Grandmaster (GM) Abhimanyu Puranik brought home the silver medal at the World Junior Championship that came to a close on Saturday in Gebze Turkey. In the final round of the tournament, Puranik was in a must win situation against Armenian GM Aram Hakobyan.
Against an opponent that strong, with the black pieces in hand, pushing too hard for a win could have been a risky call. Puranik, however, showed great erudition. In the game, he chose a rather solid setup and tried finding opportunities in the roughly balanced position that ensued.
“After all, I was playing against a very strong player. I don’t know if he was playing for a draw, but even if he was, he would have pounced upon every opportunity I gave him. So it was important for me to keep my head level and play normal chess,” Puranik told International Master (IM) Sagar Shah after the game, talking about his mindset.
The Italian Opening had given Puranik all that he needed to “play normal chess”. A seemingly insipid middle game had liquidated into a balanced endgame. A major trump Puranik had in the position was his pawn majority on the queenside which became a lot more pronounced after the rooks were off the board.
The ensuing knight endgame was played with great flair by the Pune-based Grandmaster. On his 51st turn, he gave up his knight to get his queenside pawns rolling. Although the position was objectively equal, Puranik’s sacrifice had greatly changed the dynamic of the position and Hakobyan wasn’t able to adapt to this change, especially after four hours of play. Hakobyan faltered a few times after this and gave Puranik a decisive advantage. It took about 15 more moves before Hakobyan finally decided to throw in the towel.
Even after this win, however, it wasn’t clear if Puranik will be able to make a podium finish. Sergey Lobanov and Andrei Esipenko had also won their games and had finished with a score of 8.5/11.
Talking to Sagar Shah, Puranik said he would be satisfied with whatever rank he gets after the tiebreaks. "I have tried my best and that’s all that matters," Puranik said after scoring 3.5 points in the last four rounds. And in the end, fortune favoured the brave. Puranik finished with the highest tie-break of the three players tied for second. Lobanov won the bronze medal while Esipenko had to satisfy himself with the fourth place, despite having defeated the tournament winner, GM Parham Maghsoodloo in the final round.
For Maghsoodloo, the final round was merely a formality. He had won the event with a round to spare. With his win against Maksim Vavulin, Maghsoodloo was two full points ahead of his nearest rival after the penultimate round.
Vavulin had, perhaps, prepared something in the opening for Maghsoodloo. He tried getting into the same line as Maghsoodloo had played in the previous round against Awonder Liang. Maghsoodloo, however, suspected preparation and stepped aside immediately on the second move. The game then drifted into a Sicilian Najdorf, in which Vavulin seemed very well prepared as well, despite not being a regular practitioner of the opening.
Maghsoodloo admitted after the game that he was a little worried seeing the way his opponent had handled the opening. But by the time the players had reached the critical middle game position, time started becoming a concern. Vavulin wasn’t able to continue playing with the same precision as he had in the previous phase of the game. Once Maghsoodloo had opened up the kingside, the black king was in deep trouble. By the 37th move, Vavulin’s king was caught in a mating net.
In the Women’s group, Aleksandra Maltsevskaya won the tournament on tiebreak with a score of 8.5/11. After the penultimate round, Maltsevskaya was overtaken by tournament co-leader, Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova after the latter scored a fine win against Margarita Potapova while Maltsevskaya was held to a draw by Nezerke Nurgali.
In the final round, Tokhirjonova was held to a draw while Maltsevskaya defeated Potapova and caught up in the first place. After the application of tiebreaks, Maltsevskaya was declared the winner while Tokhirjonova took second place. Georgian WIM Nino Khomeriki bagged the bronze medal, scoring 8.0/9.
The best performing Indian at the event was WIM V Varshini who took the 13th place on the leaderboard with a score of 7/13. After her loss to Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova in the fifth round, Varshini had made a strong comeback scoring 4½ points in her next five games. Her ninth round game against FM Gabriela Antova was especially worth noting because of Varshini’s brilliant tactical play.
In the final round, however, Varshini lost her third game of the event against tournament’s top seed, Stavroula Tsolakidov. Had she been able to pull out a win, she would surely have finished among the top 10 and might even have had an outside chance at a podium finish.
Final Standings (Girls)
Updated Date: Sep 16, 2018 22:32 PM