Shakriyar Mamedyarov has had a phenomenal rise to the top of chess. In the chess world, people have had an eye on him for many years as he showed amazing skill even from a young age. The past few years, however, he has risen up the ranks to catch even more attention.
In January 2017, Mamedyarov was 13th in the ratings. By the beginning of 2018, he had risen to 2nd place with a rating of over 2800+ Elo. Such a change in rating, especially among the top 10 players in the world, is extremely impressive. As of the time of writing, Mamedyarov sits as the third best player in the world, behind only Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, the 2018 World Chess Championship match participants.
And Mamedyarov came very close to being in that World Championship match himself, having a very strong Candidates tournament at the beginning of the year. Any other day, his performance would have been enough to snatch victory – if it wasn’t for the fact that Fabiano Caruana took it to a whole other level.
In this video, GM Eugene Perelshteyn takes a look at the magnificent progress of Mamedyarov by analysing some of his games, starting with a game from 2002.
What, in GM Perelshteyn’s view, has Mamedyarov done that allowed him to climb the ranks so quickly? What are his strengths, and how has he managed to improve so much in the past few years?
He has always been very strong at tactics, it is where his strength lies, but previously you never knew which player you’d get – one tournament he would blow the opposition away and win outright, and the next he’d struggle. But now Mamedyarov has matured and added a level of consistency to his performance, making him a force to be reckoned with.
Mamedyarov Breaks 2800 Elo
GM Perelshteyn begins by taking a look at a game Mamedyarov played in 2002, with the White pieces. It begins with 1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. c4 b5, reaching a Benko Gambit by transposition, with Mamedyarov going for the sideline of 4. Qc2. Why? He wants to focus on rapid development.
4…bxc5 5. e4 e6. Black is trying, as he must, to undermine White’s center. The position can be seen on the left.
Let’s quickly move through the next sequence of moves to reach the next main point of discussion. 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Bxc4 exd5 8. exd5 d6 9. Nge2 Be7 10. Ng3 0-0 11. 0-0 g6. This position can be seen on the right.
The move …g6 is intended to prevent White’s knight from jumping into f5, but at the same time it is a move that slightly weakens the defense of Black’s king. 12. Bg5 Nbd7 13. Rae1 Re8. …Re8 is probably too cautious from Black (…Nb6 is arguably better), but Mamedyarov may well have been thinking of sacrificing the rook on e7. After a recapture by Black’s queen, White would play Nce4, creating a horrible pin on Black’s knight.
14. f4 is an uncompromising move! Mamedyarov does not care about slow build up in this game, it’s all out attack. Nowadays, he plays positionally more often than he used to, but in his youth he was a very aggressive player to face. 14…h6 is a somewhat desperate response from Black, already under a lot of pressure, and White plays 15. f5 offers a sac. The point is that if Black plays 15…hxg5, then 16. fxg6 Nf8 17. gxf7+ Kxf7 and Black is simply lost, with 18. Qf5 Bc8 19. Re6 coming. In the game, Black played 15…Kg7, but you’ll have to watch the video to find out what happened next! You can see this position on the left.
Rapid Chess Improvement Like Mamedyarov
Mamedyarov’s rise is certainly impressive, and we expect him to stay near the top for some time to come, a real challenge for some of the toughest players in the world. The truth is, however, that there are certain tips and tricks we can all apply to our game to get better quickly. Find out what they are with GM Damian Lemos’ FREE masterclass. Click here to sign up.