18-year-old Aryan Tari has won the 2017 World Junior Championship in Tarvisio, Italy so that we now have two Norwegian World Champions. He held his nerve in a tense last-round clash with top seed Jorden van Foreest, while 12-year-old Praggnanandhaa couldn’t get anything with Black against Rasmus Svane and had to settle for fourth place despite a brilliant tournament. Manuel Petrosyan and Aravindh sneaked into the medal places after slow starts. 17-year-old Zhansaya Abdumalik took the girls title by a full point, improving on her previous bronze and silver medals.
You can replay all the 2017 World Junior Championship Open games using the selector below – click on a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her results:
When we last reported on the World Junior Championship after eight rounds Tari was absolutely on fire. He’d won six of his last seven games, scored crushing wins against top opposition, had a 2825 rating performance and was half a point clear of the field. He couldn’t keep up that pace, but didn’t have to, with three draws in the final three games proving enough for the title. Perhaps the most crucial one was against the second best performing player in the tournament, Praggnanandhaa.
We’d already had a complex middlegame with chances for both sides before it developed into a thriller due to the young Indian’s time management – he was again left to play the last dozen moves using only the 30-second increment received after each move.
Here, on move 29, it seems there was no good reason why Praggnanandhaa couldn’t simply take the pawn on d4 with chances, if he could consolidate and reach the time control, of playing for a win. Instead after 29…Bb6?! a draw was eventually reached on move 39.
Tari’s Round 10 game with China’s Xu Xiangyu was a much less eventful 30-move draw, until in the last round he got perhaps the worst possible pairing – Black against pre-tournament favourite Jorden van Foreest. Jorden had stormed back with five wins in a row after losing two consecutive games in Rounds 4 and 5 and would have won the tournament with a last-round win.
It all came down to a knight ending which was tricky for Black, since the white king was faster at reaching the centre:
If seems Jorden might have been able to torture his opponent here with pawn moves, aiming for a zugzwang where Black would have had to worsen the position of his king and knight. Instead 41.Nd5 Nc4 42.Nf4+ Kd6 43.b3 Nd2+ 44.Kd3 g5 45.Kxd2 gxf4 proved to be a drawn pawn ending, with the game soon ending on move 54. Congratulations came from the very top!
And Tari could be very proud of himself:
Before we get to the silver and bronze medallists it’s only fitting to look at the 4th place finisher. Despite being six or more years younger than those who finished above him he remained unbeaten, scored the second best rating performance (2688) and came incredibly close to scoring more points, winning the tournament and smashing Sergey Karjakin’s record as the youngest grandmaster ever.
We already saw he had some chances in the game against Aryan Tari in Round 9, although to be fair, given his time management, he could also look back on that game with relief. The greatest missed chances, though, were in Round 7, where he agreed a draw in an almost won position against Kirill Alekseenko, and then in Round 10, when he agreed a draw in what was definitely a won position. His opponent was 15-year-old Semen Lomasov, the 2016 World U14 Champion and the youngest player other than Praggnanandhaa to finish in the top 10.
The game was a rollercoaster ride, with Lomasov first getting the upper hand in tactical complications before overlooking a shot when he played 28…Rxa5? (28…Nxa5!):
29.Nxe4! simply won a pawn, since 29…dxe4 runs into 30.Rxc4 and the queen on b7 is embarrassed. The game was still finely balanced, though, until Praggnanandhaa got the better of his opponent in a heavy-piece ending. The first critical moment was after 49…Qe8:
That’s a bold move from Black, ready to meet the Qc2+ fork with Qe4, but it has the flaw of allowing 50.Rb7!, and if the queen moves to try and protect the black king that fork will win the rook. The young Indian star used up all his remaining time, 3 minutes and 22 seconds, but finally decided simply to defend his en-prise pawn with 50.e3?, when after 50…Rc4 Black was back in the game.
Nevertheless, White soon had a won position again and after 55.Qf8 (the first warning sign – 55.Ra7! would have shown Praggnanandhaa’s fans he’d found the path to victory) 55…Qf6 56.Qg8+ Qg7 it was the moment of truth:
It wasn’t too late to go back to the correct idea with 57.Qa8! and then Ra7 next, but instead Praggnanandhaa played 57.Qe6+ and after 57…Qf6 repeated with 58.Qg8+. The hope still remained he was just building up time before playing the winning move, but no, the kid repeated moves again and the game was drawn.
