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T. Petrosian 80

Round 8 report
Leko-Jakovenko.jpgLeko, the tournament leader entering round 8 ran into some problems today against Jakovenko's Berlin wall.  White tried the new move 14. Rfe1, but without any revolutionary ideas in the often seen ensuing position.  By the 20th move, the position was about even, and at this point, black began playing actively, grabbed the initiative, and secured some advantage.  Soon, this pressure transformed into a pawn advantage, but the position was probably closer to a draw than a win.  How strange that the 50 move rule, which may be relevant in one out of a thousand games, has reared its head in consecutive games here in Jermuk.  Had black been able to play 89...Rh2, he would have won the a-pawn, and a win may have been likely, but with this move, he would have played the 50th move without a pawn push or a piece take, and thus was forced instead to play a5, and white maintained drawing chances.  Regardless, black attempted to win, but white held on to split the point.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand.jpgWhile Ivanchuk has been among the leaders for the last few rounds, he is probably not all that satisfied with his play, considering the bullets dodged and the general good fortune that has smiled on him in Jermuk.  Our guess is that we have yet to see the best of Ivanchuk.  In the game against Gelfand, white played the new 13. Nf5, but may have slipped with 18. Ba3, giving black equalizing chances.  Black later won a pawn, but handed white an active game, and with the powerful flagship bishop on g2, a good game.  With 24. g4?! white sacrificed a 2nd pawn - a very interesting choice, that while maybe not objectively the best, an intriguing idea and posed certain practical problems to black.  With a firm control of the white squares, white pushed hard, gave back a pawn, and seemed to be in control as some uncertainty appeared in black's game, while move by move white was improving his position.  By the move 41. Ke2, white had a sizable advantage. Possibly, black was unable to transition from being 2 pawns up, and with 43...Nxa4?!, black's position collapsed.  A creative effort from Ivanchuk as he joins Leko in first place.
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Lilit Mkrtchian Interviews GM Sergey Karjakin
-Sergey, we have already heard from your wife regarding your new married status, so now why don't we turn our attention to matters related to chess.  As you know this tournament is dedicated to the 9th World Champion Tigran Petrosian’s 80th anniversary and I would like to know your opinion about our legendary compatriot. What kind of useful things have you learnt from his games?
-Thank you Lilit. Of course I have deeply studied Tigran Petrosian’s games as I have done with other World Champions’ games. He was very intriguing player with a signature counter-attacking style. Of course, he is deservedly famous for his exchange sacrifices and for his implementation of the concept of blockading, which resonate with me strongly.

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Round 7 report
The players have come to bucolic and peaceful Jermuk, but have anything but peace on their minds.  Other than a GM draw between two co-leaders, the rest of the games reflected the strong will - and the high stakes - of the atmosphere in the playing hall.  Six of the seven games were decisive, and the fans were treated to enterprising and tension-filled games.  It feels like from here on out, the no hold barred mood promises even more of the same as players maneuver and struggle to find a place in FIDE's World Championship qualification system.

In the game Gelfand-Inarkiev, white played the new move 16. b5 in a tried and tested line of the King's Indian Defense, and enjoyed a opening advantage which black was unable to overcome.  With the strong 24. g5, white added an opponent's exposed king to his list of positional plusses, and was now posing certain problems to Inarkiev.  Despite his efforts, the Russian made some small errors, and Gelfand was able to realize the victory.

Kamsky-Alekseev.jpgIn the game between Kamsky and Alekseev, the players jousted over a Sicilian defense where black emerged from the opening with a fully playable game that gave equal chances to both players.  The game proceeded along, with white probing, but black responding in kind, and a largely even endgame seemed imminent.  Suddenly, with 35. Nxe5+?! Kamsky miscalculated with a speculative piece sacrifice in an endgame where he wanted more than the draw that was objectively was on the board.  After some checks were played and the dust cleared, white had only two weak pawns for the piece.  Black corralled the compensation and took the full point.  Quite possible that this friendly gift to Alekseev was due in part to the after-effects of the traumatic drawn in the previous round Kamsky allowed against Ivanchuk.
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Round 6 report
Alekseev vs Cheparinov saw the players clash over a Scheviningen Sicilian.  The Russian embarked in an active style, and offered a queen trade with 20. Nde2, after which white enjoyed a small plus.  Slowly but surely, white worked to transform his positional advantage into a material advantage with the sequence of trades starting with 29.a5.  Despite Cheparinnov’s best attempts to hold the difficult position, Alekseev carried out the technical phase effectively, demonstrating the rare win at the end with K+N+B vs K.  A good victory for Alekseev, and a setback for the Cheparinov, as the former tournament leader has lost two in a row.

Akopian-Eljanov.jpgIn the game Akopian against Eljanov, the two players assayed a semi-Slav variation, with the less common move e4,  confirming that white had victory on his mind as he sacrificed a pawn for activity.  However, it was black who played the new move, 12...Qc7, where 12...f6 had been tried in previous games.  In the middlegame, white tried to create some activity, but black responded well and neutralized whites aspirations, returned the pawn and entered into an even endgame.  Despite efforts for more by both players, the game ended in a well-contested draw.
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