The penultimate round turned out to be decisive in Shamkir.
Giri played1.c4 and a reversed Dragon Sicilian against me. After his 12.Nd2 I think he both expected and hoped for 12… Nd5 allowing simplification and a balanced position. Prior to the game I had a flexible approach and didn’t want to avoid a draw at high cost, but in the actual position f5 felt like an obvious choice. Despite computer evaluations I think most players might even prefer black. After grabbing the pawn on a4 white had no clear plan, and with Qd7, Rd8, Bg5 etc I had space and could soon put some pressure both in the center and on his kingside. The position was highly complex, and we both probably made some inaccurate moves although I never felt I was in any real danger. White got quite tied down and before the time control he made some decisive mistakes. Rather than suffering a lost endgame, he tried an interesting trick on move 41 When I responded appropriately he resigned.
Ding won against Mamedov, and Carlsen-Ding became a true final in round 9 Saturday. I contemplated both aggressive and more solid approaches to the game, but when he went for 4.Nd4 it became both tempting and realistic to secure clear 1st playing a drawish line. Ding came 2nd and Karjakin 3rd after beating former leader Topalov.
I cannot be fully satisfied with my own play despite winning in the end. As in Grenke Classics there were too may uneventful draws. Except after the opening against Topalov in round seven I never felt in trouble. There is a clear correlation between risk and reward in chess but I’m not sure it is very strong, particularly not in a single tournament. I hope to be able to create more eventful games and at the same time avoid too many precarious positions also in the future.
A few years back I felt there was something unreal and even unreasonable when others won events. Despite my good statistics that arguably was a somewhat objectionable perception, but maybe it helped me win some close fought events. This has changed slightly. This time I truly appreciated lifting the trophy and treasure my 3rd Shamkir victory.
Our flight is Tuesday morning and today we went on an excursion to beautiful Lake Goygol courtesy of the always hospitable and friendly organizers. Heartfelt thanks to the organizers, and tournament sponsors Synergy and Socar from me and my team!
In May I have a few events in the US, and my next major tournament is Norway Chess in Stavanger starting with Blitz on May 27th.
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, April 30th 2018