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Varuzhan AKOBIAN had fought Tigran PETROSIAN
for the Championship title of Chicago OPEN 2008

(Photo and analysis by Serge BONDAR)

The day before Chicago OPEN 2008 would start, three chess Grand Masters Tigran PETROSIAN, Varuzhan AKOBIAN and Yury SHULMAN (see photo from left to right) and their friends have gathered for the party to celebrate the success of Yury SHULMAN, who had just became a US 2008 CHESS Champion.

Yes, it is a year 2008 and Tigran PETROSIAN is just happened to have the same name as the World champion in Chess from a half century ago.

Of course, such coincidence sparked a few conversations around a kitchen table, including a re-contraction of the position from SMYSLOV-PETROSIAN game of 1959.


The black (PETROSIAN) to move are exchange up and have a control of the open e-file, they need to find the best way to capitalize on their advantage (see Diag.1). When this position was presented, the question: “what was the old PETROSIAN’s move?”  was asked. Almost in no time all 3 GMs were agree on … Qe6. That was a correct answer: Qe6 is a solid move, which leads to the Queen exchange, and therefore taking the air out of any productive assault on position of black King by white army.  However, that position would not have much interest, if the better move would not be available … Qe4! This move is more risky and requires a long and accurate calculation before GM can make it in a real game. The point was made that not always, even at the highest level of competition, GMs are trying to make killing moves - just the ones which would allow them to win the game more safely.

Vasily Smyslov - Tigran Petrosyan year 1959
Black to move: what is the best move?

However, you would not see the Diag.1 in print, if on the first round of Chicago OPEN 2008, the young Tigran PETROSIAN, playing black against Dan Wolf, would not arrive to the position (see Diag.2): Black to move have two choices: take a1-Rook or b7-Knight. Again, capturing the Rook instead of Knight puts black an exchange up, however, white’s army assault on black King on Diag.2 is more dangerous than on Diag.1, since black can not force the Queen exchange.

Dan Wolf - Tigran Petrosyan year 2008
Black to move: which piece they should capture: Rook or Knight?

After 23 … Nxa1?, white attack is hard to stop – they can force bishop exchange and put their Knight in a center of the board by 24. Bxg7 Kxg7 25. Nd6!  Dan Wolf had the right ideas for this position, however he was not exactly a Vasily SMYSLOV’s caliber of a chess player. He made a costly mistake of jumping with the Knight on d6 right away with 24.Nd6?!  Tigran was in control from this point. He captured the e5 pawn with his Bishop 24 …Bxe5 giving back the exchange (Rook on f8 could be captured by white bishop), however the while Knight can no longer stay on in a center of the board and control everything. Tigran, who has a 400-rating-points edge over the Dan, proceeded to win with ease from there. (For complete text of the games played in Chicago OPEN 2008 go to ).

Here is the rest of the story written by Chris BIRD:

“GM Varuzhan Akobian won the official title of Chicago Open 2008 Champion after defeating GM Tigran Petrosian in an exciting Armageddon blitz play-off.  Having come from behind in the final round to catch up to Petrosian and GM Hikaru Nakamura, who had agreed to an early draw in their game, the young American GM managed to win with the white pieces in front of a captive audience who had hung around to watch the show.
Akobian had the highest tie-breaks of the three players tied at the top and had no hesitation in taking the white pieces plus 7 minutes against Petrosian's 5 minutes plus draw odds with the black pieces. Petrosian had just narrowly edged out Nakamura for the other place in the play-off. About 30 spectators watched as Petrosian opened up the position for Akobian to get a slight edge out of the opening. In the middle game, Akobian managed to win a pawn after doubling rooks on the seventh rank.
Petrosian tried to complicate matters with his rook and knight swarming Akobian's king but his initial 2 minute deficit was beginning to take its toll and he ended up having to give up his knight. In a last ditch effort to secure a draw, and with the flag teetering on the edge, Petrosian came up with an ingenious plan of sacrificing his remaining rook for a stalemate. Akobian however managed to avoid all the pitfalls and, just as he was about to queen a pawn, Petrosian flagged. A rapturous round of applause was given to both players for an exciting finale to a great weekend of chess.
Akobian took home the additional $300 for winning the play-off game and each of the three players netted approximately $6,000 each for their efforts during the long holiday weekend.
Earlier on in the day the crowd had gathered early, taking their seats in the audience in anticipation of the final round's action. Most eyes were of course on the key board 1 match-up between Petrosian and Nakamura as the two players stood ahead of the field with 5/6. Unfortunately, and not only to the spectators onsite as ICC had decided to only rebroadcast that one game, both players agreed to a 9 move draw, securing their share of the first place prize pot but ultimately denying the fans a chance to see what they really wanted.
However, there were no further quick draws in the remaining games and the spectators soon gathered to see if anyone would be able to catch the top two. Akobian didn't disappoint, beating GM Alonso Zapata on board 2 as the other games relevant to the top spot all finished in fighting draws.
There were several players who finished just a half-point off the lead. GMs Alex Yermolinsky, Dmitry Gurevich and Julio Becerra, and IM (oops, GM-Elect) Josh Friedel all drew their final games and were caught up by GM Nikola Mitkov, the only person who had 4 points going into the round to score a victory.
We all know of Friedel's success story for the event but there was also another similar feat accomplished by Canada's FM Zhe Quan. Quan looks like he could have reached the FIDE 2400 rating mark for the first time in his chess career which, along with his 3 IM norms he already has, should secure him the title. Congratulations to IM-Elect Zhe Quan!"