The Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir got off to an exciting start with two victories in five games and two other games that very nearly had a winner. The first decisive game was Wesley So's crushing win over Anish Giri. So quickly dragged Giri out of theory, and as great as he is Giri looked like the proverbial fish out of water. I was reminded of a game I played against Anna Sharevich in 2014, where shortly after the opening ended I managed to do just about everything wrong. There was a famous model game in the opening line we played that I knew very well and had taught various students and shown in videos, and yet I was allowing my opponent to execute practically every idea from that earlier game. Fortunately, my play improved at a certain point and I scraped out a draw, but the first part of the game was almost a horror as I watched myself walk into every kind of trouble. I imagine Giri felt something like that, and in his case he wasn't given a chance to climb off the canvas.
The second won game also featured surprisingly soft defense by the conquered player. Vladimir Kramnik enjoyed some pull with White in a Catalan against Michael Adams, and through move 23 that's all it was. A slip on that move (23...Rab8 instead of 23...Rdb8, allowing 24.Rfd1!) made Kramnik's advantage a serious one, and then further errors on moves 28 and 30 put the game out of reach.
Those games would have been minor stories, however, had Viswanathan Anand managed to convert a winning advantage against Magnus Carlsen. Somewhat shockingly, Carlsen played the Marshall Gambit against Anand, entering the sort of theoretical discussion where Anand typically shines and which Carlsen tends to avoid. Anand played well and had an edge, but the big moment occurred when Carlsen blundered with 19...Qd7? After 20.Nd5! Carlsen was fortunate not to lose on the spot, yet even the resulting pawn-down endgame should have been losing for him in the long run. For a while Anand showed excellent technique, and was well on the way to the win. Unfortunately for him, he missed a possible winner on move 43 and definitely miscalculated on move 47, either missing 49...g5! or 51...Kh7, after which the game finished in a draw.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov pushed hard against Fabiano Caruana and may have been close to a win. In the end, after 90 long moves, the players called it a day.
Finally, Rauf Mamedov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also drew, and for the only time in the round no one was close to a win. Mamedov had an edge throughout, and thanks to MVL's good defense that's all he ever got, and the players agreed to a draw right after making the time control on move 40.
The games, with my (light) comments are here; round 2 pairings follow:
- Adams (0) - Caruana (.5)
- Carlsen (.5) - Mamedyarov (.5)
- Vachier-Lagrave (.5) - Anand (.5)
- Giri (0) - Mamedov (.5)
- Kramnik (1) - So (1)