Reports Apr 23, 2014 | 7:19 AMby Colin McGourty

Shamkir, Rd 3: Nakamura bounces back

Hikaru Nakamura returned to 50% by beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the only decisive game of Round 3 of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir. All eyes were on Magnus Carlsen as he looked on course to win a third game in succession but the World Champion was thwarted by some brilliant defence from Sergey Karjakin. We have exclusive analysis of that game from GM Jan Gustafsson!

Round 3 results

Nakamura HikaruUSA1-0Mamedyarov ShakhriyarAZE
Karjakin SergeyRUS½ - ½Carlsen MagnusNOR
Radjabov TeimourAZE½ - ½Caruana FabianoITA

Replay the live commentary

chess24's commentary team for Round 3 was the terrific trio of Peter Svidler, Lawrence Trent and Jan Gustafsson. The full almost six-hour show (!) can be replayed below:


Hikaru Nakamura - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 1-0

Nakamura won after a brilliant positional pawn sacrifice gave him a long-term initiative that he pressed home with precision. Suddenly in his element, the American star barely gave his opponent Shakhriyar Mamedyarov a chance to coordinate his pieces. 

Our Spanish editor IM David Martínez takes a look at the game:

1. e4 c6 A relative surprise from Mamedyarov, who more frequently plays various Sicilians or e5, but in 2013 we could observe that against aggressive players like Morozevich and Topalov this was his choice.

2. d4 d5 3. e5 ♗f5 4. ♘f3 e6 5. ♗e2 c5 6. ♗e3 ♕b6 One of the most critical lines.

7. ♘c3 And Nakamura also chooses the sharpest option.

7... ♘c6

7... ♕xb2 is impossible due to 8. ♘b5 threatening both Nc7+ and trapping the queen.

8. dxc5 A surprise, after thinking for almost 10 minutes, which suggests it wasn't preparation.

8. 0-0 is the move that seems to pose Black problems, and which was seen in various high-level games. Mamedyarov undoubtedly had some kind of idea prepared, but Nakamura wasn't curious. So we don't get to see it either!

8... ♗xc5 9. ♗xc5 ♕xc5 10. ♘b5 The threat of Nc7 and Bd6 forces White to forfeit castling.

10... ♔f8 11. ♘bd4 ♘ge7

11... ♕b4+? could be met by 12. ♕d2 as it would be inadvisable to play 12... ♕xb2 due to 13. 0-0 where the threat is not only Rab1 followed by Rxb7 but also Nxf5.

12. 0-0 ♗e4 The position is very rich in ideas and completely unbalanced. White has control of d4 and has also forced the black king to lose the right to castle. Black, meanwhile, has well-placed pieces and after Rc8 can control the centre.

The American no. 1 was back on song! | photo: official website

13. ♖e1 ♕b4 A provocative move which is going to rapidly change the pace of the game.

13... ♔g8 , calmly moving the king to h7 without conceding weaknesses with g6, was the main alternative. I suspect Mamedyarov rejected it because of 14. ♗d3 ♗xd3 15. ♕xd3 , taking control of the king's potential escape route, but Black can respond with the creative 15... h5 with the idea of Rh6-g6, keeping the position very interesting - for both sides!

14. a3! Taking the bull by the horns. Nakamura is one of those players who don't need much encouragement to join the party.

14... ♕xb2 15. ♖b1 ♕xa3 16. ♖xb7 Black has an extra pawn but lacks the time to coordinate his pieces calmly and instead decides to respond with a headlong advance.

16... ♗xf3 17. ♘xf3 h6 18. ♕d2 g5 Winning space on the kingside at the cost, of course, of creating more weaknesses. The tension is growing.

19. h4 g4? A mistake that further weakens the kingside.

19... ♕a4! was the move that could have made sense of the position, but it would have needed great precision for Black to withstand the white onslaught. 20. hxg5 hxg5 21. c4! The most critical try, short-circuiting the black queen. (21. ♕xg5 ♕xc2 The idea is to play Qh7 - just watch the black queen go! ; 21. ♘xg5 ♕h4! Forcing 22. ♘h3 and after 22... a5 Black demonstrates the versatility of his position, playing on both flanks.) 21... dxc4 22. ♘xg5 c3! Once again looking to switch the black queen to the kingside. 23. ♕xc3 ♕f4 24. ♘h3 (24. ♘f3 ♕h6 Invading on h1.) 24... ♕xe5 and Black has managed to consolidate the position.

