Shakh-Attack Destroys Biel 2018

Mamedyarov’s victory is Biel was impressive. Finishing a point and a half ahead of the World Champion and beating him in the individual match is an incredible feat.

I would like to note a distinct characteristic of Shakh’s opening preparation. He often relies on super-sharp and forcing lines to achieve his aim. For example, his use of the old, almost forgotten, line in the Open Spanish when Black sacrifices on f2 and obtains a rook and a couple of pawns for two pieces – he used it to a great effect to secure a good game against Vachier.

With White he is often even more aggressive, using the move g4 whenever he can. He beat Vachier thanks to a deep preparation in the English Opening.

I think the improved quality of his opening preparation has a big impact on Shakh’s recent stability and a firm establishment in the top 3.

The decisive game of the tournament was the direct duel between Mamedyarov and Carlsen. The latter was forced to play for a win since he was trailing with a full point. Here’s what came out of it.

The World Champion didn’t have a good event in spite of the promising start. In fact, both here and in Norway a couple of months ago he started with 2.5/3 and both times he failed to win the tournament!

In the past the scenario of Carlsen’s tournaments was a slow start followed by warming up and an excellent finish. Lately the tendency has reversed: he starts well, but then instead of improving as the tournament goes on his play deteriorates. Carlsen himself admitted to many oversights during his game with Mamedyarov.

It is clear that Carlsen is in some sort of a transitional phase when it comes to his match preparations. He is trying main lines, plays aggressively with White and Black, but at the same time he still hasn’t reached the level of stability he would desire. A lot of work lies ahead for the World Champion!

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