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T. Petrosian 80

Round 10 report
Jermuk is now really heating up.  The quality of chess has been high, the games exciting, and after a series of unsuspecting moves and battles of nerves, there are no fewer than half of the participants vying for the top spot with only 3 rounds to go.  Indeed with the three leaders drawing their games and several of the aspirants below them in the standings winning theirs, there is a logjam at the top: One solitary point separates seven of the players, so at this stage in the game, it is in fact too close to call.

Ivanchuk-Karjakin.jpgIn the game between Ivanchuk and Karjakin, white played a bit strangely in the opening, though probably not only to due to black’s new 6…Be7.  Maybe a more logical setup would have been g3 and Bg2, because after 7…c5 and 8.e4, white has relinquished the developmental advantage offered to him with the first move privilege, and black must have been optimistic about his chances.  By move 15, white knew it would take all he had to hold the weak white b and d pawns, isolated and loose.  Black may have begun to smell victory after the queen exchange though given Ivanchuk’s determination – this time as a defender of a worse position – this was not a task that was going to come easy.  It is possible that the racing ahead of the a-pawn was premature, opening the door for white to conjure hopes for a draw.  Most probably Karjakin’s try was not optimal and white found the way to achieve a very important draw (in yet another knight endgame) and salvage half a point to remain in joint 1st place.

Leko-Akopian.jpgPeter Leko was in a golden position to break from the pack and establish himself as the favorite with only 3 rounds to go, but instead fell victim to Akopian’s hoodwinking save at the last possible moment, when everything looked simply lost for black.  The dramatic game started somewhat inauspiciously as white played the new but somewhat unpretentious move, 14. Bd2.  After the opening phase of the game, white had a clear positional advantage, and a small pull on the board.  Certainly, it was easier to play as white, as after some trades, white’s bishop was a good blockader of the d4 pawn, and as such, a better piece than his black counterpart.  It was probably not the wisest choice to open and offer the a-file to white, exposing an additional flank for white’s broadening attack, which was now swiping at the b7 pawn.  Black erred with 45…Qb3? after which white’s 46. c6! left white with a winning position.  A few moves later, white could have ended things as 48. Qd5! would win on the spot instead of the unnecessarily simple Qxd3, which allowed black to live, albeit in pain, longer.  A few moves later when there appeared to be no hope, black played one last desperation move, offering a bishop with 52…Bxh4.  White should have reacted calmly, ignoring the Trojan Bishop with 53. Ra3 and it is likely that the game would be over soon thereafter.  However, Leko did not foresee the full collection of black’s tricks and drawing resources and took the bishop, miscalculating that there was no perpetual.  Alas, Akopian had woven a strange perpetual web, where the longtime blockaded and inert d3 pawn finally sprung to positional life and saved the day for black.  A surprise draw, and a missed opportunity for white to grab the uncontested lead in the event. Aronian-Jakovenko.jpgIn a game between the two highest rated players in the event (both in the world top ten as well), the excitement was palpable throughout.  Possibly neither player, particularly Jakovenko, has found their best form in Jermuk.  In any case, black played the opening poorly, and after 17. Rxc4, 17…Qb8 was necessary.  Instead, as the game continued with 17…Qb6, black fell under enormous pressure, and with the subsequent 18. e5! Ne8 white could have emerged with a dominant position with the continuation 19. exd!  With the game line, however, white gave black a few opportunities to fight back and keep the game competitive.  Regardless white kept finding moves sufficient to keep up the pressure on black’s cramped position.  Jakovenko’s problems were compounded by heavy time pressure, though he was able to demonstrate impressive dexterous tactile skills in playing his final few moves in as many seconds, barely making time control (no increment is added until move 40). When the dust cleared after the 40th move, black was a clear pawn down with a frighteningly exposed king.  Levon’s technique was sufficient to finish his opponent off and win a very important game, thus moving within half a point of the draw-happy leaders.


In the clash between Cheparinov and Gelfand, white ditched a pawn to earn a very active bishop and a good center: adequate compensation for the pawn.  After the queens came off, white seemed to lose the thread.  His good bishop gradually transformed into a bad one, while black’s counterpart did the opposite.  Slowly but surely, black pushed forward on the kingside, with the monarch rallying the rest of the troops and exhorting the entire army toward the white king.  White’s bishop on c5 began to look silly, not even a spectator to the action much less a participant.  With the victory, Gelfand moves to +1 overall.

Kamsky-Kasimdzhanov.jpgIn the variation played between Kamsky and Kasimdzhanov, it appeared as though black had no problems, but after deeper analysis, white had a more apparent plan for development and it was black who had strategic problems to solve.  In the middlegame, white was able to achieve a tangible advantage.  Gradually, Kamsky built up some pressure with the prudent advance of his kingside pawns and enjoying a firm lock on the dark squares.  White clearly had hopes for victory as time control approached.  Black, however, buckled down and defended well.  After white missed some opportunities black was able to muster enough for the draw.  Kasmky has had a frustrating tournament, especially in positions in time trouble and after time control.  Kasimdzhanov, on the other hand is poised for a top finish and a successful tournament.


The game with black against Alekseev may have been the worst game of the tournament for the Ukrainian.  After misplaying the opening, Eljanov had a slightly worse position, and it is not clear that the new move 18…Re8 is one of his best ideas.  After a few passive moves, black had a hard position to hold.  After 20…b5, black had serious problems which began to feel insurmountable.  With white’s elegant Ng7, it was all over and resignation came a few short moves later.


In the game Inarkiev against Bacrot, black played a new but not so promising new move 18…Qb8, after which 19. Nf1, it was unclear how black was going to continue.  The ensuing plan to play b5 and give up the exchange proved to be significantly insufficient in terms of compensation, and white kept his cool and the material to press black into time trouble.  Bacrot’s flag fell while he was making his 40th move, albeit in an already lost position.  The first victory for the GM from Kalmykia.

With three rounds to go, it is not at all clear who will emerge as the Jermuk champion.  One thing, however, is clear and that is that the level of fighting chess has been exhilarating and all chess fans are looking forward to following the games live to see who will earn victory.

Games begin at 3:00 PM Armenian time (GMT+4).
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