... h5 , and after 26. gxh6 Mamedyarov showed the much weaker line (26. ♗d5 ♕c8 27. b6? after which Black has 27... ♗e2! and can even play for a win.) 26... ♗xh6 27. ♗d5 (27. ♕xg6 ♕g7 28. ♕xg7+ ♗xg7 29. bxa6 ) 27... ♕e1+ 28. ♔g2 e6! 29. ♗xe6 ♕e4+ 30. ♔g3 ♕d3+ 31. f3 ♕xf3+ 32. ♕xf3 ♗xf3 33. ♔xf3 axb5 leads to an equal opposite-coloured bishop ending.

26. axb3 ♕c1+ This perpetual check is forced.

27. ♔g2 ♕xg5+ 28. ♔h1 ♕c1+ 29. ♔g2 ♕g5+ 30. ♔f1 ♕c1+ 31. ♔e2 ♕c2+ 32. ♔f3 ♕d1+ 33. ♔g2

33. ♔g3 ♗e5+ 34. f4 ♕e1+ also leads to perpetual check (Karjakin).

33... ♕g4+ 34. ♔h1 ♕d1+ 35. ♔g2 ♕g4+ 36. ♔h1 ♕d1+ 37. ♔g2 I saw the perpetual coming but had no way to prevent it. (Shakhriyar Mamedyarov)


Mamedyarov finished a full two points adrift of the rest of the field after making life difficult for himself in most games, later explaining:

I also took risks because I really wanted to win the tournament in honour of Vugar Gashimov.

Karjakin’s approach wasn’t exactly the opposite – and he pointed out it’s tough against top players and he’d played three tournaments in a row – but it looked that way from the results!

Karjakin’s 10 draws out of 10 left him second last, as the first tiebreak was the number of wins. He has reason to be happy about life, though, as he’s about to marry his girlfriend - as another player revealed:

Nakamura 1/2 - 1/2 Radjabov

It has to be said this was also quite a curious game! Radjabov played the infamous Berlin Wall and the position on the board marks a historical moment - the last push of a pawn (27.f4): 

The game ended a full fifty moves later in essentially the same position. 

The players at least saw the funny side:

Hikaru: I could have drawn four hours ago, probably, but there’s nothing wrong with playing. If Magnus can play against Teimour for 20 hours yesterday I might as well try today!

Teimour: At first I thought there was some intention by Hikaru, but then I understood he just wants to make us both happy... and he has nothing special to do before the closing ceremony. 

Will Red Bull incorporate playing the Berlin for six hours into their promos... | photo: Ahmed Mukhtar, official website

Both players were relatively happy with finishing the tournament on 50%, but they went about it in very different ways. Radjabov noted he didn’t have a single bad position in the tournament and was happy to have shown he could play decent chess again after the London Candidates Tournament. Nakamura, meanwhile, noted his only good position from the opening had been against Carlsen...

Results-wise it’s pretty decent, but I’d have preferred to lose to Mamedyarov and beat Carlsen!

So the final table looked as follows:

1Carlsen Magnus2881NOR1  1 ½  ½   0  ½ 0  11  16.5 
2Nakamura Hikaru2772USA0  0 ½  ½ ½  ½½  ½ 1  15 2
3Karjakin Sergey2772RUS ½  ½ ½  ½½  ½ ½  ½½  ½5 0
4Radjabov Teimour2713AZE 1  ½ ½  ½½  ½½  0 ½  ½5 1
5Caruana Fabiano2783ITA 1  0½  ½ ½  ½½  1 0  15.5 
6Mamedyarov Shakhriyar2760AZE0  0 0  0  ½  ½ ½  ½ 1  03 

All that's left is to congratulate the victor, and who better to do that than his greatest predecessor:

See also:

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