Tigran Gharamian, unbeaten in Belgium

by Sagar Shah
8/9/2017 – Belgium's biggest open tournament took place in Charleroi from July 29th to August 5th, 2017. A total of 240 players gathered to play, enjoy and celebrate the game of chess. The top seed of the event Tigran Gharamian (2616) emerged as the winner on tiebreak edging out experienced GM Alexandre Dgebuadze. Read on for interesting positions plus a video interview with Tigran showing you some beautiful tactics from one of his games, and his work as a second of Levon Aronian. | Photos: Amruta Mokal

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A strong open in a quiet locale

The Charleroi Open 2017 is not only the largest, but the strongest open tournament held in Belgium. Charleroi lies on banks of the river Sambre, about 50 kilometers south of Brussels. Although it sports a population of over 200,000, at times it has small town feel. 

Above: Sometimes when you walk through the streets of the city, you feel as if there is no one else!
Below: A dream house for those who calm and quiet! | Photos: Amruta Mokal

The Charleroi airport is one of the most important ones in the country

The TIPC (Tourneoi International Pays de Charleroi) started with 44 players in its first edition 16 years ago. The tournament has grown in numbers ever since and in 2017 there were 240 players. There were three events: A (above 1900), B (1500 to 2000) and C (below 2000) that took place simultaneously. 

The huge and well-lit tournament hall located in Complexe sportif de Roux | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The field in the A category was very interesting. One player was the favourite to win the title by quite some margin. He was the Armenian-French grandmaster Tigran Gharamian. Although Tigran currently has a rating of 2616, his level is much higher. His peak rating was 2676 in 2011 and he has an amazing wealth of knowledge thanks to working as Levon Aronian's second in the past. He intended to play the tournament with his Armenian friend Zaven Andriasian, but the latter couldn't make it as he had some visa issues to resolve. It meant that Tigran was staying alone at the event and it worked wonderfully well for him in terms of his result.

GM Tigran Gharamian, the top seed | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Experience vs. Youth

After Tigran we had four grandmasters who were extremely experienced and have beaten the best of players in the world during their younger days:

Clockwise from top left: Aloyzas Kveinys (Lithuania), Alexandre Dgebuadze (Belgium), Normund Miezis (Latvia), Ventizslav (Bulgaria) Inkiov | Photos: Amruta Mokal

A simple search on Mega Database shows that Kveinys has 2431 games, Miezes has 2754, Inkiov 2199 and Dgebuadze 1657. And these are just the recorded games. They must have played thousands of games which never made it to any databases. Now this is rich experience which makes each of the player a very dangerous opponent to face. But these experienced gentlemen were given a stiff challenge from three talented youngsters:

 (L to R) Francois Godart (Belgium), James Eden (France) and Christophe Sochacki (France) | Photos: Amruta Mokal

Fracois Godart is one of the most talented Belgian players and is an extremely sharp calculator. James Eden became France's latest IM at the event by making his final IM norm and also surpassing the Elo barrier of 2400, while IM Christophe Sochacki already has two GM norms and a rating over 2450.

Sochacki is fearless and plays extremely sharp chess; just to show how uncompromising his play is — he participated in the blitz tournament, that was held after round six of the main event, and "pulled a Bobby Fischer" scoring a perfect 11/11, three points more than the second placed player!

It's not easy to say who really triumphed in the battle between youngsters and the experienced players. Just to give you an idea, I made this crosstable of only the games between Youth and Experience:

 Youth prevails by a hair

The three youngsters scored five points against the experienced guys, while the older generation were able to snatch four points. However, it must be said that Alexandre Dgebuadze scored two extremely crucial wins, one in the penultimate and one in the last round against Godart and Sochacki repestively to finish as the joint winner with 7½/9.

The winner's games could have been smoother


Gharamian, at 33 years, straddles the middle. Perhaps that's the sweet spot: full of experience, but still full of energy. He scored 7½/9, tied with Dgebuadze, but won the tournament thanks to a better tie-break. (Incidentally, this was the first time in many years that I played a tournament which had the first tie-break as progressive score — also known as Cumulative.)

