Rest day, low ravines and high mountains
At about 2:00 PM (participants like to sleep in whenever possible, of course), several of the participants, trainers, and organizers embarked on the rest-day’s activities. First stop was the affiliate of the Chess Academy of Armenia, the chess school in Jermuk named after one of Armenia’s beloved chess sons, Karen Asrian who died tragically of an aneurysm at the tender age of 28. As Jermuk was among Karen’s favorite locales, it is appropriate to name the school, replete with photos and memorabilia from the Olympiad champion, in his honor. Participants were surprised to discover that such a small town has such a thriving chess school, further indication that Armenia is an epicenter for chess.
The tour bus drove the participants around the perimeter of the small lake, and then it was off to the nearby church for a visit (and maybe some prayers for good results in the final four rounds). Armenia (read more about Armenia’s rich history here) is the world’s oldest Christian nation, as two of the 12 apostles (Thaddeus and Bartholomew) traversed to Armenia spreading the word that Jesus was born. Naturally, both ancient and more recently constructed churches adorn the countryside and the St. Gayane church in Jermuk is no exception.
After the spiritual and architectural tour, the participants visited the bottom on a mountainous ravine. The rocky riverbed brought out the adventurous nature in the players who enjoyed this “low point” of the Jermuk topography. From the lows to the heights, the next stop was a ride up one of the many mountains, in the recently constructed cable car/lift. Two by two the participants sat down to take in the breathless sites from a bird’s eye view of 2500 m elevation of the resort town, panoramas captured by the official photographer of the tournament, Arman Karakhanyan.
All the activity and fresh air led to a bus full of participants with worked up appetites, so it was good timing when the mayor invited the whole crowd for a lunch at an open-air restaurant at the base of the cable car station. Toasts were proclaimed to the participants, to the Armenian federation, and to everyone’s health. Most definitely the right way to recharge the batteries on a rest day!
Thursday will see the start of the final 4-round stretch where the winner will be decided. An already tension-filled event is only going to ramp up as the high-stakes Grand Prix reaches its climactic finish. The trio of Ivanchuk, Leko, and Kasimdzhanov has opened a full point lead with 6 out of 9 over the aspiring quartet of Aronian, Karjakin, Eljanov, and Alekseev, all lurking and ready to strike with 5 points. If past performance is any indication, and with all four round promising to be struggles to the final tick of the clocks, no lead is safe at this stage.
Thursday’s round 10 matchups among the leaders are highlighted by Ivanchuk-Karjakin and Alekseev-Eljanov. Local favorites Aronian takes on Jakovenko with white, while Akopian squares off against Leko with black. Games can be followed live at 3:00 Armenian time (GMT+4).