20. ♘d4 ♕a5 21. c3 Black's problem is that he doesn't have a clear plan for improving his position. Mamedyarov tries a concrete approach.

21... ♘xd4 22. ♕xd4 ♘f5 23. ♕d2 d4 This was no doubt the plan when playing 19...g4, but the resulting position is dangerous, as we'll see. After

24. ♗xg4 ♕xc3 25. ♕e2 it's hard to realise that despite Black having an extra pawn and White having no real threats against his king Black is lost! The threat now is Bxf5 and e6, so Black has to take measures.

25... ♘xh4? Losing immediately.

25... ♘e7 was the more tenacious defence but after a quiet move like 26. ♖eb1 Black could do little to oppose the coordination of the white pieces against f7 combined with the activity on the seventh rank.

26. ♗h5 ♖h7 27. ♕e4 Black's problem is that he has all his pieces discoordinated, neither defending each other nor the king!

27... ♖c8

27... ♖g7 28. ♖xf7+ ♖xf7 29. ♕xa8+ ♔g7 30. ♖e4 , followed by Rg4, winning.

28. ♕xh7 ♕xe1+ 29. ♔h2 Three pieces attacking a point defended solely by the king seems a little too much.

29... ♕xe5+ 30. g3 ♖c7 31. ♖b8+ ♔e7 32. ♕xf7+ ♔d6 33. ♕f8+ An excellent game by Nakamura, who played at a very high level when the position became complicated, showing a great understanding of the principles of dynamic chess.

1-0

The battle between two of the world's most combative players was always likely to be explosive! | photo: official website

Teimour Radjabov - Fabiano Caruana 1/2 – 1/2 

This was a long theoretical battle in one of the critical variations of the Grünfeld Defence. It helped, therefore, that chess24 had the world's leading expert on that opening in the studio, but only so far... Caruana had the game under control and only had to find a couple of key moves to secure the draw.

Radjabov-Caruana was an instantly forgettable game | photo: official website


Caruana’s 23…Qc4! forced White to give perpetual check. Almost all the pieces of both players are hanging!

Sergey Karjakin - Magnus Carlsen 1/2 – 1/2

Once again Carlsen played the longest game of the day, pressing his opponent for almost six hours, but Sergey Karjakin was up to the task and eventually secured a draw. GM Jan Gustafsson takes an in-depth look at the game, trying to avoid the temptations of “Carlsen bias”:

1. d4 Karjakin was once almost exclusively a 1. e4 player, but in recent years he's added 1. d4 and 1. Nf3 to his arsenal. It's unlikely he felt a great desire to charge into Carlsen's Berlin Wall, so his first move came as no surprise.

1... ♘f6 2. c4 e6 3. ♘c3 In the past Karjakin usually preferred 3. Nf3 here, but naturally he had a concrete plan for this game.

3... ♗b4 4. f3 The latest fashion at the top level. White doesn't hesitate to declare his intention to occupy the centre with e4. This is already the third time Carlsen has come up against this move in a short period of time. His last two outings against Anand and Nakamura weren't overwhelming successes from the point of view of opening theory, even if he did win both games. That explains both Karjakin's choice and Carlsen's decision to try out a new system against 4. f3.

4... 0-0 Ignoring White's plan! This is only the third most popular move in the position. Carlsen twice tried the main move

4... d5 , but he didn't end up with the most beautiful of positions. 5. a3 ♗xc3+ (5... ♗e7 6. e4 dxe4 7. fxe4 e5 8. d5 ♗c5 9. ♗g5 0-0 10. ♘f3 ♗g4 11. h3 ♗xf3 12. ♕xf3 Nakamura - Carlsen, Zurich 2014, is the famous game in which Nakamura totally outplayed Carlsen and was on the verge of victory only to first give away the win and then also let half a point slip away.) 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 exd5 (7... ♘xd5 8. dxc5 ♕a5 is the main variation which we haven't seen from top players for what's already a suspiciously long time. What's White worried about?) 8. e3 c4 9. ♘e2 ♘c6 10. g4! leads to a strategically extremely risky position with good chances for an attack on the king. 0-1 Anand - Carlsen, Chennai 2013.

