Monthly Archives: Jun 2016

The Openings at the Grand Chess Tour 2016

The first two tournaments of this year’s edition of the Grand Chess Tour were mixed events – half rapid (9 games) and half blitz (18 games) with the rapid results counting the double. These “inventions” are never to my liking, so normally I choose to ignore them and just follow the games.

One of the most wise sayings in chess is “rapid is rapid and blitz is blitz.” This very profound adage once again proved true both in Paris and Leuven. The quality of the games was rather low with blunders galore and inexplicable phenomena. I’ll mention only one – what to make of Kramnik’s 1/9 (yep, that’s 2 draws and 7 losses, 6 of them in a row) on the second day of the Paris blitz? I’ll save the most incredulous of these losses (his last one) for the end of the article.

The lack of quality was amply compensated with excitement and, for the professional, the surprising opening choices of the players. The surprise was actually that the players chose their normal openings and both tournaments were a testing ground of more or less one opening – the Spanish with d3.

Let’s start with the Paris rapid (won by Nakamura with 7/9, half a point ahead of Carlsen) where out of 45 games there was 1 (!!!) Sicilian (with the ever-popular 3 Bb5+) and 17 games that opened with 1 e4 e5 with an incredible score for black – 3 losses, 8 (!!) wins and 6 draws. Out of these 17 games there was 1 Giuoco Piano (but take a look how the trend changed first at the blitz and then in Leuven) and 7 games with the usual 4 d3, avoiding the Berlin. Here the statistics was shocking – black won 4, lost 1 and drew 2 games!

Throughout all the events the move 1 Nf3 was very prominent. If with black the players wanted to kill it off with the Berlin, with white when they wanted to avoid the Berlin they usually played 1 Nf3 and different variations of the Reti and the English Opening occurred. As expected, black didn’t have any problems there.

In the Paris blitz (won jointly by Carlsen and Nakamura with 11.5/18) the Berlin battlefield widened. There were already 4 Giuoco Pianos, 3 with the recently very popular plan with a2-a4. We also had one brave soul, in the guise of the valiant Vachier, who boldly went where no one else dared to go – into the endgame. It all ended as expected, though, with a draw (that he saved). The vast majority of games were again with 4 d3, but this time the statistics favoured white – 6 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw. This shouldn’t fool you though – of these 6 wins, 3 were Carlsen’s and we already know that he can easily improve the statistics of even the worst opening simply because he will win in the end.

After a few days’ break the players moved to Leuven. Here we had Anand instead of Fressinet and it was him who led the first half of the rapid, but eventually the tournament was won by Carlsen with 6/9. From the total number of 45 games there were 15 that started with 1 e4 e5, 2 less than in the Paris rapid. The number of Sicilians increased by 300% – there were 3 of them, 2 Najdorfs and one 3 Bb5+. All of them were drawn. There were also 5 Giuoco Pianos, with excellent results for white, 3 wins and 2 draws. Still the players couldn’t end the love affair with the 4 d3 in the Spanish – 8 games this time, but with a better statistics for white – 3 wins (2 of those against Kramnik), 2 losses and 3 draws.

The blitz was also won by Carlsen, this time alone with 11/18. Except for the Paris rapid, when he came second, Carlsen won everything else, once again demonstrating that he is the most consistent player not only in classical chess. Sometimes I think that had Fischer continued to play perhaps he would have established such domination – he would have had fierce competition in Karpov, but this would have pushed him even more. Of course, this is just (exciting) wishful thinking on my part.

There were whole 9 Sicilians in the blitz – perhaps they remembered that it was possible to move another pawn on move 1? The results were encouraging for black, 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw. The Najdorf also scored well, 3 wins and 2 losses. The Giuoco Piano finally wrestled the domination from the Spanish with 4 d3 – there were 12 games with it, but amazingly white didn’t win a single game while losing 2! The Spanish with 4 d3 was played only 6 times, the players probably getting enough of it.

Worth noting is that in the Leuven blitz one third of the games (34 out of 90) were some sort of an English Opening, Reti or anything in between, white starting with 1 Nf3 or 1 c4. Whether this was result of the fatigue with the Spanish and various solid options black has after 1 d4 or a desire to obtain something more fresh and keep the main weapons for the classical controls remains to be seen.

