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Carlsen turns on God Mode with a 2988 Elo performance at Shamkir 2019

by Tanmay Srinath - 10/04/2019

Magnus Carlsen had already won the Shamkir Chess 2019 with a round to spare. With the white pieces he decided to play something safe but not drawish. Within the first 18 moves he got the bishop pair and a position where he had nothing to worry about. This is where Magnus becomes a real beast. It didn't matter that he had won the tournament now, all that mattered was the position in front of him. It was a risk-free edge for him and he had to grind down his opponent Alexander Grischuk. This Magnus did in style as he won the event with two more points than his nearest rival. He also gained 16 Elo points, taking his live rating to a massive 2861! And what was his performance at the event? 2988!! 

In a round where not much happened between the 8 players who didn’t have a chance to take first, Magnus Carlsen continued his form by taking down Alexander Grischuk in an equal endgame. Alexander first committed an inaccuracy by severely weakening his queenside. The game then turned in White’s favour until Magnus decided to play a little extravagantly, not heeding to prophylaxis. One careless move by the Champion would have been enough to get back into the game, had Grischuk not reciprocated with another inaccuracy, this time missing a defence that was literally impossible to see fully in time trouble. Carlsen then made no further mistakes, and got the win on move 39, taking his live rating above 2860.8. In the rest of the games, David Navara and Vishy Anand had the best chances to get an advantage as White against Radjabov and Topalov respectively, but slightly imprecise play meant that a draw was only fair to both sides. Under the Surface now:


IM Sagar Shah tells you about Carlsen's fighting spirit in last round in spite of having won the tournament and also narrates and incident where he himself had faced a similar situation in his chess career

The game of the day, and possibly the endgame of the tournament. What a way to finish the last day for Magnus! He was clear winner of the tournament, and yet he decided to fight for the full point today, that too against such a strong and in-form player like Alexander Grischuk. This shows us that the tournament results shouldn’t really bother us so much that we lose the will to fight in a chess game! A remarkable piece of endgame play today by the World Champion.

Mahir Mammadov, General Director of SOCAR Georgia makes the first move of the game between Carlsen and Grischuk | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Alexander played the Berlin for the second time in as many Black games. Carlsen declined to go into the endgame, and played 4.d3.

This is an important retreat to take note of. Ba4! is a common move in the d3 Ruy Lopez. The idea is to tuck away the Bishop on c2, thus preventing its exchange, and overprotecting the e4 pawn. The bishop will later come into play after f4, or it reappears on after Black no longer has a light squared bishop to compete with it.

It seemed to me that after dxe5 Magnus would sign a quick draw and get the game over with. The position looks even too. Instead what we got was Magnus being Magnus- a slow endgame grind from an equal position!

b5?! is a serious inaccuracy from Grischuk. The computers remain unfazed, mention this move as the best and show equality. What they fail to notice though, is the serious weakening of the c5, a5 and a6 squares. Black now gets gaping holes in his position, and after Nb3!, as played by Magnus in the game, he has to surrender the bishop pair with Bxb3. The lack of foresight of the engine comes down to its lack of understanding of basic endgame strategy. One should always work with engines, not for them! Here White is already pressing after Bxb3, and Black is condemned to a very hard struggle for a draw. Instead of the game move, b6! gives enough counterplay to hold the balance.

Here g3 is the start of a very nice plan by Magnus. He intends to play Kg2, getting out of the pin and the last rank, and then expand on the kingside with f4, h4, h5 and so on. These moves will then create some weaknesses in Black’s camp that can be exploited by the tandem work of the two bishops. These expansion plans are the most common when a side has the bishop pair-he has to open the position and create targets for attack. As we can notice, Black is not completely without counterplay here. He has to bide his time by occupying the d-file first, and then think of counter measures when White is distracted on the kingside. The game is not as one sided as it may seem to be.

Alexander has managed to arrange his pieces in the best defensive formation possible, but what he hasn’t noticed is that they are full of dynamic potential as well. The game was progressing naturally till Magnus made a mistake here with h5?!, a move that looks the most natural, but fails to take into account the latent energy of Black’s forces. Sasha had a way to nearly equalise here. Can you find it? The answer will be in the annotations below.

After Grischuk missed that chance, Magnus didn’t give him another reprieve. Be3! was a powerful move by Magnus, sacrificing the e4 pawn. By giving it up, he quickly doubled on the e-file. Black was forced to give up his f5 pawn, after which we soon reached this position. White has a technically winning game here.

All his pieces are playing, and he has two weaknesses to attack-g7 and a6. By targeting a6 first, he can force Black to divert his defenses there, and then he can switch to winning g7. Then h6 will also fall, and the two passed pawns should decide. Sasha however blundered soon in dire time shortage, and Magnus triumphed on move 39.

He came, he saw, he conquered! Magnus Carlsen played clinically, and went back richer, happier, and most importantly, after making a statement of intent! The Champion is back in Classical Chess! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019 | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

According to Magnus this one of the best tournaments he had ever played | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Magnus Carlsen won Shamkir Chess 2019 with 7.0/9, two points ahead of his nearest competitors Karjakin. He beat Grischuk in the last round and performed at an astonishing Elo of 2988. His live rating now is 2860.8!


