Gashimov Memorial 2015 – Round 3

The duel between Caruana and Carlsen, one that many believe should be the next World Championship match, is always one that captures the attention of the chess public. Today’s game didn’t disappoint either, if only for the decisive result.

It is good to see Carlsen trying to play with black even against his closest competitors (instead of just trying to neutralise them). After his success against Anand in Baden-Baden (the Grenke tournament) he again went for the Stonewall Dutch. It seems that this opening suits his game plan well – it is an opening where early simplifications are impossible, the centre is closed and a complex strategic battle lies ahead. In situations like this Carlsen feels at home, irrelevant of the colour of his pieces. This was apparent in today’s game as well, as already on move 18 he was the one pressing! The game was objectively equal though and one would expect Caruana to hold it rather easily. But in his own words, he “drifted” and then he was lost! Things happen so fast when Carlsen plays.

In my article for the Chess Informator 123 (Too Much of a Good Thing) I said that Anand finds it more and more difficult to outplay the world elite, unless he gets an overwhelming advantage out of the opening (but even that didn’t suffice against Carlsen in Round 1). Today was another example of that – he outplayed Giri in a Caro-Kann and obtained a position with the initiative and prospects of an attack, only to fail to overcome Giri’s resilient defence. The new generation, brought up with strong engines, defend in a very tactical way, not allowing any miscalculations, thus making the attacker’s task very difficult – it takes a lot of energy and inventiveness to overcome this kind of defence (if you want to try it out yourself, try playing out a winning position against an engine). However, I am pretty convinced that Anand of several years ago would have destroyed black no matter who and how he was playing. Two missed wins in 3 rounds seems too much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Anand is punished for his missed chances.

So beat Adams in what was a complicated middlegame arising from the Carlsbad structure in the QGD. The player who is invited in the last moment is usually the winner or the tail ender. Adams was invited to Shamkir as a last-minute replacement for Radjabov, who had to withdraw due to personal reasons. As things stand, Adams will not be the winner of this tournament, but his opponent may well be. So is showing that he can play great chess even without writing self-motivational notes on various pieces of paper.

Mamedov and Kramnik drew in an expected way, with many games being drawn similarly in the 5 Re1 line in the Berlin. Kramnik certainly knew that this would happen once he played 1…e5. But he’s played that even against Debashis (2485) in Qatar, so he obviously doesn’t mind drawing with black.

Mamedyarov and Vachier drew in a Grunfeld that led to a position with a fixed centre. Black took over control of the c-file so he didn’t have problems in spite of the passive bishop on e6.

Tomorrow’s round brings us exciting pairings like Kramnik-Anand and Adams-Carlsen (Adams was Carlsen’s second in Sochi) while So has a chance to win again as he’s white against the outsider Mamedov (who is doing very well so far).

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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