2nd Gashimov Memorial Starts Friday: Preview

2nd Gashimov Memorial Starts Friday: Preview

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

The next super tournament of 2015 is around the corner. The second edition of Shamkir Chess, the memorial for GM Vugar Gashimov, will be opened on Thursday and the first round will be played on Friday.

It's one of the strongest tournaments of the year, and it's only a few days away. The second Gashimov Memorial, a 10-player round robin, once again has world champion GM Magnus Carlsen as the top seed. World number-two GM Fabiano Caruana will be back as well.

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is the only other player who participated in last year's top group. New participants are world champions GM Vishy Anand and GM Vladimir Kramnik, and GM Anish Giri, GM Wesley So, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, GM Michael Adams and GM Rauf Mamedov.

Here's the full (and impressive!) list of participants:

2015 Shamkir Chess | Participants

# Name Fed Rtg World # Born
1 Magnus Carlsen NOR 2863 1 1990
2 Fabiano Caruana ITA 2802 2 1992
3 Viswanathan Anand IND 2791 6 1969
4 Anish Giri NED 2790 7 1994
5 Wesley So USA 2788 8 1993
6 Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2783 9 1975
7 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2762 11 1990
8 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2754 13 1985
9 Michael Adams ENG 2746 16 1971
10 Rauf Mamedov AZE 2651 112 1988

Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen won the first Shamkir Chess tournament last year despite losing two consecutive games, to Caruana and Radjabov. The Norwegian only played two tournaments this year, but won both.

In Wijk aan Zee he finished on 9.0/13. A few weeks later later Carlsen beat Arkadij Naiditsch in a playoff to win the third Grenke Chess Classic. He then took a long break, which included a short visit to Iceland where his parents were staying during the Reykjavik Open.

Preparing for the Gashimov Memorial, Carlsen spent some time in Qatar before going to Azerbijan. His regular seconds GM Peter Heine Nielsen and GM Laurent Fressinet joined him. A third player was there as well, but his name was kept secret according to TV2.  

Carlsen arrived in Baku on Monday and will travel to Shamkir on Tuesday according to Synergy Group posted photos on Facebook of Carlsen's arrival in the Azerbaijani capital:

A smiling Carlsen talking to the press, with his second GM Peter Heine Nielsen in the background. | Photo courtesy of Synergy Group.

Fabiano Caruana

Last year Caruana beat Carlsen in the first game, and he tied for first with the world champ with one round to go. Carlsen took revenge in the final round.

Ever since his brilliant play at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, the world number two's results have been so-so. In 2015 he came seventh at the Tata Steel tournament and tied for third place at the Grenke Chess Classic. He also played the Zurich Chess Challenge where he finished in sixth and last place.

A month after Shamkir, Caruana plays the highly important final FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, where a spot in the next candidates’ tournament is at stake.

Can Caruana finally find back his top form in Shamkir?

Viswanathan Anand

After losing his second title match to Carlsen in November, where he played well, Anand seemed relieved about his calendar for the upcoming year. No match in 2015, and so he could focus on tournaments!

At 45 the oldest participant in Shamkir, Anand started his year at a place he knows well: the spa town of Baden-Baden. His result at the Grenke Classic wasn't great: 2.5/7, and a 7th place. Zurich went much better, where he would have won if the organizers hadn't decided on an playoff, which was won by Hikaru Nakamura. 

Anand: close to tournament victory in Zurich.

Anish Giri

Giri, 20, is the youngest participant of the Gashimov Memorial. He made great progress in 2014, gaining 50 Elo points. Currently at the seventh spot in the world rankings, the big questions is whether he can make a next step in 2015.

His year started well, with a shared second place in Wijk aan Zee with 8.5/13. At the Tbilisi Grand Prix the Dutch grandmaster came shared fourth, with 5.5/11. He scored two draws and a win in the Bundesliga and last Saturday he drew a game in the Dutch league.

Anish Giri, ready for the next step?

Wesley So

So comes to Azerbaijan straight after playing the U.S. Championship, where he made headlines for the wrong reasons. Much has been said about his forfeit for writing self-encouraging notes on a piece of paper.

Fact is that, like Giri, So could be ready to move even further up the Elo ladder — if he can forget about everything that happened in St. Louis!

His U.S. Championship wasn't that bad actually; a third place with 6.5/11. In Wijk aan Zee he was among the group of players who finished second with 8.5/13. So also played the Bunratty Weekender this year, which he won with two draws and four wins.