4... c5 is the second most popular move and was Karjakin's choice as Black when he recently faced this line. 5. d5 b5 6. e4 0-0 7. e5 ♘e8 8. f4 exd5 9. cxd5 d6 10. ♘f3 c4 1/2-1/2 Mamedyarov - Karjakin, Khanty-Mansiysk 2014, with very sharp play.

5. a3! White dispenses with the central march in order to first question the black bishop. Rightly so, it seems to me, as the obvious alternative

5. e4 d5! has for some time been considered ok for Black, as was recently verified by Mamedyarov - Aronian.

5... ♗xc3+ 6. bxc3 ♘h5 Once again not the main move, but moving the knight is a good idea. Black should avoid getting pinned down with Bg5, as after something like

6... b6 7. ♗g5! and Black castling it would leave ugly weaknesses in the king position to chase away the bishop with h6 and g5.

6... ♘e8 if the preferred move in this position, but who knows if that will change after this game.

7. ♘h3 A standard manoeuvre in order to blunt the threat of Qh4+.

7... f5 Directed against e4. Black can't prevent the move permanently, but with a pawn on f5 an exchange on e4 would give his rook free rein on the f-file. Carlsen is still on familiar ground as he already had this position on the board before, although that was as White in a game against Morozevich. Karjakin now deviates from that encounter.

8. e3 I don't particularly like this move as it seems a bit too passive. White locks in his c1-bishop and will have to use up another tempo if he later wants to play e4. Carlsen's approach instead strikes me as critical:

8. ♗g5 ♕e8 9. g4 fxg4 10. fxg4 ♘f6 11. ♕d3+/= with an active position for White. It would have been interesting to see what Carlsen came up with here. 1-0 Carlsen - Morozevich, Moscow 2009

8... d6 A typical move, preparing both c5 and e5.

9. ♗e2 c5 I've always been a fan of the c5-e6-d6-f5 formation that's known, for obvious reasons, as "the bathtub". Black fixes White's weakness on c4 and prevents the c4-c5 advance once and for all.

10. 0-0 Karjakin continues to put the focus on straightforward development. It seems to me that Black has no problems here and his position is even easier to play. Due to his pawn weaknesses White feels obligated to undertake something.

10. d5 e5 should be playable.

10... ♘c6 11. g4 Here we go! Karjakin sharpens things up. The timing is debatable, and it may well have been preferable to opt for the "low-key"

11. ♘f2 or

11. d5 ♘a5

11... fxg4 Carlsen chooses a simple and reasonable solution, in accordance with his style. His position is healthy, so why complicate matters? Nevertheless, it was tempting to go for the queen sortie

11... ♕h4 when for example 12. ♘f2 fails to (12. gxh5 is better: 12... ♕xh3 13. f4 b6! 14. ♖a2 ♗b7 15. ♗f3 with very complicated play, or ; 12. ♔g2 fxg4 13. fxg4 ♖xf1 14. ♕xf1 ♘f6 15. ♕f2 with approximate equality.) 12... ♘g3! 13. hxg3 ♕xg3+ 14. ♔h1 ♖f6 15. e4 f4!

12. fxg4 ♘f6 13. ♘f2 Once again a natural move (covering g4 and e4), but a somewhat passive one (a retreat!). The active

13. ♘f4 deserved strong consideration.

13... h6 Not an easy decision. Black moves a pawn in front of his king and weakens the g6-square, but he also prevents White from winning space with g5. That's necessary in order to prepare Black's following move.

13... e5 14. g5 ♘e8 15. ♘e4 concedes too much space.

14. e4 It is, of course, always tempting to commentate with Carlsen bias i.e. to praise his strategic decisions and criticise his opponent's. Nevertheless, I don't like the move e4. White closes the b1-h7 diagonal that Black just weakened (g6!), deprives his f2-knight of the chance of ending up on e4 itself in future, and also weakens the d4-square. On the plus side, things have opened up for the c1-bishop.

