During the press conference after round 1 I was asked about a perceived tendency to start slow and spend some rounds to get going. There might have been a few tournaments in a row where this happened a few years back, but that was more the equivalent of tossing several coin-flips in a row showing .heads up. rather than a relevant trend. Right now I.m quite satisfied having won the first round in several tournaments in a row. It helps of course to start with two white games.
Shakryar Mamedyarov is currently ranked no 10 in the world and while we have played in the same tournaments many times from the 2003 World Youth onwards, we haven.t played against each other that often.
He is a highly gifted tactical player, and I tried to play positional chess without allowing messy tactics. Admittedly I was surprised in the opening. He does play 5. Nbd7 and the Cambridge Spring variation, but I was not really prepared for playing white in the line in which I was black against Gelfand in the Candidates last year. I deviated with 11.Be2 and in retrospect it turned out to be a good choice.
The critical point in the game was just before his 21. Ng6. He had missed some kind of tactics, and after 22.Qd3 I was clearly better with a pleasant positional advantage. With his bishop stuck on a5, a weak pawn on e6 and my control of g6 and the d-line it was a matter of technique. He tried to find a sacrifice leading to a perpetual just before the first time control, but I had enough time left to calculate the critical variation. 1-0.
I thought Caruana would join me in the lead as he had turned a worse position against Nakamura into a winning advantage. But low on time he missed the win, and the game ended in a draw. Karjakin had the initiative as white against Radjabov in a topical line of the French Tarrach variation. Radjabov defended well and drew in the end.
The tournament 40-move rule - no draw except by repetition of moves before move 40 . works. Not surprisingly we saw hard fought games on all boards in both A and B groups today.
Tomorrow I.m white against Hikaru Nakamura!
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 20th, 2014