CHENNAI : Magnus Carlsen has been the most dominant chess player for the last eight years, winning four World titles, besides being World No 1 for a long time. By his own high standards, the Norwegian has underperformed in classical chess for the last two years. However in 2019, Carlsen is back to his imperious best, winning the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, outdistancing his nearest rivals by two points (7/9). This title triumph was reminiscent of some of his spectacular victories in Nanjing (2009, 8/10), London (2012, 6.5/8) and Wijk aan Zee (2013, 10/13). It was his fourth title in Shamkir (2014, 2015, 2018 & 2019) and the 28-year-old achieved a staggering performance rating of 2988!
“It’s one of the best tournaments I’ve ever played, both in terms of performance and also the quality of the games,” reflected a beaming Carlsen at the press conference.Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand (4.5) had a moderate event, taking the joint fourth place along with Teimour Radjabov and Alexander Grischuk. He was in the reckoning for a podium finish until his loss to Sergei Karjakin in the sixth round.
The Russian out-prepared Anand to spoil the Indian’s chances of a higher placing in the tournament. The tournament could have ended even better for the Chennaiite if he had converted a winning position against David Navara and avoided an unnecessary loss to Carlsen in a drawn position. He had his moments in the event, posting his first victory over Dutch No 1 Anish Giri in the longer format, besides defeating Azeri No 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov for the second straight time this year.
Sergei Karjakin and Ding Liren (both 5) shared the second spot with a +1 score.
Retaining his world title in 2018 has given Carlsen a second wind! He started the new season, winning the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee for the seventh time, where his marathon win over Anand spurred him to success.
This victory demonstrated Carlsen’s attitude of squeezing the maximum out of the position, which used to be his biggest strength when he won his maiden world crown in 2013. His second title of the year showed Carlsen’s ability to win games in scintillating fashion. Carlsen’s victories over Giri and Karjakin showed that he revels in dynamic positions too!
Carlsen, who had successfully deployed the Sicilian Sveshnikov variation in his world title match against Fabiano Caruana, has added another dimension to his game. He is ready for sharp battles, which is indicated by his victories over Jorden van Foreest, David Navara and Karjakin in complex positions.
Final Placings (Top 6)
1. M Carlsen (Nor) 7, 2-3: Ding Liren (Chn), S Karjakin (Rus) 5, 4-6: T Radjabov (Aze), A Grischuk (Rus), V Anand (Ind) 4.5.