Gashimov Memorial 2015 – Round 9
Playing Mamedov with white, Carlsen went for the same tempo-losing line in the Slav that brought him a nice win against Nakamura one year ago at the same event. It did the trick again, but only after Mamedov blundered badly before the time control.
Note that the move 1 Nf3 is getting more and more popular – as I wrote in the comments to Caruana-Anand, anything Kramnik does in the opening is destinied to become popular!
The other game that was decisive for the podium was Caruana-Anand. After 1 Nf3 (what else!) d5 Anand went for the QGD set-up, instead of his preferred 2…g6, which he used to a good effect against Carlsen in Chennai in 2013. The Reti appeared on the board and Anand chose a line that was recently used by the Russian champion Lysyj (that guy knows what he’s doing in the openings). Later on Anand skillfully used his knights (a skill of his noted by Kramnik) to parry any danger.
Excellent showing by Anand, after this tournament he’s back to number two on the rating list and crossing 2800 again. In my Round 1 report I wrote that the game against Carlsen might haunt Anand – in the end it did turn out to be crucial for final victory! Caruana on the other hand can also be happy, as he turned a -1 to a +1 and finished shared 3rd (with So). After some underwhelming performances this should give him a confidence boost.
Mamedyarov and Adams drew from the Tartakower line in the QGD after white didn’t even try to pose problems.
The Frenchman (Vachier) got some nice preparation in against So’s Caro-Kann, but failed to capitalise on it as black defended well. He had some chances, but it was a tournament the Frenchman would prefer not to remember, as his play was rather plain. So finished shared 3rd with Caruana and this continues the string of positive results for him as he firmly establishes himself as a Top 10 player.
The torture of the day was Giri-Kramnik. I don’t know why Giri likes to play the Catalan against Mr Catalan himself, this is their fourth Catalan (plus he has a negative score)! Obviously you cannot hope to win in the Catalan against Kramnik, no matter how close you come. And Giri did come close (after being worse at some point) and it would have heaped immense misery on Kramnik had he managed to win – instead he heaped the same misery on himself, as not winning a long game after you’ve managed to squeeze it out of nothing is no less painful than losing a last-round game. As it turned out, a miserable end of a miserable tournament for both players, if only a bit less so for Kramnik.
So Shamkir ended to confirm what we already knew. Carlsen is the dominant force by far and no serious candidates are visible at the moment. But in our modern world things change very quickly, so a too-relaxed Carlsen coupled with a highly-motivated (take your pick) Caruana, So, Anand, Kramnik, Giri, Grischuk, even Nakamura, on a new level could provide a mouth-watering match next year.