Norway’s World Champion Magnus Carlsen emerged as the runaway winner of the 2015 Shamkir Chess tournament, which concluded on Sunday. In the ninth and final round, Carlsen defeated Azerbaijan’s Rauf Mamedov in 35 moves after Mamedov committed a blunder in the 34th move. Carlsen has thus retained the title he won in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2014. The Norwegian finished the tournament undefeated. India’s Viswanathan Anand, who also finished undefeated in the tournament, had to settle for the second place after his draw with Italy’s Fabiano Caruna. But Anand’s performance has placed him second in the Live Ratings. The third place in the tournament was taken by USA’s Wesley So, who also drew his match playing with French Grand Master Maxime Vachier-Lagrave but needed to beat Italy’s Fabiano Caruna in the tie-break.
With a half-point lead over Vishy Anand of India, Carlsen did not have to go all-out for a win even as he took on Rauf Mamedov in the last round. The world champion’s job was made easier by Fabiano Caruna, who forced the Indian to a draw. Against Mamedov, Carlsen had the advantage of playing with white pieces as he began with a Chebanenko Slav against his Azerbaijani opponent. It was the same variation as the one in the game between Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Even Magnus Carlsen had played Chebanenko Slav against Nakamura last year. Commentator GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko observed that it was time to call this type of opening as a Shamkir variation. Carlsen was better out of the start but he couldn’t control it properly because Mamedov defended quite well afterwards despite the Norwegian exerting pressure. After 30 odd moves, the game looked virtually even as it moved towards a queen, rook and pawns end game. On the 34th move, however, Mamedov committed a blunder that gave the threat of mate in three or the loss of major pieces. Sensing what he had done, Mamedov resigned on the 35th move and spoiled his 27th birthday celebrations. Carlsen finished with seven points on five wins and four draws in winning his second Gashimov Memorial tournament, and second major title this year after capturing the Tata Steel super-tournament in Wijk ann Zee, the Netherlands in January.
Former world champion Viswanathan Anand, who was trailing Carlsen by half a point before the final round, could only manage a draw against Fabiano Caruana. Anand had black pieces and he faced the Reti opening by Caruana but was never in any danger. The middle game was easy as Anand exchanged pieces at will and reached an equal endgame. By then, Carlsen had already beaten Mamedov and ended all chances for Anand catching up with him on points. So Anand kept the proceedings simple and risk-free by allowing the result to come along. After reaching the minor pieces endgame with no breakthroughs available, the two Grand Masters signed piece. With the draw, Anand finished second on six points ahead of Wesley So who also drew against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France.
Except Carlsen’s win, all other matches ended in draws on the final day. After Carlsen and Anand took the first and second places, there was a tie-break for the third spot between Wesley So and Fabiano Caruna because both had finished at 5 points each. So was impressive in the tiebreak and finally finished third.