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T. Petrosian 80

Round 1 report
r11.jpgRound one of the Grand Prix was underway on a rainy but upbeat Sunday in Jermuk as the 14 participants squared off.  Promptly at 3:00 PM local time, as the participants sat at the seven chess tables around the perimeter of the rotunda bar-now-playing-hall, the games began.  The dual Presidents, Iljumzhinov of FIDE and Sargsyan of host country Armenia, made the opening move on the board in the game between Ivanchuk and Aronian, and then proceeded to face off in a friendly game that ended in a sporting draw.

The games themselves took on quite different tones:  Two victories and five draws started things off in the bucolic Armenian resort town in round 1 of the Grand Prix event.  The aforementioned Ivanchuk-Aronian affair saw white choose a quite modest opening setup, and after some maneuvering and trades, the two opponents agreed to a draw.  Kamsky-Bacrot also saw a flurry of trades before the game settled into a symmetric draw. 

r12.jpgCheparinov caught his Russian opponent Jakovenko in the opening phase of the four-knights opening, and after winning a pawn, went to the rook endgame, which he converted smoothly.  Alekseev-Akopian saw black choose a solid setup against the Spanish opening in which white never had too much of an advantage.  On move 45, in a dead-even rook endgame, the players agreed to share the point.

In Kasimdzhanov-Karjakin, it was black who produced a new move, 18…Re8 (which the newlywed Ukrainian during the post-game press conference gave credit to his second Motylev for finding) after which black equalized, leading the game to peaceful waters and a draw.  In another captivating game of the 1st round, Leko with black sacrificed a pawn against Inarkiev and carried out a successful attack against the white king.  With white’s bishop out of play, Leko brought home the full point; the final position is optically elegant, with mate or a rook capture to follow.

And in the last game to finish in round one, spectators witnessed a tense struggle between Gelfand and Eljanov.  In the opening and middlegame, it was the Israeli who build up pressure against black’s position, but as time-trouble loomed, he missed the correct line, and black was able to organize a defense and counterplay, which proved enough to split the point.

r13.jpgRound two begins Monday at 3:00 local time.  On behalf of the organizers, Happy Birthday to IM Lilit Mkrtchian, press officer here at Jermuk!

PS: In late breaking news, Armenia was selected as a host country for the Women’s Grand Prix and Lilit Mkrtchian was chosen as Armenia’s additional participant, as according to FIDE regulations.  Couldn’t ask for a better birthday present!

(all photos taken by Arman Karakhanyan)
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