Wesley So ‘Works Harder,’ Leads In Shamkir After 4 Rounds

Wesley So ‘Works Harder,’ Leads In Shamkir After 4 Rounds

| 55 | Chess Event Coverage

“The U.S. Championship kind of motivated me to work harder,” said GM Wesley So after grabbing sole lead at the Shamkir Chess tournament's fourth round. On Monday he beat GM Rauf Mamedov whereas GM Magnus Carlsen drew with GM Michael Adams.

It's way to early to speak about a new sheriff in town, but right now GM Wesley So does seem to be the main rival for GM Magnus Carlsen in Shamkir.

Whereas the world champion drew his black game with Adams, So smoothly defeated Mamedov in what looked like a crystal-clear game from start to finish.

In Mamedov's favorite Accelerated Dragon, the U.S. grandmaster avoided the main lines and after 14 moves a normal middlegame was on the board, except that White had played f2-f4 rather early and his pawn was on g3 instead of g2. 

Black seemed OK there, but one inaccuracy was enough to get into big trouble.

One mistake and Mamedov got into trouble.

Perhaps it's time to move on and stop writing about So's forfeit in St. Louis, but fact is that since that happened he has now scored 5.5/6!

“In my last tournament I had a lot of losses; I lost almost half of my games in the U.S. Championship. That kind of motivated me to work harder. I was trying to figure out why that happened, what my weaknesses are, and I tried to solve them. (...) I work every day with a board and I analyze some games.”

So compared his current state of mind with Vishy Anand during world championship matches: “I just decided to completely forget what anybody says and just... I really focus on my games.”

So: “I really focus on my games.”

Meanwhile Mamedov was completely devastated and held his head in his hands for most of the press conference. “I just couldn't play today,” he said.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

A very smooth win for So.

GM Magnus Carlsen might be the big favorite when GM Michael Adams is not in good form, but today the Englishman played a fine game. “I think a draw with Black against Mickey is a perfectly good and normal result,” said Carlsen.

The Norwegian played 3...g6 in the Ruy Lopez, like he had done last year against GM Hikaru Nakamura. Adams seemed unaware of that game, because he criticized his own deviation, 12.exf5. Carlsen said about that move: “Fischer did it against Filip in '62 but I don't think it's too great for White.”

As a result, the world champ got what he wanted. “I was happy. I just wanted to play a complicated game and it seemed that the position was both complicated and quite good for me.”

Carlsen got what he wanted: a complicated and good position.

The critical moment came on move 25, when Carlsen went for an exchange sacrifice: “Perhaps a tad risky but I didn't see any other way to play for something. I just didn't think my chances were too great if we play slowly, then he will unravel with g3 and Ng2 and I cannot really get to the knight on h5. It seemed that it's easier for White to play.”

Carlsen continued: “And also I felt that once I get the knight to f3 then I shouldn't be in any danger of losing really.”

Getting an octopus to f3 is hardly an exchange sac, is it?

Adams played logical moves, maneuvered around that f3-knight a bit with the knowledge that he had to take it at some point. But around move 36 it was hard to find anything for either side, and with half a minute left on the clock (with no increment) Carlsen “accepted” a move repetition. 

“I really tried hard to find something that probably wasn't there,” he said.

Adams and Carlsen at the press conference.

If we only count classical games (thus skipping dozens of rapid and blitz games), GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Viswanathan Anand had played 83 times before. The Indian, who won their world championship match in 2008 in Bonn, has a slight plus score after all those years: +10 =66 -7.

In recent years many of their games were theoretical battles ending in a draw, and it wasn't different today. 

“You know I like Catalan and I'm trying to play Catalan against everything,” said Kramnik about his opening choice. What followed was a forced line that led to an ending which Kramnik believed to be good for White “according to theory.”

It's mildly surprising that both players apparently missed, or didn't care to mention, a correspondence game from 2008, which they followed and which was agreed drawn on move 29. The same thing occurred in their mutual game at the London Chess Classic last year.

At the press conference the players gave very insightful answers to's question whether, besides the changes chess has undergone due to the computer, over-the-board play has changed as well.

Anand: “In my opinion chess has never been more interesting. I don't know if it's that I'm able to understand everything that's happening in every game quite quickly, or why, but I think over-the-board play has become very dynamic. Of course the computer's influence is always there and perhaps it's also the computer's influence that people visualize a lot more possibilities and so on.

"But it's not that people weren't complaining about preparation before the computer came along. This thing about chess being worked out too much is as old as the hills. Over-the-board styles are evolving a lot. Nowadays you see a lot of off-beat openings and I think it's partially a reaction to the amount of theory around.

