Viswanathan AnandAs the last and ninth round to come up on Sunday, Viswanathan Anand of India recorded another victory to be just half point behind table-topper Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the 2015 Shakir Chess Tournament at Azerbaijan. Anand took full advantage of playing with White Pieces and showed solid temperament in his match against the Azeri GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Since Carlsen drew his match with USA’s Wesley So, he has only a ½ point lead over the Indian. On a day, when three matches had clear decisions, Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik defeated Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and England’s Michael Adams scored his first tournament victory, when he defeated Netherlands’ Anish Giri. In the other drawn match Italian Fabiano Caruna made peace with Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan.

Anand’s match against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was very similar to his win against Mickey Adams the other day with an exchange sacrifice of a bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal. But such comparison is like taking the credit away from the Indian Grand Master, who simply played another excellent game beginning with Four Knights with 7-Ne2. Anand made the moment critical for Mamedyarov with 17.c4 and after responding with17…exd4, the Azeri knew he had missed something. The exchange sacrifice on d5 put Anand in a stronger position and he controlled the game until Mamedyarov resigned after 42 moves.

Going into the final round of the Shamkir tournament on Sunday, it is evident that Anand is the only player, who is in a position to catch up with Magnus Carlsen. These two are also the only unbeaten players at Shamkir so far but Carlsen has won one game more than Anand. If Carlsen draws with Mamedov and Anand beats Caruana with Black, then Carlsen and Anand will share first place on points and under the first two tie-break coefficients, Berger will be used to determine the winner. If they tie again then there will be a playoff. If Carlsen wins his ninth round against Mamedov then he will be the champion straightaway. In Zurich, Anand had finished sharing the top spot before losing the tie-break and here in Shamkir, he still has chances on Sunday.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen played with black pieces against USA’s Wesley So. The Norwegian had some early initiative on the queen side but So sensed the line Carlsen was taking and made some ingenious moves. But as soon as all minor pieces left the board, the game headed to a draw. With the draw with So and Anand’s victory over Mamedyarov, Carlsen’s lead shrank to ½ point over the Indian.

Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik, who suffered three losses in a row, defeated France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Kramnik played King’s Indian Attack and handled his opening very well. The Russian postponed the development of the queen’s Knight and when Vachier-Lagrave made an error, he couldn’t recover from a hopeless position, he created for himself.

At long last, England’s Michael Adams scored his first tournament victory against Holland’s Anish Giri’. In a game that turned into a Classical Scheveningen, except that white had his bishop already on g2 instead of f3. Giri couldn’t respond to Adams’ moves and lost the match in the end.

Azerbaijan’s Rauf Mamedov played a great game against Italian GM Fabiano Caruana. It was another 9.d4 Ruy Lopez that the Azeri had played against Adams in the 5th round. Earlier Mamedov’s position looked suspicious but he found a great resource in sacrificing his queen but had a passed pawn on f7 in return. This surprised Caruana and he settled for peace after a few more moves.