Peace Returns To Shamkir

Peace Returns To Shamkir

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

The Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan resumed after a rest day with five draws, just like the first round. Fabiano Caruana maintained his half-point lead over Anish Giri

Playing football on the rest day has grown into a tradition, and that's certainly the case for the Gashimov Memorial. Even without Magnus Carlsen, one of the best football players in the chess scene, another match was organized in Shamkir — because the Azerbaijanis love it too!

Hou Yifan participated as well, but might want to work
on her technique a bit.  Photo Shamkir Chess.

Another tradition: the players visiting  the nearby
Youth Chess Center. | Photo Shamkir Chess.

Whether it was the football or not, the next day all games ended in draws. However, it would be too easy to speak about a lack of fighting spirit — well, for four of the five games. Yet another game between local players ended in a draw before any other games, and it doesn't seem to be a coincidence.

Teimour Radjabov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov have drawn all their classical games in their career, except when Radjabov needed a win at the Astrakhan Grand Prix in 2010. This time it was no different, but at least they played something that's fairly relevant to theory (especially for 1.e4 players who use Parimarjan Negi's books).

The 13th draw between Mamedyarov and Radjabovin classical games. | Photo Shamkir Chess.

Another 1.e4 game was drawn fairly quickly but this one was more interesting. Rauf Mamedov, who noted that he had an extra day to prepare for this game, did a good job and held Sergey Karjakin to a draw. The Azerbaijani GM wasn't afraid to enter territory that his opponent knows quite well from the white side: the 6.h3 Najdorf.

Mamedyov said he was “pleased with this game” as it was against “one of the strongest players.” Asked about playing style, Karjakin said: “This is more computer-style than any other style!”

A highly tactical 6.h3 Najdorf between Mamedov and Karjakin. | Photo Shamkir Chess.

The third draw was again a game that started with 1.e4.

Pentala Harikrishna had a solid, peaceful game in mind when he went for the Petroff, and that's what he got. Hou Yifan shouldn't have traded all the minor pieces; Ljubomir Ljubojevic's suggestion 22.Re7 made a lot of sense. But even that probably wasn't enough to win.

The Petroff is still one of the most solid replies to 1.e4. | Photo Shamkir Chess.

The two non-1.e4 games were more interesting. First Anish Giri vs Pavel Eljanov, which started 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.h3 Bh5 5.0–0. Giri was inspired by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who played this early h3 idea already three times. Eljanov responded quite normally, but nonetheless Giri felt he was better out of the opening. 

The critical moment was at move 17, when the simple 17.Bxe4 was probably good enough for an advantage. The quality of Ljubojevic's remarks during the press conferences varies (he tends to miss tactics here and there) but for this game they were spot on.

Giri decided to go for 17.d5!? thinking it might be more challenging for the opponent, but as it went it was Eljanov who got a slight edge and the Dutchman needed to be careful.

Just in time Giri switched to damage-control mode. | Photo Shamkir Chess.

The last game to finish was Eltaj Safarli vs Fabiano Caruana, a Queen's Indian where the players were out of book by move 10. They were not aware of the fact that they were following one of Garry Kasparov's games; The Boss castled queenside where Safarli played the more modest Rd1.

Caruana's plan of pushing the pawns on the kingside was both typical for this Hedgehog type of position, and strong. Safarli had to go for a worse endgame, and was just lucky to escape. Either 20...Bb3 or 32...Be4 would have given Black serious winning chances.

Moving to a stellar 5.5/6 was definitely possible today for Caruana.  | Photo Shamkir Chess.

Caruana's performance rating is still close to 3000. “I have been sleeping very poorly for some reason but I don't feel tired, I still have energy,” he said today.

He will need it, because in the remainder he still has to play Anish Giri, Sergey Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Shamkir Chess 2016 | Standings After Round 6

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2804 2985 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 5.0/6
2 Giri,Anish 2790 2916 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/6
3 Karjakin,Sergey 2779 2789 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5/6
4 Harikrishna,P 2763 2759 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 3.0/6 8.00
5 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2748 2726 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/6 6.75
6 Mamedov,Rauf 2655 2693 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 8.00
7 Radjabov,Teimour 2726 2663 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 7.25
8 Safarli,Eltaj 2664 2675 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 6.75
9 Hou,Yifan 2663 2627 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/6
10 Eljanov,Pavel 2765 2568 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1.5/6

Round seven is June 2 at 3 p.m. local time, 4 a.m. Pacific, 7 a.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. GMT. The official website with full coverage is All games can be seen via live relay in's live events arena ( 

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