The Weekend Australian - Review - - Mind Games -

THERE are not many chess­play­ers who can bounce back af­ter los­ing two games in a row, but Magnus Carlsen is one of them.

The young world cham­pion be­gan the Vu­gar Gashimov Me­mo­rial in stan­dard fash­ion, surg­ing to the lead with wins over Shakhri­yar Mam­e­d­yarov from Azer­bai­jan and Ja­panese-Amer­i­can Hikaru Naka­mura, but dis­as­ter struck in rounds four and five with back-to-back losses to the tal­ented Ital­ian Fabi­ano Caruana and an­other Az­eri, Teimour Rad­jabov.

This left the Nor­we­gian lan­guish­ing on just 50 per cent half-way through the event, but Carlsen re­bounded with an amaz­ing 4/5 in the sec­ond half to clinch the event, in­clud­ing vic­to­ries over Mam­e­d­yarov, Naka­mura and Caruana.

That left Carlsen on 6.5/10, a full point ahead of Caruana on 5.5. Then fol­lowed Naka­mura, Rad­jabov and Rus­sian Sergey Kar­jakin on 5.0. Mam­e­d­yarov, a dy­namic, crowd­pleas­ing player who was twice world ju­nior cham­pion, was last on 3/10 af­ter a ter­ri­ble tour­na­ment.

The event high­lighted the sort of world cham­pion Carlsen is: he does lose games, but he has the ca­pac­ity to re­bound and “win on de­mand”, so to speak. Other world cham­pi­ons were dif­fer­ent: Ana­toly Kar­pov and Ti­gran Pet­rosian would draw most games, win a few but very rarely lose, whereas Carlsen loses a few but wins plenty.

The tour­na­ment was staged in Shamkir, Azer­bai­jan to re­mem­ber the great Vu­gar Gashimov, who died from a brain tu­mour in Jan­uary, aged just 27. The Az­eri was a noted blitz specialist and one of the world’s top play­ers.

A sec­ond-di­vi­sion tour­na­ment in Shamkir fea­tur­ing five Az­eris was won by the Ukrainian Pavel El­janov on 6/10, ahead of Rus­sia’s Alexan­der Motylev on 5.5.

Mean­while, Carlsen continues to dom­i­nate the world rat­ings, which have just been up­dated. He leads with a rat­ing of 2882, fol­lowed by Ar­me­nia’s Levon Aro­nian on 2815, but then a sur­prise: zoom­ing up into third spot is the Rus­sian Alexan­der Grischuk on 2792. The 31-year-old blitz star has long been a top 10 player but this is his best yet.

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