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Jermuk Traffic Jam

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Yah yah, "what is this, the Weekly Dirt now?" But the new apartment is down to around 20 boxes. I even found the bath mat. Very exciting.

The Jermuk Grand Prix is trundling toward its conclusion tomorrow. Half the field is eligible for the top spot. Leko and Ivanchuk are tied for the lead with efficient +3 undefeated scores. Kasimjanov was also in the leading group until Boris Gelfand took him out today. Both are now in the chasing pack a half-point back with Aronian and Alekseev. Leko got little against Aronian in a Lopez today.

The other decisive game of the 12th round must have been a huge relief for the winner. Since 2007 Gata Kamsky has faced Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine five times. He has lost five times. An amazing stat, and after around three in a row I wondered if it had anything to do with Eljanov working as Gelfand's second when the Israeli beat Kamsky in their 2007 candidates match. But 5/5 goes beyond an opening nuance here and there, so it was nice to see Kamsky break the hoodoo and move up to -1 in the tournament.

The drawing percentage of 61% is about average and there have been some really wild games, especially if you look beyond the wins at a few of the draws. In the 11th round Aronian walked on the wild side against his Olympiad teammate Akopian on their home soil. In an unassuming position out of a Semi-Slav, Aronian tossed out 22..f5!?, a pawn sac right in front of his own king. The point was lever open the long diagonal to the white king. Aronian didn't stop there, giving up a rook with check to a promoted pawn. Really fantastic stuff. It was all working out for Black but he needed one more pretty move, 31..Ne5!, and he missed it. Soon afterward it fizzled into an oppo-bishop endgame draw. This game really typifies Aronian's "high-class va banque" style. It's somehow coffeehouse, but with really strong coffee.

Another game that stood out when I finally had a few moments to scan the file was Eljanov giving a demonstration of how not to play the Berlin Defense. It's hard to say how someone with as much experience in this line as Eljanov could fall apart as quickly as he did against Alekseev. On the other hand, checking the recent database stats of Eljanov in the Berlin, maybe he should give it up. He seems to lose about half his games with it.

As he did in the last GP, Peter Leko will head into the final round in the lead and with black against another contender. Last time he lost to Aronian. This time he'll face Gelfand. Ivanchuk, the other leader, has black against Akopian. Aronian has white against tailender Inarkiev. The final round starts 90 minutes earlier, live here at 4:30am EDT.

The official site -- and the GP sites have been consistently good on content and technical stability -- has some nice round reports and now a few clips with the legendary Yugoslav GM Svetozar Gligoric, who is there as a special guest. It's a funny coincidence because I just used the 86-year-old in a Chess.FM trivia question during the NH tournament, where I'm trying to come up with various young and old themed questions. (It was to name the player who, at 78, played in his national championship and made a 50% score. Hint, the country doesn't exist anymore.)


Here's one man's prediction:

Jim from Sudbury, MA | August 22, 2009 11:25 PM | Reply

The last round of the Grand Prix is tomorrow. My predictions for the games:

Akopian vs Ivanchuk 1/2
Gelfand vs Leko 1/2
Aronian vs Inarkiev 1-0
Jakovenko vs Alekseev 0-1
Eljanov vs Kasimdzhanov 1/2
Karjakin vs Kamsky 1/2
Bacrot vs Cheparinov 1/2

I have a question about this game. After 14. Qh4, Black castles kingside which appears to lead to lead to an unnecessary lost pawn when White plays 15. Bxa7. My question is why does Black play 14... O-O?

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.e3 e5 5.Be2 d5 6.d4 exd4 7.exd4
Be6 8.Be3 dxc4 9.Qa4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Bd7 11.Qxc4 Rc8 12.O-O Bd6
13.Nxc6 Rxc6 14.Qh4 O-O 15.Bxa7

If you try to protect the pawn White gets huge pressure in the center. The rooks come to e1 and d1, the bishop to f3, and it's very hard for Black to untangle. Actually I wonder if it's even worth taking the pawn on a7 after 14..0-0.

Going for the massive tie for first, eh? It would be nice to see a good fight in Gelfand-Leko, but I'm not terribly optimistic. Probably drawn by the time I get up for NH Tournament radio.

Writing this after Gelfand's 33.Nd4, Lékó is under pressure, and I can already sense his 50000000th or so crucial last-round loss coming.

On the other hand, Leko is two pawns up - at least for the time being. In any case, it seems Mig (see previous comment) was wrong - guess he is already awake as the NH broadcast will start in about 20 minutes ... .

Of course Gelfand would try hard to win, given the tournament standings. Now it seems Ivanchuk is going to win regardless, though.

Meanwhile the rapid event in Zürich is on, and Topalov-Kramnik is going on at the very moment. http://www.sgzurich2009-live.ch/live.htm has no moves, but a (fascinating) position :)

The same (try hard to win) is true for Aronian, who seems to be on top against Inarkiev (move 41). In the meantime, Leko may have survived the worst, even if his position is still passive (move 40).

Very interesting rook endgame... and fascinating to see them in the webcam too.

Ivanchuk has won! Show them!

Bravo Gelfand! Very nice indeed.

Very well played by Gelfand and once again no fun finish for Leko.

You know, sometimes life gets just a little bit frustrating as a Lékó supporter.

Ivanchuk...just fantastic.

More importantly, Kramnik beat Topalov with Black.

But before people start (or continue) their Leko-bashing [I don't mean acirce], let's not forget that he played a fine tournament altogether and won some rating points. Something Jakovenko - his neighbor in the official FIDE list - cannot say ... .

Of course Leko's series of crucial last-round losses is becoming almost too strange to be true. But in the context of the entire tournament, what should he regret more?
- not converting his winning position against Akopian, or
- losing in the last round against a strong opponent, who pressed hard and played well

Thanks, Mig! You rock!

Leko had an excellent tournament and has nothing serious to regret, with some luck he could have scored more points but also Aronian missed a win against Akopian and such things happen. The only problem for Leko is maybe that also in his best form a tiny bit is missing for him to be up there with the best of the best. Much of the tournament it felt as if Ivanchuk didn't play his best chess but it was still enough to win, while Aronian very unexpectedly lost against both Eljanov and Kasimjanov, but still shared second.

Go Chucky!

So winning a GP gives him the opportunity to become one of the WC contenter, right?

Congrats to Aronian for CRUSHING THE FIELD by winning the Grand Prix overall series, even though he hasn't even played his 4th touranment and even though the last tournament itself hasn't even yet been played.

Ivanchuk would need a lot of help to qualify for the WCh via the GP even if he wins the final event. His other two results were poor, so guys like Radjabov, Gashimov, and Wang Yue only need good, not great, results in the final event to stay ahead of him. The #2 spot is Radjabov's to lose at this point.

Of course FIDE could change the points system and give 100 extra points for a clear first place.

Or open the ¨people´s choice¨ spot in the candy-dates , since they invented this thing few months ago and everything is allowed in love and war , and at this point there are no clear excuses of why would someone deserve to play there...

But that would be a considerable change of philosophy: "Winner takes it all" (in one tournament) is the Grand Slam approach, whereas the Grand Prix emphasizes consistency - at least in 3/4 tournaments, but the fourth (worst) result could become relevant as a tiebreaker.

BTW, this 'philosophy' also gives a chance to someone like Leko, who came close to winning twice but didn't manage in the end. To qualify, for once he would need to maintain the lead until (and including!) the final round in the last tournament, AND hope for favorable results (from his perspective) by the three players Mig mentions.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 22, 2009 10:38 PM.

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