Karen Grigoryan is the Armenian Champion

by Sagar Shah
1/28/2015 – With a rating average of 2541, the National Championship of Armenia was a very strong event. Bottom seed Arman Mikaleyan led well past the mid-way mark. With just two rounds left he slipped, giving Karen Grigoryan the chance to race ahead and win the Championship. In the women’s section it was Susanna Gaboyan who took the title. Report with game analysis.

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Karen Grigoryan is the Armenian Champion

He was the last seed of the event, but after seven rounds, he was leading the tournament. In a field of ten players that had eight grandmasters, he was the only untitled player. Was Armenia, a land where chess is celebrated as the national sport, going to witness the 18-year-old, Arman Mikaelyan, who was rated just 2349, become its national champion?

Arman Mikaelyan (above) began the tournament phenomenally with 5.5/7, taking the sole lead with wins over GM Tigran Kotanjian, GM Karen Grigoryan, GM Avetik Grigoryan and FM David Shahinyan. This performance was good enough to get him a GM norm irrespective of what happened in the last two rounds. By the way he also gained 68 Elo points in this event, which takes him past 2400!

The Armenian Championships for men and women were held from the 12th to the 21st of January 2015 in Yerevan. Both the men and women section were ten players round robin events. The men’s tournament had an average rating of 2541, while the women’s average was 2174. The top seeds were Arman Pashikian and Anna Hairepetian.

As luck would have it, Arman Mikaelyan lost steam in the last two rounds. He was beaten in both of them, and that allowed GM Karen Grigoryan to overtake him and take the pole position.

19-year-old Karen Grigoryan (2587) scored 6.0/9 to become the Armenian Champion.
Born in 1995, he is considered one of the biggest talents of the country.

Karen has quite a few notable performances to his name, like the Armenian U14 Champion (2008); the European U-16 Champion (2010), the winner of the G. Kasparyan Memorial Young Masters 2010, the 2011 Youth Stars Tournament, the Armenian Championship 2011 and 2013, the Albena Open (2012), the Sitges Open in July 2013, Sant Marti Open 2014 and the Badalona Open 2014.

In this tournament the winner’s route to the top was anything but smooth. He started off with 2.5/3 but was then stopped in his tracks by Arman Mikaelyan.

