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T. Petrosian 80

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. Kasimdzhanov-Ivanchuk.jpg

Two of the joint leaders, Kasimdzhanov and Ivanchuk concurred a quick draw was the best option for their round seven encounter, and after Ivanchuk's marathon game the previous day, maybe not such an unwise decision.  Black had no problems out of the opening after white's new, but innocuous 14. e4.  In an even position barely into the middlegame, the two GMs repeated moves before calling it a day.


Hungarian Peter Leko is in good form, playing with good balance and stability and capitalizing on even the smallest of his opponents' mistakes, befitting the professional that he is.  After setting up his favorite QID against d4, Leko played the new move 11...Nbd7, and after coming close to equalizing, black slowly but surely exchanged off white's more active pieces reducing white's aspirations, found good squares for his own minor pieces,  and proceeded to a slightly advantageous endgame, which he played flawlessly to win, thus taking the tournament lead just after the midway point.


Bacrot also won a good game, his against Jakovenko.  White went into the middlegame with a small advantage, coming out of the Queen's Gambit Declined.  In the press conference, Bacrot mused that black's 10...Rd8 was possibly not best, after which white achieved his opening goals.  And after a series of mild inaccuracies by Jakovenko, Bacrot had enough for victory.  Black's 25...Bg7 offered white some edge, and with 44. Qd3! black's job of holding the position was much more difficult.

Eljanov-Aronian.jpgSunday was not a good day for the home team.  Aronian and Akopian each went down with the black pieces, against Eljanov and Karjakin, respectively.  Aronian, who played the opening without much problem, as white displayed careful and modest intentions.  Black was enjoying the position with a seemingly strong bishop on e5 that appeared quite dominant.  However, the position may have been somewhat deceptive as it was white who stood not worse.  Possibly, the Armenian favorite to qualify from the entire Grand Prix cycle may have had difficulty changing mental gears to play to hold the draw, rather than remain in his typical enterprising mode to try and win.  After 34. f5, things began to look dour for black, and after a few more moves, the position was resignable.

Karjakin vs. Akopian was well played by white, with the two players assaying the Spanish opening where white emerged with some advantage.  In the post-mortem at the press conference, Akopian frowned on his own choice 38...b4, and pointed out that he instead should have played Rb7.  Henceforth, white's stable advantage was apparent and black needed to display constant vigilance to hold the position.  Unfortunately for him, black was unable to withstand the pressure, and finally white infiltrated the position to achieve victory.

Tune in at 3:00 PM Armenian time (GMT+4) as the final six rounds will help decide who emerges as FIDE World Championship qualifiers.
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