The final day. Elo favorite becomes the winner!2023-09-27
Tsaghkadzor Open 2023 became one of the most memorable chess events this autumn. Nearly three hundred chess players, coaches, and accompanying persons, including 22 GMs and 22 IMs from 11 countries, gathered at the famous ski resort. The main tournament turned out to be a triumph for Indian chess players, with three out of the top four players scoring 7 points out of 9. The Elo favorite, Abhimanyu Puranik, emerged as the winner.
The final round lived up to the audience's expectations, with intense battles on almost all boards, except the top two. This was somewhat expected, as none of the three leaders wanted to take risks at the last moment. The outcome of their games could only be challenged by someone from the players on board 3, provided that their game ended decisively.
In case of equal points, the tiebreak favored Abhimanyu Puranik. Despite the fact that he rarely played on board 1 throughout the tournament and spent most of the time catching up with the leaders, his victory over Pranesh in the 7th round became the key factor that pushed him ahead of the competition. Tigran Petrosian missed out on half a point in the Buchholz tiebreaker, and their head-to-head game ended in a draw. Given that not only the rankings but also the prizes were determined strictly by tiebreaks, this had a significant impact on the tournament's final standings. It's not that the competitors made their moves based on what was happening on neighboring boards, but they certainly didn't overlook it.
As Tigran L. Petrosian predicted when discussing the prospects of the 14-year-old kids, the top boards on the final day of Tsaghkadzor Open were occupied by experienced chess players, with only one young prodigy in the mix, Munirethinam Pranesh. He had white pieces on board 1, facing the honorary Armenian veteran, Petrosian!
However, even Pranesh preferred a bird in the hand. White didn't try anything fancy and quickly exchanged all the pieces in one of the endgame lines of the Anti-Berlin, ending the game in a draw. Petrosian breathed a sigh of relief as he got up from the board, shaking hands with Abhimanyu Puranik and Valentin Dragnev at the adjacent boards. White's advantage over the Indian player was minimal, and there was no need for Abhimanyu to prove anything to him. Abhimanyu's opponent, who made a final sprint with a 2.5/3 score, showed his resilience. The victory was guaranteed.
Abhimanyu Puranik in Tsaghkadzor had always maintained a poker face, whether his position was good or bad. However, when the draw, which was the pinnacle of his hopes, was accepted, he finally relaxed and genuinely smiled, almost childishly.
"In reality, it's quite funny: when I found out I would be the top seed in this tournament, I thought, 'Well, now I definitely won't win,'" Abhimanyu quipped. "After drawing in the second round and falling behind the leaders, I didn't think too much about my chances of winning. Pranesh had to work hard to make them appear. But... what can I say, it's always nice to win a tournament, especially with such a result. I won't discuss the quality of my games right now; I have many complaints about myself, but I'll address them when I get back home. Right now, I'm just happy. And I'm happy for my friends. It seems like we've taken over the entire podium here," Abhimanyu added.
Tigran, who truly gave it his all, no longer had the strength to celebrate his remarkable achievement or lament missing out on the top prize in Armenia. "Survival is good!" he summarized briefly.
However, Pranesh, who had been smiling throughout, was clearly disappointed. He gave his all in Tsaghkadzor Open, but a single notable mistake cost him the victory. "I'm only disappointed that I didn't make the most of my chances," he remarked. "I could have avoided a draw against Puranik, played stronger in a few winning positions. But I'm ready for new challenges, looking forward to the next tournament to show what I'm capable of..."
At just 18 years old, he is remarkably focused and, unlike others, could easily play another 10-15 classical games in Tsaghkadzor without fatigue or anxiety.
As for Krishnan Sasikiran, the fact that he managed to step up in the final round and win with the black pieces (for the first time in the tournament; he had four draws before) says a lot. He played this game as if it were the last one of his life: he found a successful opening line, provoked a bluff from his fellow countryman Iniyan P, secured a safe position for his king, and created numerous threats against his opponent's king. What's more, he found a non-standard tactical solution, and all his pieces ended up in the right place at the right time.
White didn't survive past move 28, and Krishnan, bent over the board, barely touching the pieces, heard a soft, "I resign!" It was incredible... Just three rounds before the finish, it seemed impossible for him to catch up with the leaders who were far ahead. But with 2.5/3, he did it. Playing each game from start to finish against young opponents in such a tight situation wasn't easy for Sasikiran. But he didn't complain, and he marched forward, securing his triumph