Carlsen  chessIn the second round matches of Shamkir Chess tournament on Saturday, four matches ended as drawn games. One among them involved Indian Grand Master Viswanathan Anand, who played with black pieces against Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. After being let off the hook by Anand, Norway’s world champion Magnus Carlsen was the only one, who emerged victorious in the second round as he outplayed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan. The win gave Carlsen a joint leadership status as he attacked Mamedyarov on the queen side and the overnight joint leader caved in pretty easily. After winning in the first round, Russian Grand Master Vladimir Kramnik had to settle for a draw with USA’s Wesley So. Therefore at the end of 2nd round, there are three joint leaders in Carlsen, Kramnik and So, each with 1.5 points.

Five-time world champion Vishy Anand played with Black pieces with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. Anand seems to have fallen in love with the Ragozin variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined or the QGD. This served him well against the Frenchman, who was caught in some complications but managed to stave clear off the danger zone. The Frenchman avoided anything adventurous and kept sticking a small advantage against Anand. The Indian ace showed fine chess skills in tackling the position strategically by exchanging his pieces with Vachier-Lagrave at regular intervals. This allowed Vishy Anand to reach a perfect balance in the ensuing endgame. After 47 moves, the Frenchman was left with no options but to settle for a draw.

In the only decisive game of the day, Magnus Carlsen used his positional advantage of playing with Whites to a terrific finish. He played a Slav defense game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. It looked an innocuous opening in early moves before Carlsen suddenly unleashed a series of attacking maneuvers on the queen side. This surprised Mamedyarov and as Carlsen pushed further the Azerbaijani didn’t know how to counter the Norwegian world champion. Before one could blink, the match ended in just 29 moves.

England’s Michael Adams played it safe against Italian Fabiano Caruana. Adams had Whites but his approach was unambitious. Adams obtained nothing from the typical anti-Berlin opening that led to a quick exchange on c6. On the whole, it was Caruana, who enjoyed the position more even if he played with Blacks. In the end, it was an effortless draw for the Italian in 25 moves.

Russian GM Kramnik played with Whites against American Wesley So and created some initial pressure. But the young American was too astute to be led into committing dangerous errors. This game was drawn, when the players decided to a draw. By that time, however, the game had reached a level minor piece endgame.

The last game of the day was played between Azerbaijan’s Rauf Mamedov and Holland’s Anish Giri. The Dutchman’s early Qb3 in the Slav opening gave him a slight advantage but Mamedov resisted strongly and defended even better. The Azerbaijani sacrificed a pawn to create imbalance but in the end, the players called for peace.

With seven rounds still to come in the 100,000 Euros prize money tournament, Carlsen is now new co-leader along with Wesley So and Vladimir Kramnik. These three have 1.5 points apiece while Anand, Mamedov, Caruna and Vachier-Lagrave have 1 point each. Three others; Giri, Adams and Mamedyarov have 0.5 points.