14. ♕c2 e5

14... e5 Carlsen, just as we were taught, closes the position to restrict his opponent's bishop pair, but it was seriously worth considering breaking the rules with

14... cxd4 15. cxd4 e5 to fight for the d4-square for the knight. 16. d5 ♘d4 17. ♗e3 ♘xe2+ 18. ♕xe2 b6 and Black is ok.

15. d5 Again, not an easy decision, but even though

15. dxc5 dxc5 16. ♕xd8 ♖xd8 17. g5 can't be considered playing for an advantage, it strikes me as the lesser evil. The c4, c3 and e4 pawns look horrible, but they control plenty of central squares.

15... ♘e7 The 14 seconds that Carlsen spent on this move suggest that the alternative

15... ♘a5 didn't merit a closer look. It doesn't seem so bad, though, as the knight is eyeing c4 and b3, and after b6 and Ba6 the c4-pawn would seriously start to wobble. But ok, a5 is far away from the action on the kingside.

16. g5 As good as forced. White can't afford to wait until Black plays Ng6 and Nh7 and takes control of all the dark squares on the kingside.

16... hxg5 17. ♗xg5 ♕e8 Taking over the diagonal and eyeing g6.

17... ♘h7 18. ♕d2 ♘xg5 19. ♕xg5 ♖f6 20. ♗h5 allows White too much activity.

18. ♕d3 ♕g6

18... ♘g6

19. ♕g3 White has mirrored Black's queen manoeuvre and, so far, has everything covered. The black position remains easy to play and the World Champion first mobilises a couple of fresh reserves.

19... ♗d7 20. ♔h1 ♖f7! Economical and strongly played. What Magnus has done in a couple of moves to mobilise his fighting forces towards enemy terrain is by no means easy. Khaleesi, for instance, stumbled around recruiting for four seasons without coming a step closer to the centre... Ok, she did have three dragons, which are perhaps worth more than two rooks.

21. ♕h4 ♖af8 22. ♖ae1 Karjakin just keeps covering everything. What now?

22... ♕h7 The queen exchange not only eliminates the strongest white piece and preserves the black queen from harassment by Rg1, but also frees the g6-square so the black cavalry can support the rooks.

23. ♕xh7+ ♘xh7 24. ♗e3 A new phase of the game begins. Only Black can be better here, but for all the Carlsen praise we shouldn't forget that Karjakin has been holding everything together over the recent moves. And that he's an endgame expert is something we knew about even before the following tweet from Anish Giri during the Candidates Tournament:

24... ♘g6 25. ♘d3 ♖xf1+ 26. ♖xf1 ♖xf1+ 27. ♗xf1 So the rooks have gone. In light of the weaknesses on e4, c4, c3 and a3 it's only a question here of a draw or a black win. I'd put the respective chances at 50:50.

27... ♘f6 28. ♘f2 ♘f4

28... ♗g4 was worth serious consideration: 29. ♔g2 ♘f4+ 30. ♗xf4 exf4 looks very uncomfortable for White.

29. h4 A big decision, putting the pawn within range of the black knight that can now attack it with Ng6.

29... ♘g6 Perhaps somewhat premature.

30. ♗g5 ♘h7 31. ♗d8 The bishop has embedded itself deep in the enemy camp, where it's susceptible to the black monarch.

31... ♔f7 32. ♔h2 ♘f6

32... ♔e8 33. ♗g5 ♘xg5 34. hxg5 ♘f4 would leave Black's winning chances intact. Kf7-g6, Ba4-c2, and the powerful knight on f4... Karjakin would have had his hands full.

33. ♔g3 ♘f4 34. ♔f3 ♗a4 35. ♘h3 All of Karjakin's moves in this phase deserve an exclamation mark, as he's continued to hold things together when it's more easily said than done.

35... ♗d1+ 36. ♔e3 ♘g6 37. ♘g5+ ♔e8 38. ♘e6 ♘xh4 39. ♗c7 The white knight on e6 is active but the mission was mainly to exchange the g7-pawn for the h4-pawn. As often in such cases pawn exchanges benefit the defending side, as with each pair of pawns a little winning potential slips away.