As promised I saved the best (or worst!) for last. Here’s Kramnik’s last round loss from the Paris blitz. It’s a dead draw, of course, but…

45…f5?? 46 Nc5 g4 47 Ne6#

Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy

I finished my last post with the invitation to my readers to suggest, if they wish, a book on which they would like to hear my opinion. My very good friend IM Chedomir Micic suggested a true gem, actually two of them – Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and Chess Strategy in Action, both by John Watson.

I will start by saying that both books are incredible. They are one of the rare modern books (published in 1998 and 2003 respectively) that truly provide something new in the sphere of chess strategy. I don’t think I was the only one who was under the impression that the last thing about strategy was written in Nimzowitsch’s My System and from then on it was just studying the great players’ games and picking up strategical ideas (for example Petrosian’s exchange sacrifice). Even though I noticed that white players started to push g2-g4 in the opening more frequently, I wasn’t really surprised by that, after all we have the Keres Attack in the Sicilian and there were several games by Fischer when he did just that. But it is not for nothing that Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy has the subtitle Advances Since Nimzowitsch. Watson managed to categorise and organise the material in superb manner. There are two parts of the book, Part I deals with Refinements of Tratidional Theory and here we have the typical elements like Centre, Pawn Minorities and Majorities, IQP etc observed through the prism of the modern practice, taking careful note of what has changed since the times Nimzowitsch wrote his classic. One of the most impressive examples is from the game Ivanchuk-Anand, first game of their match in 1992:


White’s last move was a mistake, it was better to take on d2 with the rook. But after black’s unexpected next move white is worse! After 18 Rd2 h5! we see the depth of the concept – Watson quotes Anand who says that white cannot consolidate his kingside (black threatens …hg4 and …Rh3) and is much worse. The following two moves are also very instructive:

“A sterling example” – Watson.

The second book, Chess Strategy in Action is a continuation of the topic in similar vein. Again there are two parts, only this time Part II is analysis of complete games, 35 in total. In Part I he examines concepts like The Surrender of the Centre, Hedgehogs and their Territoriality (an important advice for black playing the Hedgehog is to avoid exchanges in spite of his lack of space, because without pieces his position will lose its dynamism!), The Flank Pawns Have Their Say (here’s the chapter dedicated to moves like g2-g4 for white and …h7-h5 for black, a common occurrence in modern practice), The Positional Pawn Sacrifice, a chapter dedicated to Bishops and Knights and many more. I will give here a couple of examples from Part II that left an impression. The first one is from the comments of the game Shirov-Kramnik from 1994:

Black to move

And Kramnik’s suggestion here is 13…Rh7 14 Nc2 Nh8!! Great stuff! The following example is probably the most original of all:

The true value of the books lies in the fact that Watson managed to organise the material and show in a systematic manner how modern chess is played. The conclusion is that modern chess is concrete to the extreme (the development of chess engines is also very responsible for this development) and there isn’t a single rule that doesn’t have an exception and these exceptions are becoming more frequent in modern practice. These books are a must for every aspiring player who already has knowledge of the classical chess and is looking for a concentrated and well-chosen material from the modern chess practice.


Good Books – Part III

Here I will discuss some books of more general character. Apart from studying the moves I have always been interested in chess history and the life of the players. What intrigued me most was how they prepared and how they thought about various problems. Perhaps understandably so, because I never had a coach in my life so I never exactly knew how things should be done. Everything I knew I learned by myself based on my own experience, so I was always seeking for some insight as a sort of check to see if I am doing things right.

The most impressive of these was definitely Russians vs Fischer by Voronkov and Plisetsky. Even though I knew the Russians were preparing collectively in general, I was still amazed to learn to what lengths they went. More than half of the book is devoted to Fischer’s ascent from 1970 onwards and how the Russians were becoming more and more worried as he approached Spassky. One of the best parts in the book is Korchnoi’s analysis of Fischer’s style, openings and characteristics. It is quite different from the analysis of the other players who were tasked with it – Tal, Keres, Smyslov and Petrosian, who obviously didn’t quite feel they should be doing that in the first place and just wanted to get rid of the task. For example, Keres, Smyslov and Petrosian suggested their own repertoire as the best way to play against Fischer’s openings! The book also investigates Karpov’s preparation for Fischer in 1975. A revelation to me was Alatortsev’s analysis and report. Alatortsev was head of a laboratory that was analysing the psychology and physiology of the chessplayers using various methods. This striking analysis included diet, sleep, physical preparation, behaviour during the games etc. I learned an awful lot from this material and I still re-read it from time to time. This book is a must for everyone who wants to know the deepest secrets of chess preparation at the highest level.

