The Storm Arrives; Caruana, Giri, Harikrishna Win In Shamkir

The Storm Arrives; Caruana, Giri, Harikrishna Win In Shamkir

After a placid opening round, Shamkir pushed round two into overdrive. Three of the five games were decisive as time trouble induced multiple errors.

All photos courtesy of the official site.

Prior to round one, Anish Giri had tweeted a picture captioned "The calm before the storm." In the wake of zero decisive round-one games, he had to confess his limited experience in the field.

Perhaps he was just a bit hurried with the announcement though. Certainly the play today suggested plenty of fighting spirit to look forward to in the coming rounds.

Pentala Harikrishna was the first to win in a dominant game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Although the outcome was not in his favor, one must admire Mamedyarov's spirit in venturing the move 1...d6 against Harikrishna's 1.e4. Mamedyarov said that he wanted only to play an interesting game.

In the resulting symmetrical position, Harikrishna had a clear plus and after an exchange of the c-pawn for Harikrishna's e-pawn followed by the excellent Nd2!, White's heavy pieces rapidly dominated.

Mamedyarov was understandably reticent in the press conference.

Not that Harikrishna needed any additional incentives, but victory pushed his rating to an impressive 2769.3 — only 0.7 points behind the current Indian number-one Viswanathan Anand's rating of 2770. Harikrishna passed Anand briefly on the live ratings list during the Candidates' Tournament, and the two have been in a close battle for the Indian number-one spot throughout this year.

In a battle royale, Giri — like Mamedyarov innovated a bit on move one. One spectator seemed more optimistic than your author about the possibility this presented of fireworks between the famously solid pair of Giri and the world championship challenger Sergey Karjakin.

Hamby was right as in the escalating tension, it started to look as though the maneuvering might lead somewhere. GM Jonathan Tisdall was following and expressed concern about where this was all headed.

Tisdall is referring to the following epic mishap that Giri has surely tried to wipe from his memory.

It did not take nearly so long as Tisdall thought for an error to occur as Karjakin went wrong on move 39 and allowed Giri his desired f5! break in the best of circumstances.

The round's final victor, Fabiano Caruana, delivered an impressive victory. Although Pavel Eljanov was not worse for a long time, and a forced draw was available -- though difficult to find -- Caruana maintained the pressure and never gave Eljanov easy decisions.

Eventually, Eljanov faltered as Caruana's invasion of the light squares would have required Komodo-level play to hold.

Caruana displaying perfect time-trouble hovering technique!

Hou Yifan vs Eltaj Safarli was the hardest-fought of the two draws in the round. Safarli outplayed Hou on the black side of a very sharp French, but ultimately, the opposite-colored bishops gave good drawing chances. Once an endgame was reached, the players soon repeated.

Hou's immaculate concentration wasn't sufficient to find a refutation to the French Defense today.

Rauf Mamedov demonstrated some workmanlike professionalism when, lacking an opening plus, he forced a repetition against Teimour Radjabov and ended the game on move 20.

Current Standings After Round Two

Seed Player Rating Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Performance
1 Fabiano Caruana 2804 1.5 ½ 1 2957
2 Pentala Harikrishna 2763 1.5 ½ 1 2969
3 Anish Giri 2790 1.5 ½ 1 2910
4 Rauf Mamedov 2655 1 ½ ½ 2758
5 Teimour Radjabov 2726 1 ½ ½ 2659
6 Hou Yifan 2663 1 ½ ½ 2695
7 Eltaj Safarli 2664 1 ½ ½ 2714
8 Pavel Eljanov 2765 0.5 0 ½ 2541
9 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2748 0.5 0 ½ 2578
10 Sergey Karjakin 2779 0.5 0 ½ 2576

Round three is May 28 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 http://shamkirchess.az/. All games can be seen via live relay in Chess.com's live events arena (www.chess.com/live).

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