Day Six. A tragic mistake and new leaders!


The Indian dynamo Pranesh, who was rocketing towards victory in Tsaghkadzor Open, having lost only half a point after six rounds, was unexpectedly defeated by Elo-favorite Abhimanyu Puranik. With two rounds to go, there's a tie for the lead: Tigran L. Petrosian also has 6 out of 7 possible points. Tomorrow, they will face each other in a decisive duel!

Interestingly, Munirethinam Pranesh could have faced his namesake, the 9th World Chess Champion, if he hadn't lost concentration for a split second. His game against the formidable Puranik never left the realms of peaceful equality at any moment. Furthermore, the White pieces couldn't create a single meaningful target for an attack. Despite having two bishops, they were forced to restrain their desires at some point. The Black side had the center and space, while the White side engaged in abstract maneuvering. Even the knight entrenched on g6 didn't trouble Pranesh in the slightest. If Munirethinam were a calmer player, he would have gladly played a slightly better endgame. However, he wanted to resolve everything tactically. But a sudden move, 38...Bg4?! cost him the advantage and a blundering 40...Rb7?? even cost him the game. Moreover, Abhimanyu had plenty of time to contemplate the position and calmly calculate variations. He stared at the board doubtfully for 15 minutes, wondering if there was a catch, until he decisively moved his queen – 41.Qd5!

Pranesh quickly moved his rook out of harm's way, but after the clever 42.Rc8!, the Black king instantly fell into a checkmate net: it was attacked by the queen, rook, knight and pawn, with no escape. Munirethinam noticeably darkened, clutched his head, but then hopelessly leaned back in his chair. Interestingly, a few moves later, while signing the score sheets, the young player didn't look distraught or disheartened at all; he animatedly chatted with his opponent, sporting a smile that seemed to reach all 32 of his teeth. From the outside, it might have seemed like Abhimanyu Puranik hadn't won a crucial game but had lost.

The game at Board 2 ended similarly, with Petrosian securing his fifth victory! Tigran often jokes that he's a "chess pensioner," only sitting down at the board for big occasions and not practicing at all. But no matter what he says, you can't drink away your class. Whether with the White or Black pieces, he plays the same way, but that helps him emerge from the opening with minimal losses and from there, different principles come into play. That was the case in his game against Sethuraman S.P. from the sixth round.

The Indian player was slow to activate his pieces in the center and on the kingside, allowing Black to initiate an active game. Petrosian has always loved and excelled at attacking and this time, nearly all of Black's pieces piled up on the White king: two rooks controlled the "g" file, the bishop fired from a7 and both knights and the queen were ready for action. Meanwhile, the White king felt completely safe, which couldn't be said for his counterpart. White "made a move" themselves – 22.Nc4?, allowing a powerful central blow – 22...d5!, losing a pawn and quickly collapsing. The Black position was so good that they didn't even need to convert it further...

Amid such activity from the leaders, it was quite strange to see complete calmness among the chasers who had 4.5 points. Sina Movahed played cautiously, almost without emotion and barely escaped Krishnan Sasikiran's clutches. Iniyan couldn't find the right path to victory, allowing Aleksandr Usov to slip away in a quite complex endgame. Viachaslau Zarubitski broke Tigran Harutyunyan's seemingly impregnable fortress. Arman Hakemi got quite lucky, catching Guha Mitrabha off-guard. In a position that didn't seem threatening at all, Black lost a central pawn, after which White knights overcame flimsy obstacles, trapped the enemy king and checkmated him. The Indian player was so shocked that he played on to checkmate.

Well, it seems that the roles in the main Tsaghkadzor Open tournament have been definitively distributed and who will come out on top will only be clear after the 8th round. The standings are as follows: 1-2. Abhimanyu Puranik and Tigran L. Petrosian – 6; 3-5. Munirethinam Pranesh, Viachaslau Zarubitski and Arman Hakemi – 5.5; 6-14. Manuel Petrosyan, Sina Movahed, Krishnan Sasikiran, Iniyan P, Aleksandr Usov, Valentin Dragnev, Bharath Subramaniyam H, Zhandos Agmanov and Aleks Sahakyan – 5 etc.

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