To a lesser extent Kasparov’s Predecessors that deal with his matches with Karpov (Modern Chess Part 2Modern Chess Part 3 and Modern Chess Part 4) are books of that kind. I seem to be one of the rare people who haven’t been impressed with Kasparov’s series. Yes, they are good books, but I knew most of the stories he told and I expected much more from him when he was personally involved in the games. I was eagerly awaiting the books on the matches with Karpov, after all they are the defining point of his career, so I was looking forward to some big revelations concerning his preparation process, opening analysis, ideas he had etc. Even though he does say a lot about these things, I found it insufficient. Perhaps because I know that there are many more things that he didn’t talk about. This is one of the problems when you already know a lot, it is increasingly difficult to learn new things! One of the most useful things for me what playing through all the games of his unlimited match with Karpov. Slowly, deliberately, trying to understand what was going on. And after a while I got “into” the match, started to feel the flow of the match, I started to understand the opening choices and the tension. I also did this with the other matches and for me this was the best experience from the books.

Recently I read The King by Donner. It is a collection of his essays throughout his career as a chess journalist. Some of them are amazing, some less so. Donner had a sharp sense of humour and was confident in his beliefs and didn’t shy away from publishing them, even if they were largely controversial (there is an essay called “Women and Chess” where he openly states that “women cannot play chess.”) A thing I found surprising is that most of the problems we face now (making chess commercial, the diminishing payout of the chessplayers etc.) were very much topical in Donner’s time in the 1960s and 1970s.

I will end with a real rarity – Vukovic’s books “Od Steinitza do Botvinika” (From Steinitz to Botvinnik) published in Zagreb in 1949. Unfortunately I don’t think they are possible to find nowadays.

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This is Volume 1, dealing with Steinitz, Lasker and Capablanca. In it he analyses all the games from the matches for the crown. The revelation for me was the chapter on Lasker. A lot has been said and written about Lasker’s psychology and how he allegedly played inferior moves (especially in the opening) in order to get his opponents out of their comfort zone. I always found that hard to believe and in this book I found what I had been sensing all along. Vukovic’s explanation is that Lasker found it hard to get into the game, so in the beginning he was often careless and this led to mistakes. Once in a bad position he would immediately snap out and concentrate hard and coupled with his incredible tactical talent he posed very difficult problems to his opponents, who were, after all, fallible. As the game progressed Lasker was playing better and better, especially if the momentum had swung his way, and when they finally reached the endgame Lasker was at his best. I think this is the most precise explanation of Lasker’s “psychology” I have read and in my opinion one that best describes the great champion’s way of playing.

Here I will conclude with my Good Books and if you have any questions or would like to know my opinion on a book feel free to contact me. As new books come out and I read them at some point I will surely continue with my reviews.


Good Books – Part II

I actually read Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games in Russian (only many years later I read it in original and I must say that it was even better!) The books in Russian dedicated to great players were part of the famous “black series” – the name comes from the black cover these books had. There were two other players from that series that left deep impression – Akiba Rubinstein and Isaak Boleslavsky (both in Russian, I don’t think they have been translated to English). The book on Rubinstein was written by Razuvaev and Murahveri and it is a classic (and I think pretty difficult to find) – it is also one of Gelfand’s favourite books. Rubinstein’s smooth and seemingly effortless positional style is one to admire and impossible to copy. In this sense it is very similar to Capablanca’s and in my opinion it is the weakness of his nervous system (and force majeure coincidences) that prevented him from becoming a World Champion. The book on Boleslavsky was written by Suetin and it was a true gem. Boleslavsky was at his prime in the early 1950s when he won the Candidates tournament in Budapest in 1950 together with Bronstein, only to lose the play-off match to him later that year. After that his career quickly went downwards but he was an excellent theoretician and went on to become Petrosian’s coach for many years. Boleslavsky’s contribution to modern theory is often unfairly neglected. He was one of the first players to use the King’s Indian with black in the 1940s and 1950s and his treatment of the Spanish with white was exemplary. What interested me most was his play with black in the Sicilian – he was the first to play …e5 in the position after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cd 4 Nd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Be2 e5! He showed the viability of the positions after black creates a “hole” on d5 and this led to the boom of all the Najdorf lines when black plays …e5 (in the Najdorf black has the additional possibility to place his knight on d7). This was picked up by Fischer and the Najdorf became one of the most popular openings ever since.

