Day Five. Munirethinam Pranesh - the sole leader!2023-09-25
The sixth round is a crucial milestone for any Swiss tournament, including Tsaghkadzor Open 2023. The tournament's leaders and underachievers have already been determined: the former have solidified their expectations, while the latter have resigned themselves to seeking luck another time. The density at the top boards has reached its maximum, with no player gaining a clear advantage after the initial hours of play. But there was no talk of peace.
It's no surprise that after this round, a sole leader finally emerged!
At Board 1, the Indian player Pranesh faced off against the 14-year-old star of the tournament's start, Iranian Sina Movahed. In the early rounds, both players made hardly any mistakes – each of them showcased memorable attacks and examples of sharp positional play, displaying high opening preparation and excellent endgame technique. But what mattered most was their relentless pursuit of results. The fact that the more experienced Indian had the White pieces wasn't all that crucial.
It was already telling that Movahed chose the Scheveningen Sicilian Defense in response to 1.e4 instead of opting for the solid Ruy Lopez – he wanted a battle from the very start, not trench warfare. Pranesh accepted the challenge and played one of the recently popular Rauzer Attack lines, where everything hangs by a thread, and both sides attack on different parts of the board. On move 19, White sacrificed a pawn to open lines – after all, the Black king voluntarily stayed in the center, and Black's pieces were limited in activity, which could be exploited. Sina accepted the challenge but made a mistake almost immediately – 22...Ng6? (he should have played 22...Kf8, and the worst would have been behind him). In response, White sacrificed another pawn with 23.e5!, allowing the rook to invade on h8, and the queen joined the attack. At this point, Munirethinam played like a computer!
A cascade of sacrifices followed, and with a mating threat, Sina surrendered piece after piece. His position crumbled like a house of cards: when the smoke cleared, White had two extra pawns. For the sake of form, the Iranian resisted a bit longer but eventually had to concede.
Yes, Pranesh is formidable when he's in form. Last year in Stockholm, he scored 8 out of 9 in the Rilton Cup, and now he might surpass that achievement in Tsaghkadzor, as he currently has 5.5 out of 6. In any case, the success story of Munirethinam is worth sharing with the world.
In comparison, the leaders' clash on other boards was less eventful.
The Indian summit took place at Board 2, where Elo-favorite Abhimanyu Puranik faced another junior player, Subramaniyam Bharath, this time under 16. Despite his intimidating opponent, the young player put up a good fight but, at some point, overestimated his chances and not only failed to win but also lost the balance. He sacrificed a piece and could have forced a draw after 32.Qc8+, but he wasn't satisfied with the "lesser" result and... blundered into a counterattack with 34...Rxf2! Now, Black had a material advantage and a secure position, which they converted into a win.
Tigran L. Petrosian, despite having the White pieces for the fourth time in six rounds, played his familiar fianchetto setup and outsmarted his opponent Zhandos Agmanov quietly. The board emptied rapidly until White was left with a healthy extra pawn. "Rook endings are drawn" for anyone else, but not for Armenian chess players. Petrosian secured his fourth victory.
As for Aleksej Aleksandrov, despite having a comfortable position from the opening, he couldn't extract anything from his game against Indian player Iniyan P. The White bishops were mighty in appearance only. It ended in a draw. Only half a point was squeezed out from the match against Aleksandr Usov with Manuel Petrosyan. The 14-year-old Russian had frightened everyone the day before with his opening preparation that... after 1.e4 c5 2.Be2!? the Armenian grandmaster "dozed off" for nearly 15 minutes. But when the initial shock passed, and the game went beyond opening preparation, he outplayed his opponent in a slow positional battle. However, the realization proved troublesome, and it took 130 moves: the extra Black pawn just didn't want to promote to a queen, resulting in a draw.
Sethuraman S.P., Krishnan Sasikiran, Tigran Harutyunyan, and Guha Mitrabha were the winners of their games. Overall, despite the leaders' gap, the peloton still has a chance to catch the "runaways."
Standings before the 7th round: 1. Munirethinam Pranesh – 5.5 out of 6; 2-3. Abhimanyu Puranik and Tigran L. Petrosian – 5; 4-14. Sina Movahed, Aleksej Aleksandrov, Iniyan P, Manuel Petrosyan, Aleksandr Usov, Sethuraman, Krishnan Sasikiran, Tigran Harutyunyan, Guha Mitrabha, Arman Hakemi, and Viachaslau Zarubitski – 4.5, and so on. A total of 116 participants are still in the competition.