Gashimov Memorial: Anand Stumbles In Opening Round
Zurab Azmaiparashviliv, president of the European Chess Union, makes the opening move in Anand-Mamedov. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

Gashimov Memorial: Anand Stumbles In Opening Round

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Viswanathan Anand are the biggest names at the seventh Vugar Gashimov Memorial which got underway on Saturday. This year, the tournament is a combination of rapid and blitz chess.

How to watch?
You can follow the games of the Vugar Gashimov Memorial here.
Gashimov Memorial 2021 live chess

After Christmas, it's again time for the traditional, final top event of the year, the FIDE World Rapid & Blitz. It's great to see some of the biggest names in chess such as GMs Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, and Ian Nepomniachtchi on the preliminary participants list.

In the week before Christmas, however, there's a nice warm-up, and it's rapid and blitz as well. After six classical tournaments in memory of GM Vugar Gashimov, the seventh edition has seven rounds of two-game rapid matches, followed by two days of blitz. It is taking place in Azerbaijan's capital Baku this time, not in Shamkir.

The top seed is Caruana, who traveled to Azerbaijan almost straight after leaving the Utah studio where he provided commentary on the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi match. Five-time world champion Anand is another big star, while GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, GM Richard Rapport, and GM Sergey Karjakin are no outsiders either.

Further on the list are the seasoned grandmasters David Navara and Rauf Mamedov, while a fairly unknown name is GM Vugar Asadli. The 20-year-old local grandmaster is currently the 10th rated player in Azerbaijan. 

2021 Vugar Gashimov Memorial | Participants

# Fed Name Standard Rapid Blitz
1 Fabiano Caruana 2792 2770 2803
2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2767 2727 2754
3 Richard Rapport 2763 2750 2754
4 Viswanathan Anand 2751 2748 2825
5 Sergey Karjakin 2743 2757 2657
6 David Navara 2697 2706 2763
7 Rauf Mamedov 2656 2690 2686
8 Vugar Asadli 2579 2309 2386

The tournament started on Saturday, with just one round of rapid chess. Caruana, Mamedyarov, and Rapport all won their mini-matches over two games, scoring three points.

Rapport won both games against Karjakin, and both were quite interesting. Here's the first, where the Hungarian, as so often, played an opening variation that is supposed to be slightly questionable from a theoretical point of view but that turned out to be quite playable in practice. Karjakin might have been prepared for it since Rapport had played it online this year as well:

Gasim Gashimov Karjakin Rapport
Gasim Gashimov, Vugar's father, makes the opening move in Karjakin-Rapport. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

After scoring a smooth win with the white pieces (see below this report), Anand failed to hold his black game against Mamedov, who played a pet line of his in the Italian. The Azerbaijani GM had an overwhelming advantage as one of Anand's poor knights landed on h8. Black was OK later in the game but went down anyway:

This was the only match of the day that ended in a 1-1 tie and, therefore, the only match where an armageddon was played. Anand, as White, got five minutes vs. four for Mamedov, who had draw odds. In a tense time-trouble phase, Anand was briefly winning but eventually lost on time:

Rauf Mamedov
A good start for Rauf Mamedov, here pictured at the opening ceremony. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

Standings after day 1

# Fed Name Rapid 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts
1 Fabiano Caruana 2770 3 3
2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2727 3 3
3 Richard Rapport 2750 3 3
7 Rauf Mamedov 2690 2 2
4 Viswanathan Anand 2748 1 1
5 Sergey Karjakin 2757 0 0
6 David Navara 2706 0 0
8 Vugar Asadli 2309 0 0

All games day 1

Gashimov Memorial 2021 chess opening ceremony
The opening ceremony was on Friday. All players received a hat, which held their pairing number. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

The Gashimov Memorial starts with two-game rapid matches (Dec. 18-21) where the winner gets three points and the loser zero. In case of a tie, an armageddon game decides, and the winner gets two points and the loser one. Then, a double round-robin of blitz follows (Dec. 22-23) where the time control is five minutes plus a three-second increment, and the points system is back to normal.

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