Aronian Digs Up Old Files To Win 2015 Sinquefield Cup

Aronian Digs Up Old Files To Win 2015 Sinquefield Cup

"They say the third time counts." GM Levon Aronian's numerology and precise play ended any drama in the final round of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. That was just fine with him.

"I should be the one playing for a win, but I'm very pragmatic," he said about his choice to allow GM Veselin Topalov a repetition.

Over the last fortnight, Aronian was at times fiery and other times simple. The calm game today was just what he had in mind.

Tonight's celebration is planned to be equally sedate -- "some oysters and a glass of wine" with his girlfriend. "Victories don't come as a big celebration thing," Aronian said. "You feel it's time to relax. You accept it as something expected."

GM Levon Aronian needed less than two hours to pocket the $75,000 first prize.

"I've analyzed this variation in detail," Aronian said. "It's some old file I worked on. I repeated it before the tournament."

"In general I try to win at least one strong tournament a year!" he said. "Now I did my planned minimum." In 2014, Aronian won in Wijk aan Zee.

Aronian said he'd been playing the Ragozin Vienna Variation for so long, he could not remember the exact date. He explained that along with national teammate GM Gabriel Sargissian, they were the first two to popularize the opening at the highest levels.

"If you're playing Vienna or Ragozin, you have to know this line," Aronian said. About his choice to eschew 5...h6 as he had played in Norway, and then follow up with 8...Qd5, he said, "I am pragmatic at times, but my curiosity [overtakes me]!"

"Not only was he well prepared but all over the board he played very quickly," Topalov said. The majority of the time used in the game was from his clock.

He admitted that Black is likely better if he plays lines that avoid the draw, "but of course he didn't need that."

In good company: GM Ian Rogers said these two men (GM Robert Hess and Aronian) were part of a small fraternity of players not to win with Black's position after move 10! 

In 2013, GM Magnus Carlsen declined Aronian's draw offer in a similar circumstance -- up a point in the final round. Did Aronian consider playing out what he considered to be a better position for Black?

He said he only did this once. In the 1999 World Cup in Las Vegas, Aronian won the first game of his mini-match with GM Eduardas Rozentalis. In the second, he declined a draw that would have pushed him to the next round (he wound up winning anyway).

"But that is when I was 16," Aronian said. "I don't need much excitement anymore. Life is already very exciting."

Aronian didn't get to attack today, but didn't need to. He said his favorite game was against GM Wesley So.

None of the four players trailing by a point could be overly pleased to see his chance for first disappear, but at least two people appreciated the quick game. Aronian explained that taking the draw allowed his parents to get some sleep. The game ended shortly before midnight in Armenia, but some of his games in St. Louis lasted until much later.

Back to the home country, Aronian said, "They love chess in America." He praised the club and added, "You have to dance your best if you're in the Metropolitan Opera."

Topalov was still loving his position in the Grand Chess Tour. "If I was told I would be leading after two tournaments, I wouldn't believe it," he said. "I think that the winner of London will probably also be the overall winner."

Shortly after the handshake on the top board, Carlsen knew Aronian was uncatchable and agreed to terms with GM Viswanathan Anand. Carlsen congratulated his friend as they crossed paths to the stairwell to the commentary room.

Today's game didn't "stretch" the excitement -- GM Magnus Carlsen called it a day after Aronian clinched first.

Chess.com asked Aronian about their friendship, the Armenian and Azeri schools of chess, his favorite films, and other topics. Here's our in-depth video interview:

As for his participation in the 2015 FIDE World Cup, Aronian said he looks at the trip as a chance to be an ambassador for Armenia-Azerbaijan relations. "I get along well with the Azeri players...[I want to show] that I respect the neighboring country." The two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

He's not looking too far ahead. When asked, Aronian said he couldn't name his first-round opponent in Baku. He hoped it wouldn't be anyone higher than 2500. Presumably he'll be satisfied when he finds out it's Luxembourg's IM Michael Weidenkeller.

With first place sewn up early today, it was time for some light-hearted chess. Across the street, Chess.com vice president IM Danny Rensch reprised his giant bullet chess match with Vachier-Lagrave. After five games, the Frenchman defended his title 3-2. Look for the videos soon on Chess.com's Youtube page (where we've already posted tandem giant chess matches from earlier this week!).

Here is Carlsen's draw with Anand. Much like the 2014 World Championship, another Berlin, only this time Carlsen was Black.

"I didn't think that Vishy would be in too much of a fighting mood," Carlsen said. 

