Carlsen, Ding To Play For Shamkir Chess Title
The father of the late Vugar Gashimov making the first move in Giri-Carlsen. | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

Carlsen, Ding To Play For Shamkir Chess Title

| 68 | Chess Event Coverage

Just two players can still win the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir: Ding Liren and Magnus Carlsen. Both won in the penultimate round, and will face each other in Saturday's final round with Carlsen behind the white pieces.

The most bloody round of the tournament so far produced no fewer than four decisive games. As a result, only two contenders are left. The tournament organizers are getting a dream finale with Carlsen and Ding playing for the trophy tomorrow. A tie for first won't be possible anymore, and obviously Ding needs to win this one.

Ding Liren Shamkir

Can this man stop Carlsen tomorrow? | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

The first to go down today was Veselin Topalov, who lost two games in a row after he topped the standings for many days. He wasn't a shade of his former self against Radek Wojtaszek, whose choice to play the Ruy Lopez instead of another Sicilian hit the bullseye.

At the start of the press conference, Wojtaszek was basically giving a lecture to his opponent on the Møller defense of the Ruy Lopez (5...Bc5), named after the Danish player Jørgen Møller (1873–1944). Topalov: “Of course I didn’t remember anything. The way I played, obviously it’s good for Black.”

Veselin Topalov Shamkir

Surprised in the opening, Topalov never really got fully back into the game. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

After the opening the position was perhaps still equal, but already more pleasant for Black and two more inaccuracies by Topalov gave Black a huge advantage. 

Radoslaw Wojtaszek Shamkir

Wojtaszek surprised his opponent with a Ruy Lopez. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

Ding Liren won his second game in the tournament, and so he kept hopes alive to win everything in Shamkir. The Chinese GM was given half a point by Rauf Mamedov, who was about to force a draw in a rook endgame when he chose the wrong square for his king after a check.

Mamedov said he is often "unlucky" the day after his birthday. Well, going to bed early once a year isn't really an option, is it?

Rauf Mamedov Shamkir

Having played so well and solid so far, this mistake was a tough one for Mamedov. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

Magnus Carlsen kept his half-point lead with what was his third win in the tournament. It was also his second win ever against Anish Giri in 20 classical games, so he finally has his plus score against his Twitter rival.

The opening phase was a bit puzzling, because the players were following Nepomniachtchi-Aronian, Geneva 2017 which was won by the white player. That sounds promising for Giri, but the Dutchman wasn't aware of all the details.

"I didn’t remember what I planned to do," said Giri. "I don’t think I planned to follow this game but somehow the moves were making a lot of sense so I was just making them. Unprepared is not a good idea to enter this line, for sure."

Black was more comfortable out of the opening, but not much. "Practically speaking, most people would take Black in such positions," was how Carlsen put it.

Giri: "But it looks extremely ugly."
Carlsen: "It’s more ugly than bad, I thought."

Anish Giri Shamkir

Giri perhaps underestimated his middlegame position, but it surely looked bad. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

Around move 33 Giri started to like his position some more again, as a result of an inaccuracy on move 30 by Carlsen: "I am not sure about this 33...Nf4 move at all but I thought I had to cash in at some point."

But with less time on the clock, Giri started to drift again, missing moves like 38...Ne6 and 40...Qd8. He did seem to have a more tenacious defense on move 41, which wasn't discussed at the press conference.

Dejan Bojkov, Game of the Day

Carlsen Giri Shamkir 2018

The players at the press conference. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

Giri summarized afterward:

"I was obviously hoping to put some pressure but somehow I didn’t manage to guess the right opening. It got from bad to worse and of course now my tournament situation is not what it could have been otherwise. Also yesterday I missed a big chance, so in the span of two days my tournament situation has become quite bad but I’ll try to play a good game tomorrow and finish things off on a high note."

Asked why he is winning games in the second half of the tournament but not earlier, Carlsen said:

"I think it’s a little bit accidental that in some games I got more chances out of the opening. I wouldn’t say that my level of play has necessarily changed because I think it’s been a like pretty mediocre throughout but at least now I am getting some more chances. I think that’s the way it sometimes goes in tournaments: People get more tired and make more mistakes But for me I can only focus on myself. I don’t think I was playing brilliantly at the start of the tournament and I don’t think I am playing brilliantly now. It’s just the way it happens sometimes."

Magnus Carlsen Shamkir 2018

Not playing brilliantly, but leading the tournament anyway. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic has continued asking unorthodox questions at the press conferences, and today Carlsen's answer to one of them perfectly explained why they've been so awkward at times. To the question how he deals with "fake news," the champion said:

"I will repeat what I said at an earlier press conference, that it’s very difficult after the games to take on the issues of the world. I’m sure that people, chess fans and others around the world, maybe some are interested in hearing our opinions about these things but I do not think this is the right setting to get the most coherent answers." 

The fourth winner of the day was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who defeated the luckless David Navara. The Czech GM went from "castling queenside to "an Audi" after surviving a sharp opening with good play, but then missing a tactic in the endgame.

It wasn't a great game by Mamedyarov, who gave his opponent several chances, but Navara is just completely out of form by now.

Navara Mamedyarov Ljubojevic

Navara, Mamedyarov and Ljubojevic. | Photo:  Shamkir Chess.

Six of the 10 players are now on a 50 percent score, with Sergey Karjakin and Teimour Radjabov having played only draws. Today they drew against each other; see the PGN file for that one. Carlsen (plus-two) and Ding (plus-three) are the other two players still unbeaten.

2018 Shamkir Chess | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2843 2894 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ ½ 5.5/8
2 Ding,Liren 2778 2846 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5.0/8
3 Radjabov,Teimour 2748 2773 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/8 17
4 Karjakin,Sergey 2778 2770 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/8 16
5 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2814 2771 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 4.0/8 15.25
6 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2744 2769 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 4.0/8 15.25
7 Giri,Anish 2777 2770 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.0/8 14.25
8 Topalov,Veselin 2749 2769 0 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1 4.0/8 14.25
9 Mamedov,Rauf 2704 2726 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/8
10 Navara,David 2745 2583 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 2.0/8

Round 9 pairings:
Navara-Radjabov, Mamedov-Mamedyarov, Carlsen-Ding, Wojtaszek-Giri, Karjakin-Topalov

Shamkir Chess runs from April 19-28, with a rest day on April 24. The games start at 3 p.m. local time, which is 1 p.m. Central Europe, noon London, 7 a.m. New York, and 4 a.m. Pacific. The prize fund is €100,000 ($123,689) with a first prize of €30,000 ($37,107).

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