Anand - Topalov:

Two old rivals fought against each other in the final round | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Anand went for the Quiet Italian today, an opening that has caused Topalov some trouble in this tournament. The players followed a recent game Malakhov-Tomashevsky for some time till Veselin deviated with an improvement on move 12 and a novelty on move 13. Anand’s aggressive queenside expansion policy came at the expense of development, and Black had enough time to arrange his pieces adequately and push d5. There was one moment where Anand could have capped off his previous strategy better:

Here Anand should have played Bxe5! followed by Nd2-c4, building up some pressure on the queenside. This plan, mentioned in detail in the annotations, gives White a stable advantage. Instead Anand played Rxe4, allowing Black to successfully co-ordinate his pieces and achieve an easy draw.

The Tiger showed flashes of his true strength, but Vishy’s stamina betrayed him at crucial moments, which meant he couldn’t fight for first place. Still, 50% in such a strong tournament at the age of 49 is a definite achievement! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

It was refreshing to see Veselin Topalov playing top level chess once again. It speaks volumes of his playing strength that he gained Elo in this tournament | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Navara - Radjabov:

David Navara scored 4.0/9 and will remember the Shamkir tournament for his win over Ding Liren | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

A very interesting line of the Advance Caro Kann was the debate today. David Navara showed what a shrewd theoretician he is, with some very strong moves to gain the advantage. However, at the critical moment, he faltered, failing to play the best move that would have guaranteed him a long lasting advantage, due to Black’s blemished pawn structure:

Here White should play f4!, cementing the pawn for life on e5, and gaining a large space advantage. He can then follow up with the plan he used in the game-Nf3-d4, Qb3, Bb6 etc. It is clear that Black has a thorny path to walk to a draw. Instead, the restrained Nf3?! allowed Black to ease the pressure quickly.

A picture of humility - David Navara | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Radjabov drew all his nine games and was super solid throughout the event. He gained 3.2 Elo points | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Ding - Giri:

Against the Ragozin Defense, 5.Bg5 was Ding’s choice today. Anish Giri had prepared the line to perfection, and the players followed known theory for a while. Ding produced the first new move only after the exchange of queens, but at that point it was fairly clear that both sides were aiming for a draw. Giri played extremely precisely, and the players soon repeated moves. Seeing how the game went, I propose an improvement for White in the opening here:

Here, Ding has two other playable options apart from Nxd4 which was played in the game. He could either go exd4!? Taking on an IQP but restraining Black’s light squared bishop with a future Ne5, or play Ne4!?, my recommendation. The point of this move is to harass the black queen, and force it back before capturing the pawn. White can also throw in a3, if the circumstances are favourable. Ne4 also allows White to take on d4 with the queen, allowing the f1 rook to come to d1. Black is close to equality, but he has to play precise chess to claim his half point.

It's very rare that Anish Giri would have a tournament like Shamkir 2019. He had six draws and three losses and finished with 3.0/9, losing a massive 18 Elo points | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Mamedyarov - Karjakin:

GM Sergey Karjakin had a good event gaining 9 Elo points. He beat Vishy Anand and Anish Giri and lost to Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

Sergey took the Black side of the 6...c5 line in the Bf4 QGD, the same line Anand used against him in one of the previous rounds. Shak decided not to test Sergey’s preparation in the forcing line that the latter had played himself, and deviated with Magnus’s 12.cxd5!?. The players followed Carlsen-Anand till move 17, where black deviated with Rb8. White always had a little something, but Black was able to neutralise it so well that a draw was agreed on move 27. A look at how White could have changed things had he played the right move at the right time:

Here, White has to play Rb1! Followed by Rfd1 and Nd4. He then maintains a small advantage, and can push black into making a mistake. Mamedyarov’s 19.Rd2 was a little too slow, allowing Black to release the Gordian Knot rather easily. Even after the best continuation from Black in 19.Rb1, White has some pressure, as Black has co-ordination problems.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost 12 Elo points and finished in the second last spot. Not a great performance for him, but he kept fighting hard and we can soon expect him to come back to his old winning ways! | Photo: Shamkir Chess 2019

A wonderful sixth edition of Shamkir Chess held in the memory of Vugar Gashimov comes to an end. A big congratulations to all the players, organizers and the sponsors for putting this show together

A word about our author for Shamkir Chess 2019

You have been reading about Tanmay Srinath in the "About the Author" section at the end of each of our articles for Shamkir Chess 2019. Let us tell you a bit more about this 18-year-old. A few days before the Shamkir Chess 2019 began, he wrote to us at our official mail id ( He was keen to cover the Shamkir event where Vishy Anand was slated to play along with the other top players in the chess world. Tanmay has contributed to the ChessBase India newspage in the past as well through his game analysis, but this time we decided that he would do the full-fledged reports. Tanmay took up the challenge seriously and in the last 10 days he has changed the way his daily routine looks like just so that he could write the best possible reports. He began to sleep early, somewhere around 9.30 p.m., and started waking up at 3.30 a.m. According to Tanmay, his best work happens in the morning and so he would spend nearly 4-5 hours on the report before sending it to us. This report would be then meticulously edited by our team and uploaded on the ChessBase India newspage. Daily reporting on such high quality events is not an easy task. But Tanmay's love for chess made him enjoy every bit of this process. We received a lot of mails from our readers as well as some of the top players who said that they enjoyed Tanmay's analysis. On behalf of all our readers we thank Tanmay for the wonderful work he has done and hope that we will soon have him reporting for the next top level chess event. But before that, we will let him recover from this super tournament!