The tournament was far from over, but Praggnanandhaa now needed to win in the last round, with Black, against 20-year-old German Rasmus Svane. That never looked likely after Rasmus, who used to work with Jan Gustafsson, surprised his opponent in the opening. Praggnanandhaa did well to equalise and might even have been able to seize the initiative if his opponent went astray, but no mistakes were forthcoming and the game was drawn by perpetual check in 32 moves.
Praggnanandhaa had still had a fantastic tournament and earned his first grandmaster norm, but he didn’t get the automatic grandmaster title he would have received for winning the tournament. That means for the next few months he’s going to have to live with the hype and pressure of the chase to beat Sergey Karjakin’s record of earning the GM title at the age of 12 years and 7 months. Next up is the Lidums Australian Young Masters that starts on December 2nd in Adelaide. The event is a 10-player all-play-all event that’s designed to meet all the requirements for GM norms (playing 3 grandmasters and players from enough different countries).
Of course the main requirement is to score enough points (probably 6.5/9) and you’ll be able to watch how Praggnanandhaa gets on here on chess24. Meanwhile, though, he deserves all the praise he’s been given:
In Swiss tournaments the well-known “Swiss gambit” is to lose a game early on and then, playing weaker opposition, outscore the players facing tougher opposition on the top boards and ideally hit the front at the perfect moment. That was the path taken by 18-year-old Indian Aravindh and 19-year-old Armenian Manuel Petrosyan. Aravindh lost to 2357-rated Serbian FM Pavle Dimic in Round 1, Petrosian lost in Round 3, but both stormed back and won their last three games.
The most impressive fact was that both managed to win with Black in the final round. Aravindh beat the previously unbeaten Chinese player Xu Xiangyu:
37…Rc1+! 38.Bxc1 Rxc1+ was the finishing touch.
Manuel Petrosyan beat long-time frontrunner Kirill Alekseenko, who had also lost to Aravindh in the previous round:
27…bxc4! was the star move, sacrificing the a4-knight, since after 28.Qxa4 Qxa4 29.Rxa4 cxd3 the passed d-pawn is too strong. 30.Bd2 Rc2 31.Nc4 Bf7 left White forced to give back the piece, with the game ending abruptly: 32.Nxe5 fxe5 33.Be3 Bh5! White resigns
Although the players tied with Tari on 8.5/11, Petrosyan took silver and Aravindh bronze, since the Norwegian had much better tiebreak scores. The final standings at the top look as follows:
Kazakhstan’s Zhansaya Abdumalik is only 17 years old, but she’d already won silver at the World Junior Championship in 2013 and bronze in 2015. In that latter event in Khanty-Mansiysk she started with 7/7 and still led with 8/9 before things fell apart, while this year she was leading with 6.5/7 before suffering a crushing loss in Round 8 to Anastasya Paramzina. Somewhere inside she must have feared that the same thing was going to happen again, but this time round she raced to gold with three wins in the last three games.
First she won a tricky queen ending with White after her opponent only cracked on move 65, and then she had Black for the last two games. She managed to bamboozle Greece’s Stavroula Tsolakidou in a wild tactical position by playing 25…Nxf3:
Strictly the only move here for White was 26.Bxf3! and with both queens attacked mass exchanges seem to lead an ending where Black is better but White has very decent chances of survival. Instead after 26.Qd3? Nde5! the tactics weren’t working for White, with the fact she was playing on increment making survival even less likely.
That meant Abdumalik went into the last round with a half point lead over American player Jennifer Yu, but it was far from over. Jennifer had White, knew a win would give her the title and was up to that point unbeaten in the event.
Although the way the game developed was objectively good for Black, Yu probably wasn’t too unhappy since it was a sharp position where she had chances of getting the win she needed. Abdumalik was in top form, though, and had manoeuvred to a completely won position by the time control:
Jennifer had the luxury of taking a 23-minute think here, but there was nothing she could do. Black has too many threats – Na4-b2 or c3, Rxc1, Rc2, Rxd3, Nxd3 and Qa7+, if the white king steps to e3, while White can only give a spite check. The game ended in less than 10 moves with White about to be mated.
So Zhansaya Abdumalik had finally done it, and Kazakhstan had kept the Girls World Junior title for a 2nd year, after Dinara Saduakassova won last year in India.
Jennifer Yu still took bronze despite the loss, while Anastasya Paramzina from Russia was the revelation of the event, gaining 103 rating points as she finished in clear 2nd place (though Natalie Kanakova managed to gain 116.8 points as she finished 9th!):
So that ends our coverage of the 2017 World Junior Championship. The smart money is on the Indian kids growing up to have a huge influence on the chess elite in a few years' time, but for now little Norway has a lot to boast about!
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