April 30, 2014 15:59

Carlsen Beats Caruana in Final Round, Wins Shamkir Chess 2014

On Wednesday Magnus Carlsen won the first edition of the Shamkir Chess tournament in Azerbaijan. In the last round the world champion defeated Fabiano Caruana with the white pieces to finish clear first, with a score of 6.5/10. Sergey Karjakin drew all his games; in the last round he split the point with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Hikaru Nakamura and Teimour Radjabov also drew their last round game.

For a while the World Champion seemed vulnerable, and there was the possibility that someone else would win in Shamkir, but in the end he added yet another tournament victory to his growing list. On Wednesday Magnus Carlsen silenced all discussions about the tiebreak rules (and about whether he was really struggling wit his form) by winning his last-round game against Fabiano Caruana. The Norwegian finished in clear first place with 6.5 points and a performance slightly below his rating, but a full point ahead of runner-up Caruana.

Carlsen hadn't spent much time preparing for his last round game as he enjoyed the Bayern-Real match on Tuesday night instead. He went for something non-theoretical: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 c5 5.c3 and when Caruana played the natural 5...d5, Carlsen took on c5. “I liked my position out of the opening. He has some compensation but White should be better,” he said.

“I probably overestimated my position. It seems that my compensation was not fully sufficient. But I think I had a decent position at some point although I'm not sure where. I just didn't have enough time to find the way,” said Caruana.

PGN string

In his game with Sergey Karjakin, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov needed a lot of time on the clock, and at several moments he had his head resting on the table in front of the chess board. This was most probably related to the fact that he had joined the players of the B group in the morning for another football match!

But even though he was quite tired, he calculated reasonably well in a very complicated middle game - it was the same variation Nakamura and Karjakin had played earlier in the tournament. At one moment Mamedyarov could perhaps even have gained the upper hand, but as it went, the game was drawn with a perpetual check that was stretched out a bit longer than necessary.

PGN string


Karjakin said about his ten draws: “If anyone says it's easy to draw with Carlsen, Caruana and everybody else, I can say: it's not! And also, I've played three tournaments in a row. Now I will have a one month break and then I will come back playing chess again.”

In the month of May he has other plans, as Teimour Radjabov today revealed on Twitter. Karjakin will marry for the second time in his life, with Galiya Kamalova, a charming girl who has accompanied him at many recent tournaments, including this one.

Sergey Karjakin, about to get married again

Hikaru Nakamura and Teimour Radjabov played a bit of a strange game. Radjabov surprised with the Berlin Ending, but Nakamura went for it anyway has he felt he had plenty of experience from the black side.

Up till move 27 it was a pretty normal game, but from that moment the players kept on maneuvering without doing much. Four hours later, at move 77 (!) a draw was agreed in almost the same position!

“After 27.f4 we could have drawn four hours earlier. I figured if Mangus can play for twenty hours against Teimour yesterday I might as well try the same,” smiled Nakamura. Radjabov said that at some point he realized that his opponent wasn't trying anything, but ”that he has nothing special to do until the closing ceremony.”

PGN string

Looking back at another tournament victory, Carlsen said: “My play has been OK. A little bit sluggish at times. [After the two losses] obviously I was motivated to get those points back. I had the necessary combination of skill and luck I suppose, and I won three complicated games. I wouldn't say that I was at my best energy-wise in the second half either, but fortunately it was enough to handle the complicated positions better than my opponents.”

Sarkhan Gashimov asked Carlsen if he wants to play against a computer, because “he is beating everybody”. The reply: “For now the struggle against humans is much more interesting to me. As you can see from this tournament, although I won it in the end the games are very interesting, fighting. It's never easy. Not yet, anyway!”

At the different press conferences, all the players agreed that they had played in an event that was organized at the highest level. The last day's activities underlined that fact a bit more: after the closing ceremony held in the venue, everyone was taken to the Shamkir sports stadium to attend a spectacular music and dance show - thousands of spectators were already present when the chess delegation arrived and took the front seats. It was an event held in connection with the tournament, but intended for all inhabitants of Shamkir. 