"The games could have been much smoother," Tigran said after the tournament ended. Being a perfectionist, he was not too pleased with the messy nature of his games. Yet, it must be said that he played against all the strongest players of the tournament beating the aforementioned youngsters Sochacki and Godart, as well as IM Velislav Kukov and others. With a performance of 2638, a small rating gain was the icing on the proverbial cake.

When asked for his favourite game from the tournament, Tigran thought for a while.

"There are no real games that I am proud of, but I would like to show you a very beautiful position from my game against Francois Godart from the fourth round."

Tigran was White and had sacrificed an exchange. The knight has moved to h4 and is coming to f5. It's going to be a strong attack. But Black has a lovely idea. Can you find it? Here is the position, and the solution is then explained by Tigran in the video below.



Solution by Tigran as well as a short interview with him about his tournament (8 minutes and 30 seconds onwards) and his role as Levon Aronian's second


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The top two finishers in the tournament played against each other in the fifth round and the game ended in a tame draw.

Dgebuadze and Gharamian with Robert Romanelli

 Dgebuadze vs. Gharamian as Honorary President of the Charleroi Chess Club and the organiser of the event Robert Romanelli, looks on | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The runner-up just keeps playing

Alexandre Dgebuadze is 46 years old, and at such an age it is not easy to keep playing sharp chess in almost all of your games. However, he was able to do it, and that too against players who were half his age. The natural question is: how does he keep himself tactically strong?

"I just keep playing! This is already my fourth tournament in a row and I am going to play two more after this." Playing continuous events is Alexandre's secret of staying tactically fit.

Here is his last round against IM Christophe Sochacki. The young player needed a win to make his final GM norm and that was the reason why he made certain decisions which he would have otherwise not made. Dgebuadze finishes him off to perfection.


Top three finishers of the tournament: (L-R) 2nd - Alexandre Dgebaudze, 1st - Tigran Gharamian, 3rd - James Eden  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

James Eden is an upcoming star from France. He scored his final IM norm in this tournament and also crossed 2400 Elo on the rating list, thus becoming an International Master. He beat Aloyzas Kveinys, Velislav Kukov and drew with Inkiov to finish third in the tournament. This 22-year-old is someone to watch out for.


The author of these lines scored 6.5/9, remained unbeaten and finished fourth | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Before the tournament I saw the DVD of Magnus — a movie based on the life of the current World Champion — in the book stall at the tournament venue. I really wanted to buy it. However, Amruta and I decided that I would purchase it if I won a prize. As there were only six prizes in the open group, it was not at all obvious that I would win one. I played steady chess and managed to finish fourth. Of course, I bought the Magnus DVD and I must say that the movie is excellently directed by Benjamin Ree. Expect a review on the newspage soon!

I played many interesting games, but one which was filled with a lot of instructional moments was my game against WIM Andreea-Cristiana Navrotescu. Black has just pushed his pawn from a5 to a4.


My opponent did take it, and the result was a complete domination!


The final position, that my opponent resigned in, was very interesting.


Let me present you with my analysis:


Sagar and Tigran

I also analyzed this endgame with Tigran at the end of the tournament and even he was very surprised that the position was drawn! (the guy in the background doesn't like it either!) | Photo: Amruta Mokal

So, dear readers, if you are able to find a way for Black to win, do let me know. As of now I am going to add this position to my memory as one that should be avoided by the side trying for a win!

Andreea-Cristiana Navrotescu

Kudos to Andreea, who after the above loss, came back strongly to score 4.0/5 in the remaining rounds and make her maiden WGM norm! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Interview with Andreea-Cristiana Navrotescu

Final standings (top 20)



Trophies for the winners | Photo: Amruta Mokal

(L to R): Main organizer Robert Romanelli, best veteran in B-group Walter De Reymaeker, winner of the B group Axel Harutyunyan, winner of the C-group Henri Dambiermont, winner of the A group Tigran Gharamian, best female player Andreea Cristiana Navrotescu, and the most promising player of Belgium Francois Godart | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Everyone went back home with pleasant memories after a glass full of champagne! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Part II of the Charleroi Open with an important endgame lesson, lot of pictures, personalities and a video on the event will follow shortly. Stay tuned!

Correction - August 9: An earlier version of this story misidentified Alexandre Dgebuadze as being from France. In fact he represents Belgium.


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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