Topalov Breaks Draw Spell In Shamkir
Veselin Topalov leads in Shamkir. | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

Topalov Breaks Draw Spell In Shamkir

| 42 | Chess Event Coverage

The fourth round of the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan saw the first decisive game of the tournament. With his win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, it's Veselin Topalov who grabbed the lead today. 

Just like at the 2017 London Chess Classic, Shamkir's draw curse was broken in round four. And, the third time was a charm for Veselin Topalov, who had missed wins against Ding Liren and Anish Giri earlier in the tournament.

It was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who made things interesting as he chose the Open Ruy Lopez. Topalov's way of handling it was a touch too risky: he burnt all his bridges on queenside to play for checkmate.

Topalov Shamkir

Eventually Topalov was rewarded for his aggressive play. | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

A super sharp middlegame position arose, which was going Mamedyarov's way when he could calm down White's attack by giving a piece for two paws, but ending up with a 4 vs 1 majority on the queenside. But Topalov won one more pawn, and another one in the endgame, and suddenly he was the one winning this game.

Mamedyarov had seen a way to force the draw at some point, but he got ambitious. "I thought I could do something more," he said.

Topalov, on being the oldest player in the field scoring the first win: "In slow chess I am more or less OK. Well, better than in blitz and rapid."

Dejan Bojkov, Game of the Day

Mamedyarov Shamkir

Risky play by Mamedyarov backfired today. | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

The round had started with a super quick draw between Teimour Radjabov and Magnus Carlsen; the game lasted about 23 minutes and ended in a threefold repetition on move 19. Especially for the world champion it was a rather surprising turn of events as he is known to fight in almost every game.

In a lengthy press conference, the players took much time to explain their motivation, and were quite frank about the matter. First Radjabov:

"I actually checked my results with Magnus since Mexico [the Morelia tournament in 2008 - PD]. I was always playing with white but always getting into some trouble, and my black games are not much fun either but at least I scored there with Black [at the first Gashimov memorial in 2018 - PD] and I was close to scoring in London [2013 Candidates' - PD] as well. I thought maybe it is the best way to play against Magnus with the white color.

"You also have to consider some professional reasons. I was entertaining the public with the King's Indian for many years. To tell you to truth, the only thing that counts on the top level and especially with organizers and all the people involved in chess is your rating and how you do in the high-level events. There will be many entertaining games in the coming rounds for sure."

Carlsen Radjabov press conference

The press conference with Carlsen, Radjabov and Ljubojevic (and a translator). | Photo: Shamkir Chess.


"In this particular position I actually have to repeat which I knew. We are both in the lead, what is not to like!

"In rounds one and four basically nothing happened in my games and also I think yesterday I really tried but it seems like after the opening he made all the right moves and there was nothing there. I was pretty disappointed after the game but I don’t think there was any real reason to be disappointed because there was just nothing there. The only game I’m a bit disappointed with is my second game with Navara, where I kind of missed the chance to press. Overall it’s not so bad. There has been plenty of fighting but nobody seems to score yet.

"I’m not thrilled about four draws obviously. Why would I be. But the tournament situation is not so bad and I hope to be able to show some creativity in other games. Frankly today, as they say, it takes two to tango. If I had been in a very combative mood I would’ve played something else. I am not going to put the blame on him for this draw."

Carlsen four draws

Carlsen is one of eight players who started with four draws. | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

Also at the press conference, commentator Ljubomir Ljubojevic asked another one of his bizarre questions to the players, this time about whether they would be prepared for getting robbed in the street; whether they had done e.g. karate or could use hypnosis.

Carlsen's hilariously answered that the bigger problem in Norway these days is the presence of wolves, and that he had discussed with his team how to deal with a sudden encounter with a wolf: hit one on the head, or his own suggestion, scare them with a haka!

Carlsen Radjabov press conferenceMaybe a haka would scare a wolf? | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

Then Carlsen was asked why he didn't attend the press conference yesterday, and this revealed that indeed the players haven't always been too comfortable with Ljubojevic's questions.


"Frankly speaking I was a bit tired at this point after the game and these press conferences have so far been pretty drawn out affairs. Any thought of whatever fine might be was more bearable than sitting through another after a difficult game. That’s my too honest answer!" [Smiled.]


"I think in general the press conferences are taking too long. Honestly, this is too much. With due respect of course to the organizers, to you of course Ljubomir, but in general sometimes they are taking longer than the games, especially like today for example. Today it’s fair to torture us. But in general, if it’s possible to shorten them..."

Carlsen Radjabov press conference Shamkir

Radjabov's request for shorter press conferences is understandable taking into account the number and type of questions the players have been getting. | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

High time to look at some chess again, with Anish Giri vs Ding Liren as an encounter that might take the endgame lover's breathe away. The adjective study-like has rarely been so to the point as for the endgame that these players got on the board, and especially what the analysis revealed.

Black to play and win (analysis from Giri-Ding Liren)

Giri, who was very critical of his play earlier in the game, called the winning idea "really brilliant." He said he likes to solve endgame studies with little material, such as this position. "I think we would have both solved it if we knew a 100 percent that Black is winning."

Anish Giri Shamkir

"Really brilliant!" | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

The game between Sergey Karjakin and David Navara was pretty interesting as well, but the spoiler here was that the players were hardly thinking for the first 38(!) moves—it was all preparation.

"I was lucky because I found this 21.Bb5 idea only today during the preparation," said Navara, who had previously only played 6...cxd4 instead of 6...Qb6. "I don't like these forced lines but it's hard to play without good knowledge of theory."

David Navara Shamkir

Navara had prepared this 6...Qb6 line before the tournament, but in the morning before the game he realized that White could also play other moves on move 21, which he told his second. "I would show him after the game but now I don't need to show him anything! | Photo: Shamkir Chess.

Please find the game between Wojtaszek and Mamedov in the PGN file.

2018 Shamkir Chess | Round 4 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Topalov,Veselin 2749 2867 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/4
2 Ding,Liren 2778 2762 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4.25
3 Giri,Anish 2777 2764 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4.25
4 Radjabov,Teimour 2748 2768 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4.25
5 Navara,David 2745 2767 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4
6 Mamedov,Rauf 2704 2770 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4
7 Carlsen,Magnus 2843 2753 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 3.75
8 Karjakin,Sergey 2778 2778 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 3.75
9 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2744 2760 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 3.75
10 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2814 2690 0 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/4

Shamkir Chess runs from April 19-28, with a rest day on April 24. The games start at 3 p.m. local time, which is 1 p.m. Central Europe, noon London, 7 a.m. New York, and 4 a.m. Pacific. The prize fund is €100,000 ($123,689) with a first prize of €30,000 ($37,107).

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