After that, another dinner party in the back garden of the hotel was thrown and that ended the tournament. On Thursday most players will fly back to Baku, from where they will continue their trip back home. But not Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura; they will travel via Istanbul to Italy to play in the national league there.

The biggest events in May will be the Sigeman tournament in Malmö, the Karpov Tournament in Poikovsky and the Capablanca Memorial in Havana. The next super tournament will be Norway Chess, in June.

A group photo with players, organizers and sponsors
Pavel Eljanov receiving his trophy
Magnus Carlsen with his
In the first row, on the football pitch of the Shamkir stadium...
Watching a show of traditional music and dance


Shamkir Chess 2014 | A | Pairings & results

Round 1 20.04.14 15:00 AZST   Round 6 26.04.14 15:00 AZST
Carlsen 1-0 Mamedyarov   Mamedyarov 0-1 Carlsen
Nakamura ½-½ Caruana   Caruana ½-½ Nakamura
Karjakin ½-½ Radjabov   Radjabov ½-½ Karjakin
Round 2 21.04.14 15:00 AZST   Round 7 27.04.14 15:00 AZST
Mamedyarov ½-½ Radjabov   Radjabov ½-½ Mamedyarov
Caruana ½-½ Karjakin   Karjakin ½-½ Caruana
Carlsen 1-0 Nakamura   Nakamura 0-1 Carlsen
Round 3 22.04.14 15:00 AZST   Round 8 28.04.14 15:00 AZST
Nakamura 1-0 Mamedyarov   Mamedyarov 0-1 Nakamura
Karjakin ½-½ Carlsen   Carlsen ½-½ Karjakin
Radjabov ½-½ Caruana   Caruana 1-0 Radjabov
Round 4 23.04.14 15:00 AZST   Round 9 29.04.14 15:00 AZST
Karjakin ½-½ Mamedyarov   Caruana 1-0 Mamedyarov
Radjabov ½-½ Nakamura   Radjabov ½-½ Carlsen
Caruana 1-0 Carlsen   Karjakin ½-½ Nakamura
Round 5 24.04.14 15:00 AZST   Round 10 30.04.14 13:00 AZST
Mamedyarov 1-0 Caruana   Mamedyarov ½-½ Karjakin
Carlsen 0-1 Radjabov   Nakamura ½-½ Radjabov
Nakamura ½-½ Karjakin   Carlsen 1-0 Caruana

Shamkir Chess 2014 | A | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2881 2868 phpfCo1l0.png 01 ½½ 11 11 6.5/10  
2 Caruana,Fabiano 2783 2814 10 phpfCo1l0.png ½1 ½½ ½½ 01 5.5/10  
3 Radjabov,Teimour 2713 2793 ½0 phpfCo1l0.png ½½ ½½ ½½ 5.0/10 25.50
4 Karjakin,Sergey 2772 2781 ½½ ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png ½½ ½½ 5.0/10 25.00
5 Nakamura,Hikaru 2772 2781 00 ½½ ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png 11 5.0/10 21.50
6 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2760 2638 00 10 ½½ ½½ 00 phpfCo1l0.png 3.0/10  

The rounds start at 12:00 Amsterdam, 6am New York and 3am Los Angeles time. The official website is www.shamkirchess.az. Chess.com offers daily live commentary at www.chess.com/tv. Games via TWICphpfCo1l0.png


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Greco's picture


septimus's picture

This is why Magnus is a cut above the rest. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Anon's picture

I just can't get myself to see Carlsen as a fierce klingon warrior :-)

Anonymous's picture
blade's picture

At last, Magnus achieved his vengeance against Caruana! long live the chess king!!

AAR's picture

This game is not typical Caruana. I would not be surprised if Naiditsch or Morozevich or Ivanchuk had played this game.

Caruana was playing for the tournament not even for a draw with black.
In fact with all the risk taking it looked like a Rapid game.

