The chess world was genuinely shocked back in January 2014 when they learned of the premature death of one of Azerbaijan’s top players, Vugar Gashimov. The popular Baku grandmaster, who was one of the world’s top players, was aged just 27 when he died after enduring a long and very brave battle following the reoccurrence of a brain tumor.
Gashimov was regarded as one of the most original and talented players of his generation. His world ranking peaked at No 6 in 2009, and he was ranked number ten as recently as January 2012, before health problems sadly forced him out of the game. News of his death brought a flood of condolences from his long-time friends and compatriots; with the tributes being led by then newly-crowned World Champion, Magnus Carlsen.
And such was his popularity that, just a couple of months after his death, there was an elite super-tournament memorial held in his honor, with an all-star field that featured many of his generational rivals and fellow Azeri teammates. Gashimov’s inaugural memorial was won by Carlsen - and the World Champion returns to defend his title and once again honor his friend, as he heads the field for the 2nd Vugar Gashimov Memorial that got underway today in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.
Apart from Carlsen, the elite memorial - which will run through 26th April - also features two former world champions and three potential challengers for the title, with Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Michael Adams and Rauf Mamedov completing the line-up.
Round 1: So 1-0 Giri, Kramnik 1-0 Adams, Anand draw Carlsen, Mamedov draw Vachier-Lagrave, Mamedyarov draw Caruana.
V Anand - M Carlsen
Vugar Gashimov Memorial, (1)
Ruy Lopez, Marshall Attack
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 The Marshall Attack, named after the legendary US champion Frank J. Marshall, who used it as his secret weapon against Jose Raul Capablanca at New York 1918. The myth goes that Marshall deliberately kept his analysis secret for seven years before playing it against Capa - but this has since been debunked by historians. 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 The tabiya of the Marshall Attack - Black sacrifices a pawn for active piece-play and a ready-made kingside attack. But at this level of chess, all the fireworks more or less fizzle out to an inevitable draw. 12.d3 12.d4 is the main-line - but 12.d3 is a good, alternative invented by David Bronstein. 12...Bd6 13.Re1 Bf5 14.Qf3 Bg6N 15.Bxd5 cxd5 16.Bf4 d4!? 16...Bxf4 17.Qxf4 Bxd3 18.Nd2 Re8 19.Re3! Rxe3 20.Qxe3 Bg6 21.Re1 may just leave White with the prospects of a marginally better ending, playing on the isolated d-pawn and the queenside pawn weakness. Instead, Carlsen opts to attempt to negate those problems. 17.cxd4 Bb4 18.Nc3 Qxd4 White has no real advantage with the extra pawn - Black has two very active bishops and constant pressure on the d-pawn. 19.Be5 Qd7? This has to be a miscalculation from Carlsen - the safer option was the obvious 19...Qxd3 20.Re3 Qf5 21.Qxf5 Bxf5 22.Nd5 Bc5 23.Rg3 Bg6 with a likely draw coming. But now, Anand has more to bite on. Can he beat the Marshall and Carlsen on the same day? 20.Nd5! f6 21.Nxb4 21.Bc3! looked stronger. 21...Bxc3 22.Ne7+! Kf7 23.Nxg6 Kxg6 (23...hxg6?! just further weakens Black's pawns going into a difficult ending a pawn down.) 24.bxc3 and Carlsen will have a difficult job saving the draw here. 21...fxe5 22.Qd5+ Qxd5 23.Nxd5 Bxd3 24.Rxe5 Rfe8 25.Rxe8+ Rxe8 26.Ne3 Not the best from Anand. Carlsen would have needed to be in his best "Houdini" mode to save the game after 26.Nb4! Bc4 27.b3 (27.Nxa6 Bxa2!) 27...a5! 28.Nc6 (28.bxc4 axb4 29.cxb5 Rb8 should lead to a technical draw, going down to R and 3 vs R and 2 on the kingside.) 28...Bd5 29.Nxa5 Re2 and Black's very active pieces could well salvage the draw. But then again, White would have the two pawns. 26...Rc8 27.a3 a5 To save the draw, Carlsen has to first liquidate the queenside pawns, then he can cope better with the 3 to 2 disadvantage on the kingside. 28.h4 Bg6 29.Rd1 b4 30.axb4 axb4 31.g4 b3 32.h5 Bf7 33.Kg2 Kf8 34.Kg3 Ra8 Carlsen's only hope here is to tie Anand down to defending the b-pawn. 35.Rd2 h6 36.Nf5 Be6 37.Nd4 Bf7 38.f3 38.Rd3 Ra2 39.Nxb3 Rxb2 should easily draw, with all the pawns now on the kingside. 38...Rc8 39.Kf4 Rc1 40.Nf5 Kg8 41.Rd8+ Kh7 42.Rd7 Kg8 43.Rd8+ 43.Nd6! Bd5 44.Ke5! was the only way to try to play for the win. 43...Kh7 44.Rd7 Kg8 45.Nd6 Be6 46.Re7 Bd5 47.Kf5 (See Diagram) 47...Rc6! Stopping any mating threats with a Kg6 - now White loses a pawn, and with it, any chances of winning. 48.Ke5 Bxf3 49.Nf5 g5! The rook on c6 now also defends the h6-pawn. 50.Rg7+ Kh8 51.Rg6 Kh7! 52.Rg7+ Kh8 53.Rg6 Kh7 And, as ever, Carlsen does his Houdini act! ½–½