[Event "75th Armenian Ch. / The Highest League"] [Site "Yerevan"] [Date "2015.01.15"] [Round "4.4"] [White "Mikaelyan, Arman"] [Black "Grigoryan, Karen H"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2350"] [BlackElo "2587"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2015.01.12"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ARM"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. b3 d5 4. Bb2 c5 5. e3 Nc6 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5 Bd7 8. O-O Bd6 9. Bxf6 $5 {Quite an unconventional decision. But it has been tried before by players like Jussupow, Timman, Graf and Chernyshov.} (9. d4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 O-O {gives Black a comfortable position.}) 9... Qxf6 10. Nc3 Qe6 11. d4 {This is the most logical way to play, increasing the pressure on the d4 pawn.} cxd4 12. Bxc6 bxc6 13. Qxd4 {Black has the two bishops but White is ahead in development. The attack on the g7 pawn gives White the tempo he needs to setup a blockade on the c5 square.} f5 {Karen stays true to his aggressive style and prevents e4 break. Now White could continue positionally with Na4 but he decided to take the bait and capture the g7 pawn.} (13... O-O {looks like the most obvious move.} 14. e4 $1 {This would have been White's main idea.} (14. Na4 Qg6 15. Rac1 {Even though White has clamped the c5 square, he is worse because the two bishops with the queen co-ordinate perfectly for a kingside attack.} (15. Ne5 Qh5 $1 16. f4 Bxe5 17. fxe5 Rfe8 $15) 15... Rae8 16. Nc5 Bg4 $15) 14... Rad8 (14... dxe4 15. Nxe4 Be7 16. Rad1 $14 {gives White a clear advantage.}) 15. exd5 cxd5 16. Qxd5 Qh6 $44) 14. Qxg7 (14. Na4 {would have given White much better chances as now the d7 bishop is blocked by its own pawn on f5.}) 14... Rg8 15. Qd4 f4 $1 {Black has full compensation for the pawn. This was an excellent decision by Karen.} 16. g3 (16. exf4 {Taking the pawn ends in a draw but I have a feeling that no white player would ever go in for such a scary variation.} Rxg2+ 17. Kh1 $1 (17. Kxg2 $2 Qg4+ 18. Kh1 Qxf3+ 19. Kg1 Kf7 $19) 17... Qh3 18. Rfe1+ Kd8 19. Qh8+ Kc7 20. Qxa8 Qxf3 21. Qxa7+ ( 21. Re3 $2 Rxh2+ 22. Kxh2 Qxf2+ 23. Kh1 Qxe3 $19) 21... Kc8 22. Qa8+ Kc7 23. Qa7+ $11) 16... fxg3 17. hxg3 Qf5 18. Nh4 {Arman is up to the task and defends in the most accurate manner as possible.} Qh5 (18... Qh3 19. Ne2 $14) 19. Ng2 Be5 20. Qd2 Bg4 {It seems as if Black has quite a dangerous attack here but the calmness with which Arman plays is quite impressive.} 21. f4 Bc7 22. Rac1 $1 {Just improving his a1 rook.} Qf7 $6 {This retreat hands over the initiative to White.} (22... Bb6 {was better.} 23. Rf2 Bf3 24. Ne2 Kd7 $15 { And Black is clearly better.}) 23. b4 Rd8 24. Ne2 Rd6 25. Nd4 Bd7 26. Rf3 Bb6 27. f5 {Now White has got his pieces well placed in the center. Black has to play carefully as his king is in the center.} Rh6 28. Rcf1 Qf6 (28... Rh3 $1) 29. a4 Rh3 30. Ne2 Rg4 31. Ngf4 Rh6 32. a5 Bc7 33. Ng2 Bd6 34. b5 Bb4 35. Qd3 Bxa5 36. bxc6 Bxc6 37. Nd4 {The knight has jumped in and out of d4 many times but on this occasion it gives White a clear advantage.} Bb6 38. Nxc6 Qxc6 39. f6 {There seems just about no one to stop the little f-pawn.} Kf7 {Ahh, the king does the job, but it is not good for His Majesty to indulge in such menial labour.} 40. Qf5 Rgg6 41. Nf4 Rxf6 42. Qg5 $1 Bd8 43. Nd3 {Great play by Arman. The knight is going to create huge damage in the position. On a side note, the h6 rook is hanging!} Rhg6 44. Rxf6+ Rxf6 45. Ne5+ Kf8 46. Rxf6+ (46. Nxc6 Rxf1+ 47. Kxf1 Bxg5 {would not have been good news.}) 46... Bxf6 47. Qh6+ {Black loses the queen and hence he resigned. Great play by Arman who withstood the black attack and played at an excellent level in this game.} 1-0

Karen Grigoryan with the Gold, Arman Mikaelyan (left) with the Silver and Robert Hovhannisyan with Bronze

One game that was particularly imposing was Karen’s win over Tigran Kotanjian in the fifth round. The game was played in an old romantic Morphy style with no care for material. And can you guess the opening employed by Karen? The Smith-Morra Gambit in the Sicilian!

