Raymond Keene

Memorable Mamedyarov

Local hero Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan by virtue of three consecutive victories at the last minute. Two of these wins came against the leaders Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri. That catapulted Mamedyarov into a tie for first prize with Caruana, and then he went on to win the tie-break. This was a colossal performance by the Azeri frontrunner and it must have thrilled the home crowds.

Full scores in the main tournament were as follows: Mamedyarov and Caruana 6 (out of 9); Giri 5½; Karjakin 5; Mamedov 4½; Harikrishna, Safarli and Radjabov 4; Eljanov 3½ and Hou Yifan 2½. Mamedyarov then went on to win the four-game play-off against Caruana by one win with three draws.

Here are the conclusions of both games which brought Mamedyarov the overall laurels.

Caruana-Mamedyarov: Vugar Gashimov Memorial, Shamkir 2016 (see diagram 1)

23 … Rc5 Black avoids 23 … Nf3+ 24 Kg2 Nxe1+ 25 Rxe1. True, Mamedyarov would have gained rook for knight but White’s absolute control of the central light squares would have made any kind of progress impossible. As played Black is angling to break with … d5 when his advance pawn on b3 represents an ever-present danger to White. 24 Qd1 Bxf5 25 Nxf5 Nxf5 26 exf5 Rd8 27 Qh5 Kg7 28 Rc3 h6 29 Ree3 This gives Black the opportunity to reinforce the b3-pawn. The sensible course would have been 29 Qg4+ followed by Qh5 renouncing any thought of victory and relying on the shattered formation around the black king to give chances for a draw. 29 … a4 30 Qe2 d5 31 Qf3 Rdc8 32 cxd5 Rxc3 33 Rxc3 Rxc3 34 Qxc3 Qxd5 35 Qb4 h5 36 Qxa4 Qd3 37 g4 Qb1+ 38 Kg2 Qxb2 Now Black has a decisive passed pawn.

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