Studying chess was easy and pleasant for me until the moment I discovered the books by Dvoretsky. It was (and still is) a fiendishly difficult time when I try to solve the exercises in his books! Only upon trying that masochistic task did I realise how difficult it is to play chess at the highest level. I read and studied all Dvoretsky’s books, but not all of them left the same impression. For me two of them stand out – Opening Preparation and Secrets of Chess Tactics. I have always been interested in opening study and analysis so the Opening Preparation widened my views and gave me a lot of ideas not only in various openings and schemes (a notable chapter is on the King’s Indian Attack) but also how to study and explore openings. There was also stuff I knew from my own experience, but sometimes it is good to have confirmation by a high authority that what you know is good. The Secrets of Chess Tactics was an eye-opener: there is a sub-title on page 147 called Science Fiction and there follow two games by Tal – Tal-Portisch, 2nd game of their match in 1965 and Tal-Larsen, 6th game of their match in 1965 (with a game by Yusupov in between). The analysis of the Tal games and my attempt to put myself in his shoes opened my eyes to a completely new way of playing chess – I just “got it” how Tal played and how it was possible for him to play like that. I also understood that I cannot play like that, it isn’t my style and character, but the fact that I came to see another dimension of chess made me feel that I have expanded my horizons immensely.

Smyslov’s book Letopis Shakhmatnogo Tvorchestva (basically a selection of his best games, the closest thing in English are probably these two volumes – Volume 1 1935-1957 and Volume 2 1958-1995) is similarly laconic like Capablanca’s Chess Fundamentals I mentioned in Part I. But it is not so much his words that matter, the feeling I got when playing over and analysing his games and trying to delve into the positions and understand his thinking processes is what makes it an excellent book. There are 326 games in it, so plenty of material to get into Smyslov’s mind and get a grasp of his feeling of harmony.

My breakthrough in 2005, when I reached another level of chess understanding and playing strength, can be attributed to one book. It is a book on Capablanca by Euwe and Prins (here’s a link to the book in German. I read it in Russian with the title Baloven Kaissi, while it doesn’t seem to be translated in English).

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It is a great pity that it cannot be found in English because the book is amazing. I had a bad end of 2004 and I spent the whole December, January and February studying Capablanca’s games. I got the books I had by him: My Chess CareerThe Last Lectures and all the books that had something on him: Kasparov’s Predecessors Volume 1 and Alekhine’s tournament books on Nottingham 1936 and New York 1924 and 1927 and I put them next to the chess board that I used for study – they were used on a daily basis for 3 months. Still, the most useful and thought-provoking was Euwe’s book. It is written from a psychological perspective and it analyses the games from this angle. The analysis of the moves isn’t always correct, but for me the most important was to try to get into Capablanca’s mind, to try to understand his move-finding algorithm. Going through his games over and over again for days on and thinking about them all the time produced a result. I started to sense the way he played, why he played certain moves and how he handled various situations. The greatest eye-opener was how precise he actually was. Every single move had a “why” and it always answered a concrete question. Exploring very carefully every move and stopping to ask myself why he has played a certain move formed a habit in me to do the same in my own games. At the end of this period I played a strong open tournament in Malaga which I won, scoring my second Grandmaster norm.

In approximately the same period I discovered Rowson’s books The Seven Deadly Chess Sins and Chess for Zebras. Rowson is a deep thinker (and a very friendly fellow, as I discovered in 2014 when we shared a taxi from our hotel in Hinckley to the train station on a Sunday afternoon after a 4NCL weekend) and he touches subjects that have always intrigued me. In Sins he defines 7 main shorcomings that chessplayers are prone to in their thinking and suggests ways to overcome them. He gives these sins peculiar names, like Blinking, Wanting and Egoism, but the concepts are profound and his advice sound. In Zebras he continues along the same lines of psychological insights, only this time he examines wider problems, like why it is difficult to improve after a certain age, how to play with black and white, myths and style, concentration, doing and being, and many more. I have known Rowson’s writing from his first book, Understanding the Grunfeld, a theoretical book written in such a way that I had no choice but to start playing the Grunfeld immediately, yet the above-mentioned books are the cornerstone to understanding the psychology of chess and chessplayers. At the end of the day better chess comes from better thinking processes and every one of us must first become aware and understand his or her own thinking processes before he or she tries to improve them. These books helped me do just that.

