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T. Petrosian 80

Round 11 report
Each round, spectators await with bated breath, expecting someone to break from the pack and make a bold dash to the finish line, but each day it seems the leaders keep each other down, while more and more of the contenders creep closer to the logjam at the top.  After 11 rounds, 8 of the 14 players are within a point of each other and the lead, and crowning the Jermuk winner is still anything but clear.  See the crosstable here and the standings here for more information.  Once again, the leaders drew, Kasimdzhanov and Leko with each other, while Ivanchuk held on against Bacrot.  As tension continues to rise, it is surprising that there are so many well played games and so few outright blunders.  On to the games:

Eljanov-Cheparinov.jpgEljanov rebounded from his bad loss yesterday with win a fine game against his Bulgarian opponent who is caught in a tailspin after a fine start to the tourney.  A fascinating tactical battle unfolded, the type of game where Cheparinov has traditionally enjoyed great success, though not of late in Jermuk.  The players rushed into a King’s Indian Defense and white chose 11. g4, not the most common, but an interesting line nevertheless.  With the new move 13. Rf2 (until now Bd2 has been tried) white initiated the thematic activity on the queenside while black did the same on the opposite wing.  And thus it went.  In an effort to blunt black’s kingside attack, white game up a pawn on g5 and returned back to work on the other flank.  When all appeared tranquil, black overlooked the jostling tactical strike Rxg5! and then a follow-up piece sacrifice to generate a big attack.  Unfortunately for black, the best way out of the tough situation was to say goodbye to the lady.  When the tactical dust settled, the material advantage was not so great, but with a weak king and the white pawns starting to move, black couldn’t be pleased with the impeding doom.  An elegant game played by Eljanov and a truly exciting one for the spectators who were treated to some spectacular moves.

Kasimdzhanov-Leko.jpgIn this game between two of the three joint leaders, Kasimdzhanov and Leko, the game followed the earlier matchup played between Kasimdzhanov-Aronian, when Leko deviated with the safer 10…Qd6.  Evidently, Kasimdzhanov wasn’t inclined to press with white, and seemed content to rely on his homework, steering the game down a line sufficient to secure the draw.  Both players proved to be conscientious students of the latest nuances in the variation that has become common in the Grand Prix cycle as they sped toward the drawn ending.  A fast draw with black suited Leko just fine, and coupled with Ivanchuk’s similar result, the leaderboard at the top underwent no change as the contenders did what they could to close the gap.
The game between friends, teammates and compatriots was a fierce and complex struggle with countless variations cropping up at various times during this head-spinning struggle.  For those who thought that the two players would shirk from the moment and play an easy draw were pleasantly surprised.  Armenia’s two top chess professionals who share a high level of mutual respect came to play and to try and win.  Akopian played the new and quiet 16. a3 where the more aggressive and interesting Bxb5 merited some consideration.  In the middlegame, black endeavored to create dynamic possibilities, while white became confounded a bit in terms of how to develop his attack.  Black’s 22…f5 was an intriguing attempt, which may not have been better than, for example, Nb6.  If until now the game had a positional flavor to it, after black’s pawn thrust things got tactical and hairy, and fast.  Aronian proved to be a bit more nimble in this phase and white made some non-optimal moves, culminating in a position where if black had played 31…Ne5! Instead of the text gxf??, black would likely have gained the full point.  Once the tactical tempest had passed, the game went into calm waters as fast as things had gotten messy earlier, and the two compatriots split the point.


Yet another Slav line was assayed by Gelfand and Kamsky where white played 11. Qe2 and the two veteran professionals played according to the proper principles.  In the middlegame the game took on a closed character where white nursed a small positional advantage.  Black played accurately and attentively, preventing white from expanding the slight advantage into anything substantive.  While the struggle persisted for a long time, the balance was largely undisturbed and a draw was the just result.

The game between Karjakin and Alekseev was a hard fought draw in a Petroff opening.  Instead of 13. c5, maybe the immediate and direct Ne5 was better.  As the game went, black retorted with 14…Nd7 and white was compelled to play 15. f4, after which black had completely equalized.  It is possible that black may have even thought that he stood better, though objectively speaking, the position was equal position.  The rest of the game more or less proceeded in equilibrium.  It is possible that white had some possibilities, but nothing serious was overlooked and a draw was a logical result.

Bacrot-Ivanchuk saw yet another Slav line, where white’s game was based on controlling the center with the move f4 explicitly underscoring this point.  Black responded with c5 and after a few moves white had 2 bishops and space, and in return, black had a more dynamic game.  Along the way white was able to increase his advantage and even win a pawn outright, but the trades along the way left white with an endgame that was difficult to win, as the weak white king plus black’s active king and rook maintained drawing chances for black.  White went to a rook endgame where black was a pawn down, but had the right structural setup to hold the draw.  Another good defensive game by Ivanchuk to stay as a co-leader in this high stakes tournament.

Jakovenko-Inarkiev.jpgJakovenko played a logical new move 17. Rb1, in his game against Inarkiev, after which white played actively on the kingside.  In response, black found an interesting idea for king safety, shuttling the monarch back to the apparently more safe center.  White reacted by trying to open queenside access to the black king.  The tactical war was thus underway.  Every move was well contested as sharp changes in the position were possible on every step of the way.  As the game progressed, black apparently felt more at home in this tactical jungle.  With all the dynamic possibilities spinning around the board, white was still holding with 34. Rh7, instead of which white played, after which black had the upper hand and brought home the point.  Inarkiev is back in good form after a difficult start to the tournament.  Never give up!

With two rounds to go, all eyes will be on the following critical matchups: will Leko try to avenge his heartbreaking loss to Aronian in the final round in Nalchik or will he steer the game into more peaceful waters and play it safe?  Will Ivanchuk press hard against the out of form Jakovenko?  And will Kasimdzhanov continue his unanticipated unbeaten streak with a win against Gelfand?  All three leaders have white in round 12 and will hope to open a lead on the field.  Check out the games live at 15:00 Armenian time (GMT+4).
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