Karjakin, So Notch 1st Wins In Shamkir

Karjakin, So Notch 1st Wins In Shamkir

Neither the world's number-two rated player nor the world champion runner-up were having memorable events at Shamkir Chess 2017, but they will now sleep a little easier going into the tournament's only rest day.

All photos courtesy official site.

GM Wesley So and GM Sergey Karjakin both began the day at -1 but the duo contributed the only two wins of round five. They were linked in another way -- the two 20-somethings both beat 40-something former world champions. The four involved in these games are now all on 2.5/5.

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Unlike GM Magnus Carlsen, GM Sergey Karjakin has visited the barber since the world championship. Today he gave GM Veselin Topalov a close shave.

All other games ended drawn, meaning GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov still leads, although the group only a half-point back is now half as large.

Karjakin's point came at expense of GM Veselin Topalov. The Bulgarian tried to play a Caro-Kann, which shape-shifted into a French Defense a tempo down after he refused the more standard lines with ...Bf5. However, White had already committed to an early d- for c-pawn exchange.

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GM Veselin Topalov could never find shelter for his king today. Taking the e-pawn proved too much.

Black then spent many more tempi acquiring the bishop pair, activating his "French bishop," and even going after the White's final center pawn.

The final indiscretion proved too much and Karjakin punished Topalov for his profligacy. In particular 23. Nxe6! was a nice touch. Abandoning the queen to threaten a double-checkmate highlighted the prior need for Topalov to eschew material and find safe harbor for his king.

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Sometimes when a young player bursts onto the scene, his personal head-to-head record suffers against the veterans until he learns to play at the highest level. That's not so for So, who after today has grabbed two victories from GM Vladimir Kramnik without any losses in classical chess. (Curiously the former champ has So's number in fast time controls.)

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GM Wesley So played the day's longest game and was rewarded with a win, his first in Shamkir.

Today the Catalan produced a position with divergent themes. White had the only bishop, but Black had the queenside majority. That dynamic could have played out a number of ways, but moves 30-37 should be the reader's focus. Somehow all of So's pieces moved forward and took on ideal posts while Black's kept backing up.

If we are to believe Kasparov, who claimed that a knight on f5 is worth nearly a pawn, then So was even up material so to speak. Black's ...g6 forced the steed out, but the weakening of dark squares gave the American an opening to win a pawn. So's game was a great example of envisioning the endgame starting at the middlegame.

Four-on-two and an active king was no problem for the world number-two to convert. He did pass up on a few chances to force himself to do the bishop+knight mate, but since chess professionals don't get paid by the hour, that's understandable!

The other three games ended on peaceful terms. GM Teimour Radjabov and GM Michael Adams had a relatively short day, while GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Mamedyarov both pressed as Black. However, the Pole couldn't overcome GM Pavel Eljanov's fortress, and the leader's extra pawn was nullified by GM Pentala Harikrishna's bishop pair.

The 10 players will all get the day off Wednesday, with rounds six through nine concluding Thursday through Sunday.

Shamkir 2017 | Round 5 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2772 2911 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 3.5/5
2 Adams,Michael 2761 2831 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 3.0/5 7.50
3 Eljanov,Pavel 2751 2819 0 ½ ½ 1 1 3.0/5 6.00
4 So,Wesley 2822 2766 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 2.5/5 6.25
5 Karjakin,Sergey 2783 2755 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 2.5/5 6.00
6 Topalov,Veselin 2741 2784 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 2.5/5 6.00
7 Kramnik,Vladimir 2811 2755 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/5 4.75
8 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2745 2712 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 2.0/5 5.25
9 Radjabov,Teimour 2710 2700 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 2.0/5 5.25
10 Harikrishna,Pentala 2755 2619 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1.5/5


Games from TWIC.

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