In Part III I will talk about books that deal with broader aspects of chess and are less concerned with the moves.


Good Books – Part I

I have often been approached and asked to suggest some good books that will help the player improve. There is no universal answer to that question because it depends on the level of the player who is asking the question. One book is good for one player, but it can be useless for another. In this post I wanted to outline the books that made a deep impression on me throughout my career, both from a perspective of improving me as a player and also from a psychological and human angle.

I made my first steps with Capablanca’s Chess Fundamentals, albeit I read it in Serbian as “Osnovi Saha.” A clear book that explained the basics with Capablanca’s own games analysed in the last chapter of the book. I think that replaying those games, coupled with my father showing me a lot of games in the Spanish (I still feel the harmony of white’s position after the Nbd2-f1-g3 maneuver) developed my positional understanding.

When I improved a bit my father made the monumental effort to translate Nimzowitsch’s My System from Russian, so that I can read it myself. I remember the thick book with black cover and fine thin pages, I still have it in my library. A few years later I learned to read Russian so I could read the original, but going through the book with my father deepened my positional understanding and introduced me to the concepts of blockade, prophylaxis and outpost. I think that these two books, Capablanca’s and Nimzowitsch’s lay the foundation of my sound positional undestanding and intuition.

Then came Kotov’s How to Become a Grandmaster (this is actually my translation of the Russian title Kak stat Grossmeisterom, which I think in English comprises two books, Think Like a Grandmaster and Play Like a Grandmaster). This was a more “mathematical” book than the previous two, which were more laconic. It provided a structured way how to analyse a position (numbering all the elements of the position, both stable and temporal, citing Steinitz’s 4 rules of positional play, all the combinational elements etc.), how to construct a plan, how to calculate variations. The last part (on calculation, Kotov’s famous variation “tree”) has drawn a lot of criticism lately, but it nevertheless had a positive impact on the inexperienced youngster who never had a coach because it gave me a direction and showed me how things should be done ideally. As I grew stronger I realised the limitations of Kotov’s method as I became more aware of my own thinking processes. Nevertheless the book was a great guidance at the time and it helped me discipline my thinking.

At that stage I was mainly studying the classics, so Alekhine featured prominently. After studying his games I always noticed improvement in my understanding, play and results. I felt the power in his games and I was particularly impressed by his technique, very forcing and precise. Alekhine’s own books On the Road to the World Championship and his book on both New York tournaments in 1924 and 1927 (I read it in one single book in Russian, in English there are two – New York 1924 and New York 1927) were huge – I remember one summer vacation with my family when I took On the Road with me and I spent hours analysing his games in our “Brako” trailer soaking wet from the heat inside. I even encountered a mistake in his comments to the game against Asztalos from Kecskemet 1927 when the line he gave at the end of the game was incorrect. And there was also Kotov’s monumental work on Alekhine in two volumes, Chess Heritage of Alekhine which was a deep analysis of Alekhine’s game from all possible aspects.

Continuing with the classics there were two more authors whose books influenced me greatly – Botvinnik’s trilogy of his best games (Volume 1 1925-1941Volume 2 1942-1956 and Volume 3 1957-1970) and Bronstein’s Zurich 1953. Botvinnik’s games taught me logic and technique, discipline and hard work during the game. He was merciless and the way he dispatched Tal at the age of 50 in the revenge-match in 1961 still amazes me. His comments were short but always to the point and served to explain his decisions. Bronstein’s book on the Zurich Candidates tournament was full of insightful comments that at times were difficult to understand. Later on I learned much more about Bronstein’s life and his way of writing and expressing things and I started to read between the lines. This made it even more fascinating, but that was later – the first time I studied the book I mainly focused on the games played in the Spanish and the King’s Indian as those were my main openings with white and black, respectively. I remember that I was feeling uncomfortable when I was going through the games in the fianchetto line in the King’s Indian because in the vast majority of them black played the system with Nbd7 and e5 and then took on d4, playing with a weak pawn on d6. I didn’t like those positions so in my games I was usually playing the line with Nc6 followed by Bg4 or Bf5.