Can So forget about everything and play his strong chess in Shamkir?

Vladimir Kramnik

Kramnik must come to Shamkir very “fresh.” His only tournament in 2015 so far was the Zurich Chess Challenge, where he came third, only half a point behind Nakamura and Anand in the combined classical and rapid standings.

Last year the ex-world champion briefly was out of the top-10 but quickly came back. Currently the world number-nine, Kramnik moved from Paris to Geneva last year. By now all the boxes must have been unpacked, and he should be ready for another super tournament!

A “fresh” Vladimir Kramnik!?

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

For Vachier-Lagrave it's the other way around: last summer he was in the world top 10 for a while, but then dropped out again. The “Frenchman-with-two-names” has now been dubbed “MVL” (especially by lazy journalists like yours truly).

The French number-one had a very similar calendar to Giri's. Like the Dutch GM, MVL played Wijk aan Zee (tied for second place with 8.5/11), the Tbilisi Grand Prix (shared eighth with 5/11) and the Bundesliga (two draws).

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, a dangerous outsider?

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Thus far Mamedyarov has played a lot of chess in 2015, but only one round-robin: he tied for fourth place with 5.5/11 at the Tbilisi Grand Prix in February. Early March, in Jurmala, he scored 8.0/11 (shared fifth) at the Vladimir Petrov memorial, which was a rapid tournament. 

At both the Reykjavik Open and the Aeroflot Open Mamedyarov was the top seed, but he dropped Elo points in both tournaments. His 7.5/10 (shared 4th) in the Icelandic capital was OK (-1.7), but his 5.0/9 in Moscow cost him 16.3 points more.

Mamedyarov turned 30 two days ago.

Michael Adams

Adams replaced Teimour Radjabov, who had to withdraw for health reasons. The English GM hasn't played much in 2015: the Grenke Chess Classic (shared third with 4.0/7) and some Bundesliga games (three draws and a win).

Adams, now 43, won Dortmund only two years ago. | Photo Georgios Souleidis.

Rauf Mamedov

Mamedov is the second Azerbaijani participant besides Mamedyarov. With almost 100 rating points less than the number nine seed, everyone will want to beat him!

He started his year well: at the 70th Azerbaiji Championship Mamedov edged out Eltaj Safarli and Vasif Durarbayli on tie-break after all scored 6.5/9. He also scored 6.5/9 (good for a shared 6th place) at the Moscow Open.

He played the European Championship in Jerusalem where he scored 7.0/11, but his tiebreak just wasn't good enough to qualify for the World Cup in his home town of Baku. (Maybe a wild card may help him?!) At the Aeroflot Open, Mamedov also scored 5.0/9 but against slightly stronger opposition than Mamedyarov. 

Mamedov, the reigning Azerbaijani champion.

The tournament is a memorial for GM Vugar Gashimov, who sadly passed away on January 10, 2014 at the age of 27. Many top players remember Gashimov as a very friendly and talented player. Carlsen said about him:

“Vugar was one of the most talented and original players I've met. He was always friendly with everyone and always smiling. I have many good memories with him from tournaments, especially in the Amber tournaments.”

Vugar Gashimov.

The opening ceremony will be held on April 16. The tournament runs April 17-26 with a rest day on April 22. The location is the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Shamkir. The total prize fund is 100,000 Euros.

2015 Shamkir Chess | Schedule

Date Time Activity
April 16 18:30 Opening ceremony
April 17 15:00 Round 1
April 18 15:00 Round 2
April 19 15:00 Round 3
Aril 20 15:00 Round 4
April 21 15:00 Round 5
April 22 Free day
April 23 15:00 Round 6
April 24 15:00 Round 7
April 25 15:00 Round 8
April 26 14:00 Round 9
April 26 Closing ceremony

The rate of play will be 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move from move 61 onwards.

The main sponsor, Synergy Group, is one of the largest local investment companies in non-oil sector.

Shamkir is the eighth-largest city in Azerbaijan and the capital of the Shamkir Rayon. It is located in the northern foothills of the Lesser Caucasus, on the coast of the Chagirchay River on Tbilisi-Yevlakh highway.

Like last year, Shamkir Chess 2015 games will have live coverage in three languages. The English-language commentary, by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko, will be available every round on starting 3pm local time (12:00 Amsterdam, 11am London, 6am New York, 3am Los Angeles, 8pm Sydney).

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