Chess Notes

Weekly chess column

Vugar Gashimov, the Azeri grandmaster, was 27 when he died early this year in a German hospital from complications of a brain tumor. The news came as great shock to the chess world. To honor his memory, the Azerbaijan Chess Federation organized the Gashimov Memorial Chess Tournament. Many of the world’s best players accepted the invitation, including Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, and Hikaru Nakamura, the top US player.

Today’s game comes from the third round when Nakamura faced Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, the top Azeri player. It came at a crucial time for Nakamura as he had just lost a bad game the day before to Carlsen and he needed to bounce back to have any real chances in the tournament. In this game, Mamedyarov wisely chose the calm Caro-Kann in an attempt to limit Nakamura’s aggressiveness but patience is not a key ingredient in the Azeri’s game and he could not resist grabbing a pawn. This gave the American the activity he lives for. Faced with a difficult defense, Mamedyarov lashed out recklessly with g5 which led to his quick defeat.


2014 Vugar Gashimov Memorial,

Shamkir, Azerbijan

Hikaru Nakamura (2772) vs.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2760)



1.e4 c6 The Caro-Kann defense, so named after the Englishman, Horatio Caro, and the Austrian, Marcus Kann. It has long been the choice of professional players who want a solid and safe opening. It can be also chosen as a way to annoy very aggressive White players as Botvinnik tried to do in his two matches against Mikhail Tal in 1960 and 1961 but with mixed results. 2.d4 d5 3.e5 The Advance variation which has, of late, come back into vogue after being considered inferior for many years. One reason 3.e5 got a bad reputation was from Nimzowitsch’s bad loss to Capablanca in 1927 and from the following game of Jacques Mieses-Marcus Kann, 1885 German Chess Congress: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Bd3? Bxd3 5.Qxd3 e6 6.f4 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.Nf3 Qb6 9.0-0 Nh6 10.b3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nf5 12.Bb2 Rc8 13.a3?? (Loses by force) Ncxd4 14.Nxd4 Bc5 15.Rd1 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 17.Qxd4 Rc1! (Pins are always tricky things!) 0-1. 3...Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nc3 Nc6 Also, possible is 7...Qxb2 but after 8.Nb5 Na6 9.dxc5 Bxc2 10.Qc1 Qxc1+ 11.Rxc1 Ba4 12.0–0 Nh6 13.Bxh6 gxh6 14.Nd6+ and White is much better. 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Bxc5 Qxc5 10.Nb5 Kf8 11.Nbd4 Nge7 12.0–0 Be4 13.Re1 Qb4 14.a3 Qxb2?! A bad psychological choice that gives Nakamura the type of active position he likes. Much better was to wait White out with 15… Qb6 and then get his king to safety with g6. 15.Rb1 Qxa3 16.Rxb7 Bxf3 17.Nxf3 For the pawn, White has active pieces and an insecure Black king to target but Black has a solid structure and he should get his king to safety soon enough. The computer thinks this is an equal position. 17...h6 Or maybe better is 17…Rb8 18.RxR NxR 19.c4 g6 20.cxd Nxd 21.Bc4 Qc5 22.BxN QxN 23.QxQ exQ 24.Ra1 a6 25.Ra5 Kg7 and its equal. 18.Qd2 g5? Not quite losing but it’s very close. White soon uses all the lines opened by this move against Black’s king. Holding was the simple 18…g6. 19.h4 g4 20.Nd4 Qa5 21.c3 Nxd4 22.Qxd4 Nf5 23.Qd2 d4 24.Bxg4 Qxc3 25.Qe2 Nxh4 26.Bh5 Rh7 27.Qe4! Winning as there is no good defense to Rxf7+, 27…Rg7 28.Rxf7+ RxR 29.QxR Kg7 30.Re4! Rc8 28.Qxh7 Qxe1+ 29.Kh2 Qxe5+ 30.g3 Rc7 This loses but there was no defense. 31.Rb8+ Ke7 32.Qxf7+ Kd6 33.Qf8+ Kd5 Now 34.Rc5+ wins. So, without waiting for White’s reply, Black resigned; 1–0