39... ♔d7 40. ♗b8 Thanks to this trick with a double attack on a7 and g7 White's exchange mission will be crowned with success. The price is that the bishop is shut off even deeper behind enemy lines. There's no such thing as a free lunch!

40... ♗g4 41. ♘xg7 The knight ensures the bishop has some company as a double agent.

41... a6 42. ♗d3 ♘g2+ 43. ♔d2 ♔e7 The plan of trapping the g7-knight is tempting, but Karjakin continues to react very precisely. This was a good opportunity to alter the character of the game with

43... b5! 44. cxb5 axb5

a) 45. ♗c2 c4 and I've got my doubts about whether White can survive this. His problem is that attempts to free himself such as 46. ♗a7 or (46. a4 bxa4 47. ♗xa4+ ♔c8 ) 46... ♗f3 instead cost material.

b) 45. ♗xb5+? ♔c8 46. ♗a7 (46. ♗xd6 ♘xe4+ ) 46... ♔b7 and suddenly it's the bishop that lays down its life.

44. a4! Preventing b5 and preparing a5, so that Private Ryan on b8 will have a safe haven on b6. Carlsen now decides to force the action, but Karjakin continues to find valuable resources:

44... ♔f7

44... a5 would be desirable, but fails to 45. ♗c7 ♘d7 46. ♗e2!

45. ♗xd6! For the price of the knight this frees the bishop and takes two central pawns with it. If Black could block them he would still have practical winning chances, but Karjakin has seen it all:

45... ♔xg7 46. ♗xe5 ♘h4 47. ♗g3! The last finesse - Black isn't in time.

47. ♔e3? ♘g6 48. ♗d6 ♘d7 would be the above-mentioned blockade.

47... ♘g6

47... ♘f3+ 48. ♔e3 ♘d7 49. ♗e2! ♘fe5 50. ♗xe5+ ♘xe5 51. ♔f4! ♗xe2 52. ♔xe5 ♗xc4 53. ♔d6 and the active white king guarantees the draw. Carlsen should perhaps have played like this, as in the game he was suddenly the only one who had to exercise some caution.

48. e5 ♘d7 49. e6 With the pawns forging ahead Karjakin is no longer in danger and Carlsen has to switch to damage control.

49... ♘de5 50. ♗xg6! Once again the best option. Karjakin's handling of the second half deserves as much praise as the first half deserves criticism. Like an Indiana Pacers game, back when they were still good.

50... ♘xg6 51. ♗d6 ♔f6 52. ♗xc5 ♔e5 Thanks to his active forces and the option to give back a piece if necessary (the knight is close to e6), Carlsen is never really in jeopardy.

53. ♔e3 ♗d1 54. ♗b6

54. a5 ♗b3 55. e7 ♗a4 and the bishop stops all the potential white queens.

54... ♗xa4 55. ♗c7+ ♔f6 56. ♔d4 Karjakin doesn't worry about the a-pawn but instead fully activates his remaining forces. That forces Carlsen finally to give up the knight, and...

56... ♔e7 57. c5 ♘h4 58. c4 ♘f3+ 59. ♔c3 ♘g5 60. ♔b4 ♗d1 61. ♗g3 ♘xe6 Draw! 

An impressive defensive performance by Karjakin. The fact he needed that in order to draw against Carlsen with White tells you all you need to know about the latter's strength. Still, Magnus is probably quite annoyed with himself today.

1/2-1/2

Standings after Round 3

NameRtgFED123456Pts
1Carlsen Magnus2881NOR1½12.5
2Nakamura Hikaru2772USA0½11.5
3Karjakin Sergey2772RUS½½½1.5
4Radjabov Teimour2713AZE½½½1.5
5Caruana Fabiano2783ITA½½½1.5
6Mamedyarov Shakhriyar2760AZE00½0.5

The players have only one rest day in Shamkir, after Round 5, so they're back in action on Wednesday with Caruana-Carlsen the highlight of Round 4. The games start at 12:00 CET - don't miss our live commentary with GM Peter Svidler and IM Lawrence Trent!

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