[Event "75th Armenian Ch. / The Highest League"] [Site "Yerevan"] [Date "2015.01.16"] [Round "5.2"] [White "Grigoryan, Karen H"] [Black "Kotanjian, Tigran"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B21"] [WhiteElo "2587"] [BlackElo "2501"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2015.01.12"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ARM"] 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 {It is not everyday that we see the Morra Gambit being employed between two grandmasters at this high level. Many people believe that it is a dubious opening, but Karen doesn't seem to share this opinion.} dxc3 4. Nf3 $5 (4. Nxc3 {is the normal way to play but quite reliable antidotes have been found to White's temporary lead in development.}) 4... Nc6 5. Bc4 b5 ({Computers prefer} 5... cxb2 6. Bxb2 d6 7. O-O e6 8. Qe2 { But I think humans would not like to play against such a huge lead in development and a powerful bishop on b2.}) 6. Bb3 (6. Bxb5 cxb2 7. Bxb2 Rb8 8. Nc3 a6 9. Bxc6 Rxb2 10. Ba4 $44) 6... e6 7. O-O {Karen is not interested in recovering his c3 pawn.} Ba6 8. Re1 b4 9. bxc3 Bc5 10. cxb4 Nxb4 11. Be3 Be7 { Black has an extra pawn, but the position is so unconvential that it is very easy to go wrong.} 12. Nc3 Nf6 (12... Nd3 13. Re2 Qa5 {was also possible.}) 13. e5 Ng4 14. Bd4 O-O 15. Ne4 Nd3 16. Re2 Qa5 (16... f6 $5 {would have been a good time to break.} 17. exf6 Nxf6 $15) 17. Nd6 Bxd6 18. exd6 Rfc8 19. h3 Nh6 { The knight is looking to come to f5 now.} 20. Bc2 Nb4 (20... Rxc2 21. Rxc2 Nf5 22. Rb1 $14 {doesn't give Black enough compensation.}) 21. Re5 $5 {The two bishops are already in place and now the rook lifts itself into the attack.} Qd8 22. Be4 Nc6 23. Rh5 Nxd4 24. Qxd4 Rab8 25. Ne5 {This is what I have often noticed in games of good players. Their moves are extremely natural and they just flow! It is very difficult to resist against them once they have the intiative.} f5 26. Bxf5 Qf6 $6 ({Better was} 26... Nxf5 27. Rxf5 Qb6 $1 (27... exf5 28. Qd5+ Kh8 (28... Kf8 29. Qf7#) 29. Nf7+ $18) 28. Qd2 (28. Qd1 Qb2 29. Rg5 Be2 $15) 28... Qb2 29. Qxb2 Rxb2 30. Rf3 Re2 31. Re3 (31. Nxd7 Bb5 $19) 31... Rd2 32. Nxd7 Rxd6 $11) 27. Be4 Rb5 28. Re1 g6 $2 {The final mistake is met with a nice finishing shot.} 29. Bxg6 $1 (29. Rxh6 Qxe5 {was black' idea.}) 29... Kg7 (29... hxg6 30. Rxh6 $18) 30. Qe3 1-0

“Do you think Morra Gambit will be a good choice?!!” Zaven Andrisian (left) finished fourth.

Arman Pashikian and Samvel Ter Sahakyan didn't have great results, finishing sixth and fifth respectively

The stylish GM Avetik Grigoryan played competitive chess after quite some time,
and had to be content with a 50% score

GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan would not be happy with his eighth place finish, but he played an important
role in deciding the winner of the tournament by defeating Arman Mikaelyan in the last round

FM David Shahinyan (left) made his second IM norm and now needs only one more to achieve
the International Master title, as he has already crossed the rating requirement of 2400

GM Tigran Kotanjian had a forgettable event as he scored just 2.0/9 and finished last

The women’s section was won by Susanna Gaboyan (2086) with a score of 7.0/9

WFM Maria Gevorgyan scored 6.5/9 and finished second

WIM Anna Hairapetian, the top seed and also 2013 Armenian Champion, finished third

Group photo: the top three winners: Maria, Susanna and Anna

The atmosphere at the playing hall was quite friendly before the start of every game

You can read this interview with the two winners, conducted by Mediamax.am in Armenian.
The two will now have the opportunity to represent Armenia at the next Olympiad

Pictures from the facebook page of Mediamax.am


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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