Shamkir Chess TournamentIn Friday’s first round of the Shamkir Chess Tournament, Indian Grand Master Viswanathan Anand missed a golden opportunity presented to him by World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who made an unforced error in the middle game. For a long time, Anand enjoyed a pawn plus position but the plucky Norwegian hung on and not only deprived a possible win to Anand but salvaged a half point for himself. This is the second edition of the tournament, which began last year in the memory of Vugar Gashimov, one of Azerbaijan’s greatest chess players. Gashimov died at a young age of 27 in January 2014 after a prolonged illness. The organizers, Synergy Group in association with FIDE decided on the strong round-robin tournament in the honor of Gashimov. Magnus Carlsen won the inaugural edition in April 2014 and the second edition is now underway in Shamkir City. FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was present on Thursday night for the inauguration and he declared that two big chess events that will be held in Azerbaijan’s capital in the near future. The first one will be the World Cup in late 2015 and the Olympiad in 2016.

Anand played with Whites in a positive tournament draw for him. Carlsen tried the Marshall Gambit for the first time against Anand but the new idea did not unduly perturb the Indian. When Carlsen made the error in the middle game, Anand had a decisive advantage. To the onlookers, it looked like a pawn-plus endgame as Anand held the edge for long but could not convert the opportunity into beating the world champion. Carlsen stood his ground despite the handicap and denied any pleasure to Anand. Here onwards, however, Anand can use the first round draw as a cue to taking on his opponents in the coming days. Anand’s second round opponent will be Frenchman Vachier-Lagrave while Carlsen takes on Azerbaijan’s Mamedyarov on April 18, 2015.

The tournament is being organized at the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Shamkir and it will end on April 26, 2015 with a rest day on April 22. The total prize fund is 100,000 Euros. As per the rules, each match has a 120-minute duration for first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game. There is an increment of 30 seconds per move from 61st move onwards.

In other results on the opening day, Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov drew with Italian Fabiano Caruana; USA’s Wesley So defeated Anish Giri of the Netherlands; Russian Vladimir Kramnik beat England’s Michael Adams and Azerbaijan’s Rauf Mamedov drew with France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Therefore, at the end of first round, Kramnik and So have taken the lead positions with everyone else on half points. Kramnik played brilliantly against Michael Adams and created a technical endgame from a Catalan opening as White. The Englishman lost out on the plot after making an error, from where he couldn’t recover. Similarly the American Wesley So also utilized his opening with white pieces and led the Dutchman Anish Giri into complications in the middle game that came from an irregular opening.