Yerevan, Armenia
8-16 January

Andranik Margaryan Memorial. Tournament "A". 8th round


Agasarov chased after the crane against Grebnev and missed the titmouse...


Spectators of the Andranik Margaryan memorial were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the intense race organized by Agasarov and Grebnev, wondering who among them would secure the grandmaster title. Their face-to-face duel in the penultimate round provided an answer: 18-year-old Alexey currently outshines, or at least outcalculates, 15-year-old Benik. The host of the field chased after the crane in the sky at a moment when he should have settled for the titmouse in hand – and lost.


However, the intrigue in the tournament is not completely resolved. Despite Grebnev's fourth victory, he cannot rest on his laurels. Just half a point behind him is Emin Ohanyan. And... it is with him that Alexey plays in the 9th round!


Interestingly, the central meeting started as if it were the only one in the tournament. For the first five minutes, moves were only made on that board—on all the other boards, white players were slightly delayed, and it might have seemed like participants gathered to watch the leaders' duel?


However, quite soon, the hall of the Chess Academy of Armenia filled with the cheerful ticking of clocks and the rustle of moving figures: the key round of the Andranik Margaryan memorial had begun! The events of the last two days added even more intrigue: as good as Agasarov and Grebnev were, a trio of Davtyan, Ohanyan, and Movaqed were just half a point behind them—each of them could not only catch up but even surpass the leaders. The grandmaster norm threshold was at an attainable height of "+4", and they could very well reach it. However, to achieve this, they needed to win two games!


For a while, nothing interesting happened in the games of the leaders. Grebnev had quite a few ideas with the black pieces against the Catalan; this time he chose the "triangle"—not too active, but a reliable system. This was not a surprise for Agasarov, and he managed to create some initiative on the queen's side. However, with precise play on the dark squares, Alexey solved all the problems. It could have been a draw, but Benik continued to seek luck and transitioned to an endgame, which hardly promised him an advantage.


And here, Grebnev made his first active move in the game – 36...f4!


In the case of 37.exf4? exf4 38.gxf4 Kf7!, black, having brought the bishop back to e7, will eventually win the "h" pawn and, utilizing the long-range bishops, create a passer. Therefore, Agasarov played 37.Nc3 fxg3 38.Ne4+ Kg7 39.Nxg3 Be8, but he made a critical mistake with the move 40.Kf2? To save themselves, white should aim to exchange as many pawns as possible, so they should have considered 40.f4!? Now, they no longer have this resource due to the pin from the bishop without an opponent on c5.


After 40...Bf7 41.Ba6 Be7!, a crucial moment in the game arose.


The young Armenian chess player made the right choice; he boldly sacrificed the pawn with 42.h5!, but after 42...gxh5 43.Nf5+ Kf6, he still hesitated to take the h6 pawn.

It may seem that the knight has no retreat after this, but only after 44.Nxh6 Be6 45.e4, white still had chances for a draw. After transitioning to the bishop endgame with 44.Nxe7?, strangely, Benik had no chances for salvation. Alexey converted the extra pawn with the cold precision of a computer.


Agasarov did not resign for a long time, even in a seemingly hopeless position, and only one move before the opponent promoted a queen, he extended his hand to his rival. Then, gloomily, he rose from his seat, took his phone, put on his jacket, and went home...


Success was separated from failure for the 15-year-old boy by one inaccurate move in the endgame in a game he could have ended in a draw at any moment. On the other hand, if Benik had not tried and ultimately did not achieve the grandmaster norm, the thought that he did not use all the chances would have haunted him for a long time. Yes, he did not achieve the norm in this tournament, but his talent is evident, and he will have many more chances to show it. And, of course, to become a grandmaster!


On the other hand, with a high probability, Grebnev will receive the grandmaster title, who made a powerful leap in his development in 2023 and won two "gold" medals at the world and Asian championships "under 20". It's time to get the title.


Second in significance and tension in the round was the game Movahed – Davtyan. Without a doubt, both opponents played only for the win, and at some point, the chances of the Iranian junior seemed preferable: he had a temporarily extra pawn and the outlines of an attack on the king when an unexpected blow followed:


After the relieving move 32…Rxc3! 33.Qxc3 Ne4 34.Qb3 Nxg3 35.Qxg3 Nxd5, there were no threats left on the kingside, and the black pieces gained a couple of passed pawns in the center with prospects for their attack along the long diagonal.


And after a dozen moves, white couldn't handle the pressure and exposed themselves in a relatively safe position, allowing the opponent's new blow:


In reality, a move like 42…Nd5! (with a "simple" threat of Qc2 and Nc3, and simultaneously attacking the key b4 pawn) is easy to overlook. Sina even jumped on the chair, finding nothing better than 43.Qa7!?, resigning to the fact that black remained with an extra pawn and an easily winning position.


But... as the three previous rounds showed, Movahed is not that simple. The Iranian managed to come back from the dead once again and save a seemingly hopeless position.


This unexpected draw allowed Ohanyan to break into a clear second place. Emin knocked out Sorensen, who had completely lost faith in himself. Hampus, at some point, plainly fell apart, getting a position with a significant advantage from the opening. Initially, he passively surrendered the initiative, then allowed the game to be uncovered, and in the end, he received a blow to the heart as beautiful as it was powerful:


Ivanov, thoroughly exhausted, gave away another game. Sergey performs excellently in the first three hours of the game, pressing and stressing his opponents. However, age takes its toll, and the grandmaster disappointingly exposes himself. This was evident in the game against Shahinyan, where the black side had a clear extra pawn but couldn't withstand the onslaught of small tactical problems ingeniously created by David.


Finally, Shuvalova interrupted Babujian's long streak of defeats. Polina confidently led the game to victory when, literally a step away from the end, she stumbled and gave her opponent a chance to escape. The queen couldn't cope with the pair of passed pawns.


Margaryan Memorial. Standings after the 8th round: 1. Grebnev - 6; 2. Ohanyan - 5.5; 3-6. Agasarov, Davtyan, Movahed, and Shahinyan - 5; 7. Shuvalova - 3; 8. Ivanov - 2.5; 9. Sorensen - 2; 10. Babujian - 1.


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