Kramnik, So Win; Carlsen Escapes In Shamkir R1

Kramnik, So Win; Carlsen Escapes In Shamkir R1

| 30 | Chess Event Coverage

In round one of the Shamkir Chess tournament, GM Wesley So continued his “winning-streak-after-forfeiture” and beat GM Anish Giri while GM Vladimir Kramnik won against GM Michael Adams.

GM Viswanathan Anand was a clear pawn up but failed to win against GM Magnus Carlsen. Draws were seen in Mamedov vs Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov vs Caruana.

The Shamkir Chess tournament took off on Friday at the same, very high level of organization as last year. Especially the marketing department is something other tournaments can learn from; the town is full of big signs, the bus stops are advertising the event and some big screens do the same with animations.

Screens outside are showing animated advertisement of the tournament — the plan is to add photos later as well.

The big game of the first round was obviously GM Vishy Anand vs GM Magnus Carlsen. The clash between world champions did not disappoint, although both players had reason to be disappointed after splitting the point.

Yesterday he called it “terrible,” and in a fresh new blog post Carlsen commented some more on his pairing. “Having drawn first I have no one else than myself to blame. On the bright side I won most of the table tennis matches against Peter, my father Henrik and our chef Magnus Forssell this afternoon.”

The Carlsen team surely knows how to cheer up Magnus and apparently they played their roles perfectly!

Anand, who again works with Polish GM Grzegorz Gajewski in Shamkir, had played 1.d4 in the last six games against Carlsen, but switched to 1.e4 for this game. The Norwegian spent a bit more than a minute on the clock, and just when Anand stood up, he answered with 1...e5.

Surprisingly, Carlsen did not go for the Berlin this time but for the Marshall Gambit — an opening he hasn't played ever before, if we may believe the databases. 

Carlsen playing his first Marshall ever!?

He had a novelty up his sleeve, and got his opponent thinking for more than half an hour. Anand finally decided on a trade in the center that would give him a tiny edge, except that Carlsen made a big mistake right after by not taking the pawn on d3.

Afterward Carlsen said: “Somehow I decided that 19...Qd7 was easier to defend than taking the pawn on d3 but then I forgot about 20.Nd5 and then it's... very bad.” As a result he had to suffer quite a bit.

On move 26 Anand missed a promising continuation, but nonetheless he kept winning chances. However, not for the first time the Indian let his opponent slip away. “I didn't see how to break through,” he said.

Here's a video of the round, focusing on the Anand-Carlsen game:

Another key game was GM Wesley So vs GM Anish Giri. How would the Filipino-turned-U.S. grandmaster start his first tournament after the U.S. Championship, which he described as “the worst tournament of his career” the other day?

Well, he started very well. Aged 21, psychologically speaking So seems to be a tough guy already — he won all three games after his forfeit in St. Louis!

In Shamkir, Giri helped him a bit. The Dutchman, who is one year younger, got confused in the opening and started playing dubious moves early on.

Deviating from an old Korchnoi-Timman game, So went for the most critical move 6.Kf1 and right after Giri lost a lot of time. Two subtle rook moves followed by h2-h4! cemented White's advantage. Giri's desperate attempts to gain counterplay were nicely countered by So.

A bad opening and a bad result for Giri.

At the press conference, for the first time So got on record about what happened in St. Louis last week:

Coming in round nine my tournament wasn't going very well; I had three losses already in eight games. So I wasn't sure what I should do to improve my results. I got a piece of paper with me and wrote some motivating words to be able to focus during the game. I wrote something like ‘use your time,’ and ‘double check positions’ which, I believe, is not cheating because there was no chess moves.

“Without any warning they forfeited me. So it was a harsh punishment, but I learned a lot from it. I didn't know that this was against the rules, so I paid a game for it. I just gotta move on and learn from my mistakes.”

Wesley So finally commented on what happened in St. Louis last week. pointed out to him that Chief Arbiter Tony Rich had said he had warned him three times, to which So said: “Actually I was told not to write anything on the score sheet except draw offers, moves, the time or the result and so that's why I took a piece of paper with me. In fact I was told not to do it but I wasn't warned that if I'd do it again I would be forfeited.”

That last part also clashes with the official statement from Mr Rich, but perhaps it's best to leave the topic for what it is.

The other winner was GM Vladimir Kramnik, who got his beloved Catalan on the board against GM Michael Adams. The Englishman was doing OK out of the opening but then started to miss some tactics with which Kramnik could improve his position.

“I played very badly, I was missing a lot of moves the whole game. Not calculating well in general,” said Adams.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

A perfect Kramnik win: 1-0 in a Catalan.

The other two games were drawn. Local hero GM Rauf Mamedov, who works with the former FIDE world champion GM Alexander Khalifman in Shamkir, played the solid 3.Bb5+ against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Sicilian. The game became a typical Maroczy Bind where White's advantage is minimal.

A solid start for the lowest-rated player, Rauf Mamedov.

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs GM Fabiano Caruana was more interesting, basically right from the opening. Caruana spent 20 minutes on his fifth move and another eight on his sixth, which involved a more or less a new concept in the Bf4-Grünfeld.

A complicated ending arose where White was a bit better. At some point Mamedyarov won a piece for two pawns, but the remaining material wasn't great for him. Caruana got away with a RB-R ending which he defended flawlessly.

Shamkir Chess 2015 | Schedule & Pairings

Round 1 17.04.15 15:00 AZST   Round 2 18.04.15 15:00 AZST
Kramnik 1-0 Adams   Adams - Caruana
So 1-0 Giri   Carlsen - Mamedyarov
Mamedov ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave   Vachier-Lagrave - Anand
Anand ½-½ Carlsen   Giri - Mamedov
Mamedyarov ½-½ Caruana   Kramnik - So
Round 3 19.04.15 15:00 AZST   Round 4 20.04.15 15:00 AZST
So - Adams   Adams - Carlsen
Mamedov - Kramnik   Vachier-Lagrave - Caruana
Anand - Giri   Giri - Mamedyarov
Mamedyarov - Vachier-Lagrave   Kramnik - Anand
Caruana - Carlsen   So - Mamedov
Round 5 21.04.15 15:00 CET   Round 6 23.04.15 15:00 AZST
Mamedov - Adams   Adams - Vachier-Lagrave
Anand - So   Giri - Carlsen
Mamedyarov - Kramnik   Kramnik - Caruana
Caruana - Giri   So - Mamedyarov
Carlsen   Vachier-Lagrave   Mamedov - Anand
Round 7 24.04.15 15:00 CET   Round 8 24.04.15 15:00 AZST
Anand - Adams   Adams - Giri
Mamedyarov - Mamedov   Kramnik - Vachier-Lagrave
Caruana - So   So - Carlsen
Carlsen - Kramnik   Mamedov - Caruana
Vachier-Lagrave - Giri   Anand - Mamedyarov
Round 9 25.04.15 15:00 AZST        
Mamedyarov - Adams        
Caruana - Anand        
Carlsen - Mamedov        
Vachier-Lagrave - So        
Giri - Kramnik        


The tournament runs April 17-26 with a rest day on April 22. The location is the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Shamkir. The total prize fund is 100,000 Euros.

The rate of play will be 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move from move 61 onwards.

The official English-language commentary, by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko, is available every round on starting at 3 pm local time (12 pm Amsterdam, 11 am London, 6 am New York, 3 am Los Angeles, 8 pm Sydney).

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.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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