You don.t have to be superstitious to appreciate the statistics of tournament performances. In recent tournaments I.ve often lost round 3 and struggled in the last round. In Shamkir I won round 3, despite the black pieces. Yesterday as white against lowest rated Rauf Mamedov I got everything I could hope for from the opening having cemented his weak b-pawn at b7 and a pawn majority in the center. In the middlegame I did not find the best continuation and he defended very well. The queen and rook endgame is pleasant for white, but without a clear mistake from black it is difficult to make progress. If I had started to move my kingside pawns he would get counterplay. Surprisingly, slightly short on time, he blundered a pawn before the time control and resigned in disgust when I played Qf7. Not an entirely convincing last round victory, but overall I.m very satisfied with having made few mistakes, and the result 7 out of 9 is of course far better than expected.
Most of my strongest tournament performances in the past have been in 6-player double round robin tournaments. In 10 player all-play-all events (mainly Tal Memorial and Norway Chess) I.ve consistently scored +2 for several years. With the Grand Chess Tour using the 10-player format in Norway Chess, Sinquefield Cup and London Classics, scoring +5 in Shamkir was an encouraging prelude to the Tour☺,
V.Anand played very well in Shamkir. In addition to the three victories he had some very promising and few worse positions. His clear 2nd place secured sufficient rating point gain to place 2nd on the May rating list.
My younger challengers Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana placed three and four with 5/9.
I.m leaving Shamkir tomorrow having spent the day at the local chess center playing a simul and enjoying a tour with spectacular views into the nearby mountains in the Gadabay district.
I hope to be back next year. The organizer Synergy Group has done everything possible to make the stay in Shamkir comfortable and pleasant for me and my team. I.m sure the other players join me in expressing gratitude for staging Vugar Gashimov Memorial 2015 in such an excellent way. Thank you!
Magnus Carlsen, Shamkir, Azerbaijan, April 27th, 2015