"But like I said, it's never been more interesting to follow.”

Kramnik: “First of all there are a lot of interesting games nowadays in chess tournament, I agree. But first of all, we have to work three times more than the times when I started chess, [smiles] that is a negative point. There is so much to memorize, it's really not easy.

“Otherwise, the main trend as I see it, is that it's becoming more and more difficult for White to pose problems. Of course the game is a draw objectively; yes, it's drawish, a game of chess. That's why it becomes much easier to build your repertoire with Black. 

“That's how I see it. Basically with Black you don't need to worry too much. With White you need to be always changing your style of play, your openings; I mean you have to play differently. Otherwise you will just end up playing always the same things.

“Before it was possible. Even at the beginning of my career, you built a repertoire and you just played it for a couple of years. Now it's unfortunately impossible. You just have to be always different with White.

“Even me; sometimes I play for a slow game with not much theory, sometimes I go to the main theoretical line so it very much depends on your opponent, on the situation in the tournament. In general it's much more pleasant to play with White but it's also much more a headache, from a preparation point of view.

“Especially against experienced players who know a lot, like Vishy. Honestly I can admit that it's always a headache when I have White against Vishy, what to play, which line to choose and how to try to find some holes, if there are any, in his preparation. So it's not easy in this sense.

“But all in all, somehow the players adjust, they manage to get a game most of the time. And yes, it's true that for spectators it's...even me as a spectator when I'm not playing a tournament, when I'm just watching it, I enjoy it a lot. It's much more interesting than a few year ago. I think there is nothing to complain for, for the public at all.”

Very interesting reflections from two world champions.

Back to the tournament, where the other two games also ended in draws. GM Anish Giri vs GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov followed a recent game of Mamedyarov as White, and also Carlsen-Nakamura from last year. After an opening inaccuracy by Giri, Mamedyarov was probably OK even though his position looked a bit funny.

Black ended up with an extra pawn, but White had just enough initiative to hold it.

A pretty good fight between Giri and Mamedyarov.

What do you get when two Grünfeld players meet each other over the board? A Grünfeld, but not a main line. 

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played the sideline 5.Na4!? with the idea 6.e4 and Black cannot take on c3. It was Viktor Korchnoi who was the first strong player to play this remarkable idea in 1998.

GM Fabiano Caruana had recently checked the answer 5...e5!? and quickly equalized as MLV “completely forgot” to check this. At the press conference the players admitted that the last couple of moves had just one purpose: to reach move 40, when it was allowed to offer a draw.

That 5.Na4 move seems fairly neutralized by now!

Here's what Wesley So said about being the sole leader: “Every player is tough in this tournament. I mean, you cannot underestimate anybody and that's why I was extra careful today because you never know when you're gonna lose.

“Tomorrow I will play Vishy Anand. It will be my first tournament game with him and I really look forward to that. I'm very excited and I expect a tough game tomorrow. 

“Of course leading after four rounds in a tournament like this with three world champions, Magnus, Vladimir and Vishy, is just unbelievable. I have to work hard every single round. I mean, I wish the tournament is over but fortunately it's not!”


Shamkir Chess 2015 | Schedule & Results

Round 1 17.04.15 15:00 AZST   Round 2 18.04.15 15:00 AZST
Kramnik 1-0 Adams   Adams ½-½ Caruana
So 1-0 Giri   Carlsen 1-0 Mamedyarov
Mamedov ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave   Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Anand
Anand ½-½ Carlsen   Giri ½-½ Mamedov
Mamedyarov ½-½ Caruana   Kramnik ½-½ So
Round 3 19.04.15 15:00 AZST   Round 4 20.04.15 15:00 AZST
So 1-0 Adams   Adams ½-½ Carlsen
Mamedov ½-½ Kramnik   Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Caruana
Anand ½-½ Giri   Giri ½-½ Mamedyarov
Mamedyarov ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave   Kramnik ½-½ Anand
Caruana 0-1 Carlsen   So 1-0 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        


Shamkir Chess 2015 | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 So 2788 3082 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1 1 3.5/4
2 Carlsen 2863 2964 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1 ½ 3.0/4
3 Kramnik 2783 2834 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 2.5/4
4 Anand 2791 2800 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 2.0/4 4.50
5 Vachier-Lagrave 2765 2752 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 3.25
6 Mamedov 2658 2692 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 3.00
7 Giri 2790 2660 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 2.50
8 Mamedyarov 2756 2717 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 2.50
9 Caruana 2802 2694 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 2.25
10 Adams 2745 2619 0 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.0/4

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).


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