After Baden my schedule was not too busy, so a surprise last minute call up to the super tournament in Shamkir was welcome. However, I had a long standing commitment to play the final Bundesliga weekend so a hectic few days of travelling ensued. I went Taunton-Baden on Friday, playing 2 games over the weekend, getting back home to Taunton on Sunday after midnight. On Tuesday morning I was off again, changing planes in Istanbul in the small hours of the morning. With a four hour time difference thrown in it was a tough trip.
Once I arrived I was very well looked after, the organising Synergy group in Shamkir took care of everything. I was interested by a free day visit to another of their projects where they are growing roses; which are distributed to many countries. The playing hall was spectacular and TV screens dotted around the town showing the games were an impressive technological touch reflecting the respect for the game in Azerbaijan. The tournament is in honour of Vugar Gashimov, although I didn’t know him well, I was struck by his friendly and cheerful nature and of course his classy play which could be both sharp and subtle.
I bumped into my first round opponent en route in Istanbul, he was in much better shape at the board. My worst game was in round 3 when I totally destroyed my pleasant position against Wesley So in a time scramble. At the start I felt I played too slowly, in Shamkir they were using the probably best first time control of 40/2, which puts a premium on clock awareness. It seems inevitable that this will coexist with its incremental equivalent of 40/1h 40 + 30 secs a move but I would prefer not to have switching from one to another so regularly.
After my poor start a 50% return in the last six games wasn’t too bad, I kept on trying to win something and even succeeded once!