Mamedyarov Extends Lead As Kramnik Struggles

Mamedyarov Extends Lead As Kramnik Struggles

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Vladimir Kramnik would like to fast-forward over the middle rounds of the Shamkir super-tournament.

His audacious 25. Rxe5 in round four is now a distant memory. After losing in round five before the rest day, he dropped another today in round six as White to the continuous leader, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Kramnik had not lost back-to-back games in classical chess since the 2015 event in Shamkir.


GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has nearly led wire-to-wire (GM Pavel Eljanov started 2/2) but all that matters is who's ahead at the end. (All photos courtesy official site.)

That year, Kramnik's unfortunate streak also began in round five, and also included a loss to the top Azeri player. He will try to avoid a full repeat of 2015, when the losing streak carried on to three games (luckily for Kramnik, the third opponent in 2015 was GM Magnus Carlsen, who isn't playing this year).

Consequently Mamedyarov extended his lead to a full point in his bid to repeat as champion, just as Carlsen was able to do in 2014-2015.

The title is far from clinched, as GM Wesley So won his second in a row today after seeing his 67-game unbeaten streak end in the opening round. Maybe starting with a bagel is the new breakfast of champions? Recall that the final two Speed Chess Championship qualifiers also took zeroes in round one, only to rally to win their events!


Leo Derocher's corrupted quip "Nice guys finish last" was not on display during the rest day. GM Wesley So and three other players gave their time at a youth center.

GM Veselin Topalov also rebounded. He lost before the rest day but is back on +1 and still chasing Mamedyarov after a wild win today over GM Pavel Eljanov.

So's win came at the expense of the other round-five winner, GM Sergey Karjakin. The American seemed to draw blood from a stone. The sedate position should serve as a caution to anyone thinking that trading is a sure path to a draw. So identified the two soft spots on a6 and e6 and had just enough artillery remaining to break through.


In case you're counting, and you really shouldn't be, So's new unbeaten streak is now six.

Only two men are still undefeated in Shamkir. One is the always-solid GM Michael Adams, who is still tied for second after playing the shortest game of the day again. The other is Mamedyarov, whose win against Kramnik gives him as many wins as draws and pushes him to 4.5/6, a full point ahead of Adams, Topalov, and So.

Kramnik built up a classical center, and despite some pressure he was able to hold it intact. That's when Mamedyarov ditched the positional concepts and played 17...f5!? White got a protected passer but Black got to change the nature of the game.


GM Vladimir Kramnik's "free day" was also spent playing more chess, and taking selfies. Also appearing at the youth center were GM Michael Adams and GM Sergey Karjakin.

After a missed opportunity to control the queenside, a pawn imbalance occurred in the ending, when Black's proved more mobile and just a little bit more dangerous.

Barring a complete implosion, the Azeri will also reach his highest-ever rating at month's end. He reached 2775 in August 2013, but his live rating is now all the way up to 2787.

Curiously, even though he's world number-seven in live rating, he was once as high as world number-four, despite being "only" 2754 a decade ago when he was 21 years old. With the world top five shedding currently points like it's spring cleaning, Mamedyarov has an outside chance of getting back to his peak ranking before Shamkir ends in three more days.


To get back to world number-four like he was in January 2007, Mamedyarov will probably need 2.5/3 and another Kramnik loss.

Topalov was in serious trouble against Eljanov but battled back after the Ukrainian mistakenly saw ghosts after an unnecessary exchange offering.

Place Fed Player Title Rating Perf. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar g 2772 2965 . 1 . 1 ½ ½ . 1 ½
2 Topalov, Veselin g 2741 2835 . ½ ½ 1 0 . 1 ½ .
3 So, Wesley g 2822 2825 0 ½ ½ . 1 . ½ 1 .
4 Adams, Michael g 2761 2817 . ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ . . ½
5 Eljanov, Pavel g 2751 2747 0 0 . ½ . 1 ½ . 1 3
6 Karjakin, Sergey g 2783 2709 ½ 1 0 0 . . ½ . ½
7 Radjabov, Teimour g 2710 2708 ½ . . ½ 0 . ½ ½ ½
8 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw g 2745 2712 . 0 ½ . ½ ½ ½ ½ .
9 Kramnik, Vladimir g 2811 2700 0 ½ 0 . . . ½ ½ 1
10 Harikrishna, Pentala g 2755 2639 ½ . . ½ 0 ½ ½ . 0 2

Games from TWIC.


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FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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