Day seven. The intrigue remains until the very end!2023-09-27
In the past, no tournament was complete without «grandmaster» draws. This is when none of the opponents was seen in the desire to fight for victory, and they signed a draw only when the forces clashed... In the 8th round, no one doubted that such a draw would happen at the 1st board. Both Tigran L. Petrosian and Abhimanyu Puranik, from a tournament perspective, did everything they could yesterday, and there was nothing to divide them.
The result «+5» in almost all scenario guarantees a place in the top three unless someone catching up does something incredibly improbable in these two days.
– This tournament is unfolding in a completely unexpected way for me; I didn't even expect to win five games and have almost no bad positions in seven rounds, – says Petrosian in amazement. – I don't play much now and don't practice much, so I didn't expect much, but it's going well! I won one game, then another, managed to gain experience, outwit my opponents, win through understanding... How did I manage to win so many games? I would say it's not so much that I won as it is that they lost to me. If you're given a chance, you shouldn't miss it. Do I want to be the winner of Tsaghkadzor Open 2023? It's always nice to take first place, but if I get it, it won't be a tragedy for me.
– When you start as the Elo favorite, more is expected of you in terms of winning than other tournament participants, – Puranik responds calmly. – Even without that, I always try to use every opportunity, play every game to win. I won't hide that I've been lucky a few times here during the tournament, like yesterday when I won against Pranesh. If he hadn't blundered, he would be sharing the lead now... But in chess, you can never be sure about anything 100%. Do I want to take first place? Yes, like any player. Will it happen? I don't know. Let's see how our opponents play, what will happen tomorrow. I won't be disappointed if one of my fellow Indian delegates wins in the end - more than 50 players came to Tsaghkadzor for two tournaments, and if you count everyone, it's almost a hundred people!
By the way, if Tsaghkadzor Open 2023 had ended after 7 rounds, the Indian grandmaster would have been the first by coefficient; he was ahead in all additional indicators (primarily due to his victory over Pranesh). If he and Petrosian end up with the same number of points, only a victory over the young Munirethinam in the 9th round could save the hosts in the event that they are tied, and he secures his sixth win.
It was clear that Pranesh would play for victory; he left no choice - neither for the spectators nor for his opponent. Iranian Arman Hakemi tried his best to stop his aggressive intentions, choosing the Russian game. But... it wasn't that simple; the Indian had black in full passivity by move 15: he tortured him both in the center and on the queen's flank, firmly seizing the only open e-file, asserting his dominance with every move. And then he quickly switched to the attack, as none of the black pieces could help their king.
The main reason for Hakemi's problems was passivity. And he missed his last chance to counterplay, playing 19...Bf6? After 19...Nf6 20.Bd6 Re8 21.Rxe8+ Nxe8 22.Ne5 Qb7, it would have been possible to avoid such a blatant onslaught. After the move in the game, the onslaught became almost inevitable. And most importantly, there was no chance for Black to defend themselves. It's a bit regrettable that Munirethinam didn't want to play for checkmate: 31.Qc4 Qh5 32.Be7 Nf8 33.Rh4. He chose to exchange queens instead, defeating his helpless opponent in a overwhelming endgame.
After finishing the game, Pranesh, as usual, stood up from the table with an apologetic smile, shook hands with his opponent, glanced briefly at the neighboring boards, and went to the Indian team's headquarters... All week he has looked the same: in the same T-shirt, training pants, and barefoot sandals. Truly a man who is not concerned about anything in the world other than what is happening on the chessboard. There is no doubt that on the final day of Tsaghkadzor Open, he will rush into battle with the same fervor. Not for prizes, ratings, or titles - he simply craves competition and seeks it!
Immediately following the leaders, a group of three chasers formed. Krishnan Sasikiran, who won all his white games (as well as ending all his black games in draws) - in the 8th round, he ran into Viachaslau Zarubitski. The Belarusian IM clearly played for three results, leaving himself every opportunity to maneuver, but... at some point, he clearly overdid it in an attempt to outsmart his opponent. With every move, the Indian began to weaken the black positions in the center until he lost everything he had gained. Valentin Dragnev was ruthless to 14-year-old Sina Movahed - the rook endgame that arose after the turbulent rook debut did not promise much for White, but move by move, the Latvian created problems, until they became insurmountable. Iniyan P, despite falling under Aleks Sahakyan's strong opening preparation, not only managed to escape from it but also step by step pushed him first into a positional and then into a tactical dead end.
So, there are six contenders left for victory in Tsaghkadzor Open 2023. 1-3. Abhimanyu Puranik, Tigran L. Petrosian, Munirethinam Pranesh - 6.5 out of 9; 4-6. Krishnan Sasikiran, Iniyan P, Valentin Dragnev - 6, etc. Who among them will be favored by luck?