Viswanathan Anand, the former five-time world chess champion, had not gotten off to a good start in the Shamkir Chess tournament held in Azerbaijan, Baku. In his first game against Czech Republic’s top-ranked chess player David Navara, he had his opponent in trouble when it came to the position on the board and in time control. However, Anand offered a draw after 41 moves. In his second game against current world champion Magnus Carlsen, Anand was ina steady position but three consecutive blunders resulted in Carlsen securing his second straight win over Anand, following his earlier win in Wijk Aan Zee at the start of the year.
However, Anand displayed his mental strength and bounced back in the tournament in grand style by beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with white pieces but it was not all smooth sailing for Anand. Mamedyarov had initially controlled the game brilliantly and was actually building up the pressure against Anand. However, Mamedyarov blundered and put himself under time pressure and Anand turned the tables. After 65 moves, Anand secured the win to move to fourth spot in the table.
On the other hand, Magnus Carlsen went into the sole lead after beating Navara, extending his unbeaten run 44 games. Carlsen now has 2851 ELO points, a full 35 points behind Fabio Caruana, who is currently ranked second in the world. Anand will now face Chinese Grandmaster Ding Liren in the next round and he will be hoping to bounce back.
The Shamkir Chess tournament is played in the memory of Vugar Gashimov, an Azerbaijani Chess Grandmaster who once reached a peak ranking of number six in the world and was noted for his play in the blitz format of the game. Gashimov fell ill in 2000 with epilepsy but he was later diagnosed with brain tumour. His last tournament was the Tata Steel Chess tournament in 2012 but on January 11, 2014, he died at the age of 24. The first edition of the tournament was held in his memory in 2014 and has been continuing since then.
Carlsen is a three-time winner of the tournament while Mamedyarov, who lost to Anand in the third round, won the tournament in 2016 and 2017. These were the years in which Carlsen did not participate.