Bobby Fischer was always my idol and the moment I got hold of My 60 Memorable Games it became one of my favourite books. I tried to absorb everything from it – the explanations, the variations, the style, the psychology. A lot of my theoretical preparation at those times (pre-computer ages!) was based on his analysis and ideas. It is one of the books that I kept returning to at various points in my career and I always managed to discover something new. As I undestood more about chess I understood more about Fischer and how difficult it is to play and win like him. And that always served as inspiration.

In Part II I will continue discussing the books that had profound impact in the later stages of my career when I already became a relatively strong player.


Gashimov Memorial 2016

Yeah, I know, it’s a bit late, but as it happened I was travelling in the middle of the tournament and I was packing when it started and unpacking when it finished!

It was a very eventful tournament. As I was following it I thought that this will be a 2-horse race between the recent Candidates Caruana and Giri whose hard work prior to Moscow started to bear fruit. I expected Karjakin to be underwhelming again (after his 1 out of 3 at the Russian team championship) as I think he now feels he doesn’t have to show good results (or play) since his main deed was done in the Candidates, but that is usually a bad practice – getting used to mediocre results and play is dangerous (although I am sure he will be completely different in the match).

My expectations were confirmed until the 7th round. The derby Caruana (5/6) – Giri (4.5/6) seemed headed to a draw in a long theoretical Open Spanish and the rest of the field looked unambitious (once Karjakin came to +1 he simply started making draws) and were on 50% or less.

And then Caruana suddenly got a chance. A very concealed and difficult chance, but a chance nevertheless. In the comments I say that Kasparov probably would have found this difficult move Kh2, he used to play this move twice in his matches with Karpov (and incidentally both times it was move 31): in game 16 in 1986 (analysed in great depth in Kasparov on Modern Chess Part 2) and game 20 in 1990 (Kasparov on Modern Chess Part 3).

It was an understandable decision by Caruana, he was leading by half a point ahead of Giri and with 2 rounds to go it seemed like a smooth sailing. But life has a way of punishing us when we don’t take our chances (even the concealed like this one). However, I think Caruana wasn’t punished because he didn’t find the move, but rather because he didn’t try to play for more. He had a lot of time on the clock and had he dared to continue, trusting his instincts (as Kasparov liked to say) I don’t have a doubt that he would have found the moves. But dry pragmatism prevailed and he took the draw.

In the meantime Mamedyarov won his second game of the tournament and moved to +1 by beating his fellow countryman Safarli. It’s curious to note that this was the only decisive game from all the games played between the Azeri players.

The next round saw something that rarely happens. Caruana lost with white (the last time this happened was in 2015 when he lost to Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup). What surprised me was that he allowed an Open Sicilian, something he successfully avoided in Round 5 when he demolished Radjabov (the main proponent of the Sveshnikov Sicilian nowadays). And what did Mamedyarov choose? The Sveshnikov, of course! The reason for the declining popularity of the Sveshnikov (a great book was written on the subject recently by GM Kotronias, a very conscientious analyst) is the line Caruana chose. White establishes a strong grip in the centre and obtains an extremely solid position with a slight plus – the exact opposite of what the Sveshnikov players aspire to. In the positional battle that ensued Caruana could have tried to repeat moves, at least to see what Mamedyarov’s ambitions were, but he didn’t do it.

Perhaps too many missed chances by Caruana? First against Giri and now two chances to save the game. Life is usually unforgiving in such cases.

Giri had a chance to catch Caruana but he only managed to draw with white against Hou Yifan, a good result for the Dutchman who has a score of -2 (and no wins) against the Women’s World Champion.

And then came the final round. Karjakin didn’t try to pose Caruana any problems with white in the Open Spanish (the opening is gaining in popularity by the minute) while Mamedyarov chose Kramnik’s exciting recipe against Giri.

After this win, meaning a finish of 3/3, Mamedyarov tied for first with Caruana! An incredible feat, bearing in mind that he was trailing Caruana by 2 points after round 6 and in addition to that he managed to beat both Caruana and Giri in direct duels!

Such feats are rewarded and Mamedyarov deservedly won the playoff for first place (and by deservedly I mean “even though he was lost in games 1 and 2”). In my opinion this is Mamedyarov’s best result in his career, especially because of the way he did it, a finish spurt that included wins against both his direct rivals.

The Gashimov Memorial showed that a tournament can be exciting even when Carlsen isn’t playing. It only takes a lot of fighting spirit and a bit of luck.