Gashimov Memorial R1: Anand stumbles in the first round

GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Viswanathan Anand are the biggest names at the seventh Vugar Gashimov Memorial which kicked off on Saturday. This year the tournament is a combination of quick chess and blitz.

How to look?
You can follow the Vugar Gashimov Memorial matches here.

After Christmas, it’s time again for the traditional and last flagship event of the year, the FIDE World Rapid & Blitz. It’s great to see some of the biggest names in chess such as GM Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi on the preliminary list of participants.

The week before Christmas, however, there’s a nice warm-up, and it’s also quick and blitz. After six classic tournaments in memory of GM Vugar Gashimov, the seventh edition features seven quick game rounds in two parts, followed by two days of blitz. This time it takes place in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and not in Chamkir.

The seed is Caruana, who traveled to Azerbaijan almost immediately after leaving the Utah studio where he commented on the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi game. Five-time world champion Anand is another big star, while GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, GM Richard Rapport and GM Sergey Karjakin are no strangers either.

Further down the list are veteran grandmasters David Navara and Rauf Mamedov, while a fairly unknown name is GM Vugar Asadli. The 20-year-old local grandmaster is currently the 10th ranked player in Azerbaijan.

Vugar Gashimov Memorial 2021 | Participants

# fed Last name Standard Fast Blitz
1 Fabiano Caruana 2792 2770 2803
2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2767 2727 2754
3 Richard Report 2763 2750 2754
4 Viswanathan Anand 2751 2748 2825
5 Sergei Karzakin 2743 2757 2657
6 David Navara 2697 2706 2763
seven Rauf Mamedov 2656 2690 2686
8 Vugar Asadli 2579 2309 2386

The tournament started on Saturday, with just one round of quick chess. Caruana, Mamedyarov and Rapport all won their two-game mini-matches, scoring three points.

Rapport won both games against Karjakin, and both were very interesting. Here is the first, where the Hungarian, as often, played an opening variation which is supposed to be a bit questionable from a theoretical point of view but which proved to be quite playable in practice. Karjakin might have been prepared for it since Rapport also played it online this year:

Gasim Gashimov Karjakin Report
Gasim Gashimov, Vugar’s father, takes the first step in Karjakin-Rapport. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

After securing a soft victory with the white pieces (see below this report), Anand failed to hold his black game against Mamedov, who played a favorite line of his in the Italian. The Azerbaijani GM had an overwhelming advantage as one of the poor Anand Knights landed in h8. Black was OK later in the game but still went down:

It was the only game of the day that ended in a 1-1 draw and, therefore, the only game where an armageddon was played. Anand, as White, got five minutes to four for Mamedov, who had draw odds. In a tense phase of time issues, Anand won briefly but ultimately lost in time:

Rauf Mamedov
A good start for Rauf Mamedov, pictured here during the opening ceremony. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

Ranking after day 1

# fed Last name Fast 1 2 3 4 5 6 seven 8 pts
1 Fabiano Caruana 2770 3 3
2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2727 3 3
3 Richard Report 2750 3 3
seven Rauf Mamedov 2690 2 2
4 Viswanathan Anand 2748 1 1
5 Sergei Karzakin 2757 0 0
6 David Navara 2706 0 0
8 Vugar Asadli 2309 0 0

All games day 1

Gashimov Memorial 2021 chess opening ceremony
The opening ceremony took place on Friday. All players received a hat, which bore their pairing number. Photo: Gashimov Chess.

The Gashimov Memorial begins with two-game quick matches (December 18-21) where the winner gets three points and the loser gets zero. In the event of a tie, an armageddon game decides, and the winner gets two points and the loser gets one. Then a double round robin blitz tournament follows (December 22-23) where the time control is five minutes plus a three-second increment, and the point system is back to normal.

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