Round thirteen was every bit as thrilling as expected, with several of the contenders playing well into the afternoon. After a series of draws in the games between Eljanov vs. Kasimdzhanov, Karjakin vs. Kamsky, Bacrot vs. Cheparinov, and Jakovenko vs. Alekseev, the crowd’s attention turned to those battles where the winner of Jermuk would be decided.
|Ivanchuk had equalized after the opening with the black pieces and was
starting to press against Akopian. Aronian was expectedly starting to
put the positional squeeze on Inarkiev, and Gelfand was launching an
enterprising attack against Leko. As it turned out, Aronian converted
in smooth style to guarantee himself a top place in the standings,
waiting to see if his compatriot could hold off Ivanchuk, thus making
it three first places out of three Grand Prix tournaments. But
Ivanchuk was not to be denied. The Ukrainian won a nice game and with
it left his competitors in the rear-view mirror. A combination of
great defense (the knight endgame against Inarkiev), and beautiful
combinational execution (the gem against Alekseev), and a bit of good
fortune (50 move rule saving the day against Kamsky) proved to be
sufficient for Ivanchuk to emerge as sole winner of the Jermuk
tournament. Meanwhile, Gelfand played a very nice game against Leko,
overcoming the Hungarian’s excellent defensive prowess in attempting to
fend off Gelfand’s inventive attack. This time it proved insufficient
as Gelfand had just enough to win a bishop endgame with an extra pawn.
The Jermuk tournament was a resounding success. The games were hard fought. The photography was eye-catching. Videos from the press conferences were engaging. The chess commentary was insightful. Press from NTV+ and BBC added to the panoply of local press representatives covering the tournament for the world to follow.
When the dust had cleared and the games were finished, Vassily Ivanchuk was the sole leader, having navigated through the dangerous waters without a loss, alone at 8.5 out of thirteen. The Ukrainian champion was very appreciative of the organization, of the Armenian government, and of FIDE for all the efforts that went into the execution of one of the most fiercely contested chess tournaments in recent memory.
The strong showing earned the extraordinary GM Ivanchuk 30,000 Euros and kept his hopes alive for the second of two spots in the Grand Prix cycle. We say second of two spots because the first has already been claimed. While Ivanchuk won the Jermuk battle, Aronian claimed victory in the Grand Prix war. With his joint second finish (together with Gelfand), the Armenian #1 Levon Aronian earned a spot in the Candidates tournament from which the World Champion contender will emerge. Doubly impressive is that he clinched overall victory with an entire tournament yet to be played, and having himself only played in three out of his requisite four. Considering the competitive level of the Grand Prix, this is an impressive feat in and of itself.
The closing ceremonies were a gala affair, with speeches by Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia (who doubles as the country’s chess federation president), Geoffrey Borg, Preident of Global Chess, and an appearance by Vardan Petrosian (son of the late and great Champion Tigran Petrosian), as well as a variety of musical and dance numbers, all capped off by an enchanting fireworks display. All in all, the participants enjoyed the hospitality and the scenery, and Jermuk put itself on the map as an attractive host city for tournaments.
Click on the following for more information about the tournament: final standings, exclusive photos, videos, and last round games. Congratulations to GM Ivanchuk and Aronian, and until next the next tournament in Armenia, on behalf of the technical and media teams, best wishes and see you soon!