Having said that, Carlsen definitely deserved to win the tournament and WCH is going to one hell of an event if Anand continues his candidates form and Carlsen continues his, well, usual form.

KingMe's picture

With this victory, Carlsen has won as many supertournaments as Anand has over his entire career.

pioneer's picture

Of course, Carlsen never had to face prime Kasparov and (slightly) post-prime Karpov the way Anand did during his first 10 years in the chess elite.

Mort's picture

Nor did Kasparov have too face prime Kasparov. So i guess his tournament vicories can not be counted either.

MartSmeets's picture

Brilliant argument

Anonymous's picture

"Of course, Carlsen never had to face prime Kasparov and (slightly) post-prime Karpov the way Anand did during his first 10 years in the chess elite"

Karpov's last win in a top tournament was in 1995, and it's almost 10 years since Kasparov retired, so still rather impressive that Carlsen has managed as many top tournament wins in 5 years as Anand in 25.

Anonymous's picture

In general I'd say the tournaments Carlsen has won have been stronger. Take for example Wijk 1989, where Anand shared first with three other players in a field where the clearly highest rated player was 2625. Even if that was enough for Ribli to barely squeeze in as the only participant on the top ten list, half the field was below 2550.

Thomas Richter's picture

Now that's selective if anything has ever been selective. 1989 may predate the period when Wijk aan Zee featured the absolute world top - Anand had just turned 19 and had become India's first GM at the age of 18. Back then, it was rather unusual to become a GM at a younger age, and Anand couldn't benefit from a chess culture (unlike many others including, in a way, Carlsen - Norway is after all part of Europe).

Later there was, for example, Wijk aan Zee 2006, where the field included six top10 players (not the nominal #1 because Kasparov had just retired), three more from the top20 and rising star (B group qualifier) Karjakin - a race between Anand and Topalov for first place, both scoring +5. There was Morelia/Linares 2007 and 2008. There was candidates 2014.

Anonymous's picture

"Anand couldn't benefit from a chess culture (unlike many others including, in a way, Carlsen - Norway is after all part of Europe)"

The question didn't concern that Carlsen benefitted from the great Norwegian chess culture while Anand didn't, but rather that the top tournaments Carlsen won the last years in general are stronger than those Anand won, so one can't just count numbers and get an equal result, and after that conclude that Anand had tougher competition because of Kasparov and Karpov.

Some examples of the Anand tournament wins that make it equal in numbers:

Wijk 1989: one opponent in the top 10
Madrid 1993: two opponents in the top 20
Merida 2001: no opponent in the top 10
Baden 2013: no opponent in the top 10

I don't think any of Carlsen's tournaments had that level of opposition, even if Anand also of course won many tournaments that were no weaker than those Carlsen won.

Thomas Richter's picture

IMO the entire discussion just shows that it's a bit futile to compare records over long periods, even if the players' careers overlap.

"Anand had tougher competition because of Kasparov and Karpov" would have to be evaluated by counting the number of tournaments where Anand finished second or third behind one/both of them. During much of his career, Anand was also competing with Kramnik and +- Topalov - this can also be interpreted or sold in two ways: 1) Carlsen is stronger because he became dominant, 2) Anand had stronger competition [I go for 1.5+-0.2, but that's as random as anything else].

Overall - this isn't discussed for the first time now - it still looks like trying to diminish what Anand has achieved. For example "Baden 2013: no opponent in the top 10" is technically correct because Caruana had temporarily left the top10, but he was nonetheless a strong opponent, and Adams couldn't be taken lightly: later during his great year 2014 he won Dortmund ahead of two top10 players - Kramnik and Caruana who had returned in the meantime.

"I don't think any of Carlsen's tournaments had that level of opposition" - what about Biel? 2007 one top10 player (Radjabov #9, then Grischuk #14), 2011 no (other) top10 players, 2012 when Wang Hao won on football score just one other top10 player (Nakamura).

