Mamedyarov Reaches New Peak Rating At Nutcracker
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will start the new year with a career high rating of 2804 after scoring 3.5/4 in the classical segment of the 2017 Nutcracker tournament in Moscow.
The Nutcracker Tournament is the traditional tournament in Moscow around Christmas time where two teams of young Russian rising stars (male and female; the "princes" and "princesses") and two teams of experienced players (the "kings" and "queens") play both a classical and a rapid tournament.
The format is a Scheveningen, where players of each team play against all members of the other team. In classical chess, the points count double compared to the rapid.
The kngs vs princes at the Nutcracker tournament in Moscow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
This report focuses on the strongest two teams: the princes vs the kings. This year the kings not only had the three seasoned GMs Boris Gelfand, Alexei Shirov and Sergei Rublevsky, but also a world championship candidate: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
It was the latter who stole the show in the classical segment, scoring 3.5/4 and showing sparkling chess. His rating gain was a modest 4.8 Elo points, but this meant that Mamedyarov's rating on the January FIDE rating list will be higher than ever: 2804. He remains the world number-three, while Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian have switched places based on their results in the London Chess Classic.
Chess.com's interview with Mamedyarov.
Mamedyarov considered his first win, vs Grigoriy Oparin, his best game. In an interview with Chess.com (see above) he mentioned the move 22...Rc3!, a nice exchange sacrifice that Oparin accepted after a few moves. It took a while but eventually Black's c-pawn decided the game:
Grigoriy Oparin was less successful than last year, when his performance was good enough to qualify for the Zurich Chess Challenge. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
In round two the Azerbaijani grandmaster faced one of Russia's new young stars, the 15-year-old FM Andrey Esipenko who recently fulfilled all requirements for the grandmaster title. With the white pieces he played aggressively (as youngsters should!) and sacrificed a pawn, but Mamedyarov knew how to deal with it and won the game with brilliant calculation:
Mamedyarov showed tactical sharpness in Moscow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The third win was a strange one as Daniil Yuffa played the opening like a patzer—it's hard to put it differently. However, the 20-year-old player from Tyumen was hanging on for a while, but eventually he was also outplayed tactically:
Mamedyarov vs Yuffa in the rapid segment. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
This is where the fun ended for Mamedyarov. Already before his game with Vladislav Artemiev, which ended in a draw, he wasn't feeling great and during the last two days he was suffering from a cold. His rapid score wasn't great: 3.5/8. Artemiev on the other hand ended up scoring a record 9 out of 12 in total, never seen at the Nutcracker tournament before.
Let's finish the report with a nice attacking game. If Alexei Shirov is playing, and there's fire on the board, we don't want to miss it! It was his very last rapid game played on Sunday afternoon:
A group photo with all participants. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
At the closing ceremony Mamedyarov was good for a few laughs. He mentioned that after he was short on time in the first rapid game and lost to Artemiev, his opponent asked him: "Why didn't you offer a draw? I would have agreed!"
Mamedyarov said he was impressed that his young opponent was already showing this much courtesy: "In the second rapid game I did offer a draw, and of course he declined!" (And Artemiev won that one as well.)
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov giving an entertaining speech the Nutcracker closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Nutcracker 2017 | Scores Kings & Princes
*Classical points counted double.
The princes, left-right: Yuffa, Oparin, Esipenko, Artemiev | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Mamedyarov, Gelfand and Rublevsky in a good mood at the closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Games via TWIC.
Correction: an earlier version of this article had the classical and rapid scores mixed up.