Carlsen, Mamedyarov Top Seeds In Shamkir
Magnus Carlsen & Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. | Photos: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen, Mamedyarov Top Seeds In Shamkir

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

If you experienced some chess withdrawal symptoms in the days after Grenke, we have good news. This week two top events start: the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan and the U.S. Championships in St. Louis.

Tomorrow we'll look at the U.S. Championships; in this post we focus on the Gashimov Memorial, also called Shamkir Chess. The fifth edition starts on Thursday.

The tournament honors the memory of the talented grandmaster (who made it to world number-six!) and wonderful personality of Vugar Gashimov, who passed way at the age of 27, in January 2014, from complications of a brain tumor.

The tournament has had only two winners so far. Magnus Carlsen participated in the first two editions, and won both. With the world champion absent, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov managed to win the next two in front of a home crowd. Both are playing this year.

2018 Shamkir Chess | Participants

# Fed Name Rating Rank Born
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2843 1 1990
2 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2814 2 1985
3 Ding, Liren 2778 8 1992
4 Karjakin, Sergey 2778 9 1990
5 Giri, Anish 2777 10 1994
6 Topalov, Veselin 2749 17 1975
7 Radjabov, Teimour 2748 18 1987
8 Navara, David 2745 19 1985
9 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2744 20 1987
10 Mamedov, Rauf 2704 38 1988

Carlsen will be back in Shamkir coming from a disappointing (but not disastrous) Grenke Chess Tournament.

"Midway, I was pretty unhappy with the whole situation and I couldn't show my best at all. The last couple of games were not so bad, so I'm hoping to build on that," Carlsen told in Baden-Baden.

His biggest rival in Shamkir is obviously Mamedyarov, who has had an excellent year behind him and who showed that breaking 2800 was not a coincidence (if it ever is!). At the Candidates' he scored 8/14 and a 2832 performance rating.

Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin are obvious potential winners as well, if only because, like Mamedyarov, they must still have tons of Candidates' preparation in store.

Karjakin (also 8/14 at the Candidates') might be more fit, as he spent about 10 days of relaxing with his family in Nice, France after attending a charity event. Ding (7.5/14 in Berlin), on the other hand, played two games in the Chinese league last week. He won both.

Anish Giri's last tournament was Wijk aan Zee, and it was basically the best tournament he ever played. Let's see if the Dutchman can bring the same form to Azerbaijan!

A very interesting name on the list is Veselin Topalov, the great Bulgarian player who sadly isn't playing much chess anymore these days. He played a Champions Showdown match with Hikaru Nakamura in November in St. Louis, and was also at the 2017 Paris Grand Chess Tour, but his last classical tournament was in fact the 2017 Gashimov Memorial, where he scored plus one and tied for second place with Wesley So and Vladimir Kramnik.

It looks like the tournament's regular (and refreshingly unorthodox) commentator GM Ljubomir Ljubojevic will be back as well.

Kramnik, by the way, was originally on the participants list for this year as well, but about a week ago he withdrew. He explained to

"Some health issues, nothing too bad. It just seems this Candidates' took a lot from me, so some old health issues started to appear right after, due to exhaustion probably. I am going to take a break of a couple of months to recover fully and get back to competitive chess in adequate shape.

Wijk [aan Zee], then a long training session, then Moscow and the Candidates all in a row is probably a bit too much I can afford at this age, I guess. Since I always play “on full monty” I need to rethink a bit my tournament schedule in the future and make it more suitable for my age somehow . I forget in my mind but then the body reminds. 

It should be completely fine by the summer, I suppose."

Kramnik Candidates 2018

Kramnik desperately needs a break. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kramnik has been replaced by Polish number-one GM Radek Wojtaszek, who scored 50 percent last year. 

Teimour Radjabov is a similar story with Topalov's: a very strong grandmaster with lots of experience, but with few recent games. His last tournament was the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix in November 2017 where he scored 5/9.

Czech grandmaster David Navara and local GM Rauf Mamedov probably won't be fighting for first place, but their chess is often quite interesting. Overall, the field is a nice mix of different types of players and promises exciting games.

The prize fund is €100,000 ($123,689) with a first prize of €30,000 ($37,107).

The venue is the Haydar Aliev Centre in Shamkir, Azerbaijan. The playing days are 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 time control is 2 hours for the first 40 moves, then one hour for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game with a 30-second increment from move 61 onwards. No draw agreements by the players are allowed before move 41.

The official website is

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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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