Any example has a counter-example, unless/until someone makes the effort to come up with a rigorous and complete compilation - my gut feeling is that Carlsen would have a certain edge. BTW it is also IMO unduly selective to count only wins, while second places seem completely irrelevant.

Anonymous's picture
Grandma's picture

Interessting list.

Shows that Carsen, age only 23 (!!!) , Topalov age 39, and Vishy, age 44, all have won 21 supertournaments, Kramnik, age 39 only two ahead..

It's not hard to predict who is gonna be number one in the future on this list. :-)

The only questions is maybe:

Will Magnus catch Kasparov's record, or is it unbeatable?

I want to add: they all are great players.

(But Magnus is simply the very best.)

Anonymous's picture

Still a bit tricky to compare, for example Vishy's Baden 2013 is included while Carlsen's Biel 2007 is considered too weak. Also Kramnik's 10 Dortmund wins look nice but weren't always that strong.

Anonymous's picture

Strange list. Wins on tiebreak are regarded as regular wins. Tournament criteria are questionable and the maker doesn't even have info on Karpov's number of wins.
But even if the list was any good it would be just another meaningless comparison.

I want to add: all you commentors are biased.
(But Grandma the very most)

Anonymous's picture

The one that made the list hardly made it to include all players and noted that he hadn't listed Karpov yet, why not make your own list instead of complaining? And a tiebreak win hardly means finishing second so why not include tournaments won on tiebreak as won? Kramnik won five Dortmund on tiebreak but those should still count.

Anonymous's picture

I'm not interested in making such a list, that's why.
And to count tie break wins when leaving out shared 1/2nd when there are no tie breaks is just ridiculousness.

Anonymous's picture

"leaving out shared 1/2nd when there are no tie breaks is just ridiculousness"

They aren't left out though, so nothing to complain about there either.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for taking the bait. So in this list finishing sole first counts for just as much as finishing shared first. Unless some random tie break declares you 2nd. Actually there is an awful lot to complain about.

Anonymous's picture

Drink it up Thomas ! Drink it all up !!!

Greco's picture


anonymus's picture

Magnus proves again he is the best. Pitty its dificult to compare him to former champs but my guess is he would be top 3 of all times.lars

Calvin Amari's picture

Compare Carlsen's post-championship tournament play with that of Anand. Magnus plays with no fear and exploits his superior skill both in micro and macro ways. In individual games, based on his confidence that he can outplay anyone, he is more than willing to risk ceding his opponent certain latitude even at the risk of being a little worse. In tournaments, he can accept significant risk of loss with the knowledge that in the long run he is likely to come out on top. In this event, he came out a full point ahead of a strong field notwithstanding two losses in a row. With the risks he takes, stepping too far over the danger line will happen from time to time, but this is an exciting approach to chess.

jimknopf's picture

+1 well said

kcmclvr's picture

A strikingly factual observation. In his desire to win and taking risks on account of it, he is really outstanding. But, his ability to confine his risk taking range within his known capabilities is what elevates him above most. Nakumara, Mamedyarov are also big risk takers. But they wield their swords a bit more than what their true capabilities are. Hence, they cut through at < 2700 ELO opposition, but, suffer more losses at the highest level. However, I love their dynamic and risk taking styles as only such players can prevent top level Chess becoming very boring to Chess lovers.

Calvin Amari's picture

"his ability to confine his risk taking range within his known capabilities is what elevates him "

Precisely. And therein lies the excitement because this so often seems like Magnus is walking a highwire tightrope.

David Korn's picture

+2 well said indeed. Thank you!

Thomas Richter's picture

For a Carlsen fan, Carlsen does everything right even if he loses ... . When did he really take deliberate and conscious risks? Maybe against Radjabov, where trying to trick an experienced KID player in a sideline backfired - but this may have been more foolish than risky, just like Karjakin's choice of 4.f3 against Carlsen's Nimzo-Indian without properly preparing for all possible black replies. With black against Caruana, he blundered - simple as that.

