Leading Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir with two rounds to go
The football matches on the rest day against media and organizing committee teams were as usual hard-fought and fun with reasonably well-matched teams. The local teams displayed impressive technique, but the Chessplayers team won due to better stamina, tight defense and admittedly some lucky goals by yours truly:-)
I’m purposely not focusing much on round 2 to 4. Against Navara I got most of what I could have hoped for out of the opening, and then immediately gave him the necessary counterplay with the mistimed b4. He found the tactical resources needed and defended well. I did get a good position against Rauf Mamedov as well despite the black pieces. He also defended very well, and I didn’t see what I could have done to make any more progress. The Azeri players are generally known for their solid approach, and Radjabov with the white pieces forced a repetition of moves in the same position in which I drew against Leko with white in Morelia in 2007!
Round 5 was more fun for me. Partly directed at the specific opponent I chose an idea against the Sicilian with a known set-up but with the pawn on c2 instead of c4. Having been Anand’s second for many years, Wojtaszek knows mainlines better than most, and he is a good tactical player. White has the advantage of king safety and unless black can refute the opening early it is not so bad for white. Wojtaszek chose a plan with h7-h5-h4 which was not the best approach. I got an overwhelming position and could have gained a winning advantage with the Nd5-sacrifice. My intuition said it should work (and it does), but I wasn’t able to find a decisive line. Later I regretted playing the prosaic g4 instead. He more or less equalized, but the position was difficult to play for black and short on time he quickly collapsed.
Finding the right balance between calculation and trusting intuition might sometimes seem easy to the point of being an obvious element of your play when you are in great form. In reality it is more often a subtle tradeoff that even elite players struggle with.
With two rounds left I’ve got half a point lead ahead of Topalov, Giri and Ding Liren and Iook forward to the exciting finish. Friday I’m black against none other than Anish Giri!