"I'm very happy for him," Carlsen said of Aronian. "He hasn't played this well for a while. I'm happy he's getting his game together."

Carlsen said "at least this is better than minus two (from 2014)...It's kind of normal that when I feel I've played a bad tournament, it should be plus one, it shouldn't be a minus score."

Anand would be hard-pressed to find many moments where he was better in St. Louis.

"He's a great player and he's very well prepared but of course he's not very young," GM Anish Giri said. "Clearly he's doing all he can to stay at the very top, but it's probably physically impossible to maintain the high level throughout the whole year." Anand had previously finished in second at Norway Chess.

Neither the crowds of Chennai nor the spartan seats of Sochi -- Anand-Carlsen had a "healthy" following today.

The longest game of the day came from the same man as yesterday, GM Hikaru Nakamura. Instead of holding a worse ending, today he went a few minutes longer (six hours, 33 minutes) to beat GM Alexander Grischuk with a brutal zugzwang.

After 43. h4, "I didn't see a clear win, but intuitively it felt like the right decision," Nakamura said.

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

"It's the end of a long tournament," Nakamura said. "I felt like I had to do something, I mean, I had the two bishops."

The two both whittled down to only a few minutes in the second time control. "It's always fun playing blitz with Sasha," Nakamura said. "I just took a shot. We were both low on time and it worked out."

The American triumvirate did not impress in St. Louis. Collectively Nakamura, Caruana and So finished minus four.

When shown 57...Qg7 after the game, Nakamura gasped. "I didn't see Qg7 at all. I would've probably had a heart attack." He's not lost -- 58. Bg5 blocks the attack on the file due to mate threats on h7.

With 13 hours of chess over the last two games, how was the American feeling? "The last few games have probably taken a few years off my life...I didn't deserve plus one."

Nakamura's modest rating gain of 2.2 points places him on his peak rating, supplanting Topalov as the new world number-two.

The U.S. flags could all be flying at half mast were it not for Nakamura's win today.

GMs Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So drew, ending both of their sub-par tournaments.

GM Anish Giri made it eight straight draws today (together with Aronian, he was the only player without a loss). GM Vachier-Lagrave agreed to the peace offer this time. They both protected their plus scores and finished tied with Nakamura and Carlsen for second.

"Nobody managed to pose me any real problems here, except for Hikaru," Giri said.

Not another draw!!!

Giri said, "I was planning to win until he played 28. Bf3."

"I feel like I belong [in the top 10]," Vachier-Lagrave said. "I think in Norway and here I proved I belong there."

His biggest blunder today? He forgot he had food in his hand and was seen eating in the confessional booth. "I was multitasking," he joked.

Images courtesy Spectrum Studios

You can see in the final standings that the loss to Grischuk bumped him from a possible clear second to a tie for sixth:

2015 Sinquefield Cup | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Aronian 2765 2918 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 6.0/9  
2 Giri 2793 2833 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 5.0/9 22.25
3 Carlsen 2853 2827 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 1 5.0/9 21.25
4 Vachier Lagrave 2731 2840 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0/9 21.25
5 Nakamura 2814 2831 0 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0 1 1 ½ 1 5.0/9 20.25
6 Topalov 2816 2793 ½ ½ 1 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 0 ½ 4.5/9 21.00
7 Grischuk 2771 2797 ½ 0 1 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 0 4.5/9 19.75
8 Anand 2816 2714 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 3.5/9 16.00
9 Caruana 2808 2715 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 3.5/9 15.25
10 So 2779 2676 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 3.0/9  

Nakamura's win also kept him very much in the mix for the inaugural Grand Chess Tour. Only the London Chess Classic remains. "Magnus is not the favorite," Nakamura said about that event.

Below are the live standings with combined prize money earned at Norway Chess and the Sinquefield Cup. Strangely, no players are tied in points (the top three places pay prizes at the end of the tour):

All of these players head to Baku for the World Cup except for Carlsen and Anand.

Nakamura told Chess.com that today's win "will be quite important" for the standings, but he's "not taking [the Grand Chess Tour] quite seriously" and instead focusing on the Candidates Tournament.

The final events of the Sinquefield Cup include tomorrow's closing ceremony and Thursday afternoon's "Ultimate Moves" competition with all 10 players, Rex Sinquefield, his son Randy Sinquefield, Garry Kasparov, and Yasser Seirawan. Thursday evening is the finale, a screening of the Hollywood movie "Pawn Sacrifice."

Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png


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