Regarding his wins: the ones with white were risk-free. With black he won after _the opponent_ played risky chess - Nakamura and Mamedyarov because it's their way of playing, Caruana because he was more or less forced due to the tournament and tiebreak situation. Only against Nakamura, Carlsen was really risking something - no chooice, there is no wholly safe way against the 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian.

Anonymous's picture

Agree with Thomas that Carlsen didn't really take any risks but just was foolish.

Anonymous's picture

delusional. obsessive.

Pioneer's picture

Hey Thomas, this "bad" tournament by Carlsen is better than anything Kramnik has done over 10+ rounds in years. Quit hating.

Anonymous's picture

For a Carlsen hater, Carlsen does everything wrong even if he wins.

Thomas is a whiner's picture

If this is not the ravings of a Carlsen hater, I would hate to see what is.

Thomas is a whiner's picture

Thomas is in serious danger of topping himself. He needs to go and see a shrink.

Anonymous's picture

Striking how numerous people are complaining about imaginary haters and Thomas in particular, and when he finally makes a response, the first post with content incidentally, they twist his words.
Obsessive and delusional indeed. But not of Thomas.

Anonymous's picture

Agree that Thomas has nothing against Carlsen, he just says the truth!

Medical Specialist's picture

Yes, I agree.
Thomas' posts exhibit signs of depression. He is unable to acknowledge Carlsen's victory and desperately clings onto some fantasy that Carlsen's victory is not deserved.
He needs to get treatment for this illness.

Anonymous's picture

Like some journalists, he's looking for occasions to use his statistical and overall knowledge about chess. He should've spent a reasonable amount of time to accomplish all that. It's human, I really can't blame him. He seems to be serious about his passion and certainly knows and tries to respect the fine line between criticism and insulting language, unlike some other german guy here.

Rosemary Pink's picture

Thomas is a journalist?? Who'd have thought??

jimknopf's picture

"For a Carlsen fan, Carlsen does everything right even if he loses ..." That's not what the OP said.

He said that Carlsen accepts risky setups, and he's completely right about that.

At least I don't know many people who would go for a long term queenside attack in an f3 Nimzo against a reigning world champion like Anand, just being confident not to get mated and to survive somehow by finding sufficient counterplay. And then admitting after the game, that the danger of getting mated became more concrete than he had thought. Or to see the same person, hardly surviving that game, then repeatedly go for the same risky setup against Naka, who is well known for king attacking skills, as if it were just a matter of chess curiosity to check and clarify matters.

Carlsen doesn't care a bit about the usual chess clichees. He plays dry whenever he wants, and he goes for unbalanced setups, when he wants, or plays the Ne2 variation against a highly skilled King's Indian specialist to see what happens, or goes through a complex middlegame like today.

And sometimes he loses and even blunders, but he does both much less than the rest of the bunch, and in the end, he stays ahead. If you can't see any of that strength, I'm sorry for you.

So I simply can't share your view on Carlsen's games, nor that on some posisitive comments about his play, Thomas.

Grandma's picture


Very well said, @ jimknopf. :)

Septimus's picture

Thomas, give it up man. You are sounding more irrational by the day. Carlsen played the best OTB chess and smashed his opponents. End of story.

Anonymous's picture
MartSmeets's picture

What is properly preparing. If you're not at minimum an IM yourself, you have no idea at all. It is impossible to prepare all the sidelines completely. Even for world-class players, there comes a time of improvising at the board. Against Carlsen, this time comes rather quickly. By the way 5.Nge2 scores a bit better than 5.Nf3 and Radjabov never faced it. So this must have been a conscious choice by Carlsen to just sit down and play a game. And then he got outplayed for once. Probably because Radjabov feels so confident in the KID. It happens. As Fischer said: all that can happen is that you lose a game.

Anonymous's picture

Anand at 23 and even at 35, was a far more attacking player than Carlsen is right now. Anand's risk averseness grew with age, and with mutliple world crowns. Let's see how Carlsen fares in the years ahead.

Grandma's picture

@Calvin Amari


Yes! :)


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