Aronian's finest hour (UPDATE: last video added!)

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
r13In what was arguably the finest round of the Grand Prix tournament in Nalchik, Levon Aronian managed to beat his direct competitor Peter Leko for first place in convincing and ravishing style. The rest of the games were equally entertaining.

After the Amber tournament in Nice in March, Levon Aronian today won his second tournament of the year: the 4th FIDE Grand Prix in Nalchik. The Armenian, who also won the 2nd Grand Prix in Sochi last year, cashed another € 30,000 and added another 180 GP points to arrive at 360. In the overall Grand Prix standings he's still behind Radjabov and Grischuk, who lead with 363.33 points. In Nalchik, Leko eventually finished shared second with Akopian, who played an excellent tournament.

Let’s get the only dull game of the round out of the way first. It was Svidler-Grischuk, who played a theoretical drawing line of the French Winawer. Svidler tried some improvements, but it turned out to be nothing scary, and he had to concede a draw after 21 moves.

The other two draws were rather more interesting. Gata Kamksy introduced a new idea (13…c5-c4) against Vassily Ivanchuk in his favourite Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez and followed up with the sharp centre break d6-d5, opening lines for his bishops. Rybka evaluates the complications after 16.axb5 slightly more promising for White, but what Ivanchuk did was also interesting. The resulting position looked quite active for White, but Kamsky defended with a creative queen-sac for R + B. Ivanchuk couldn’t break through and a draw was agreed after a couple more moves.

Kasimdzahnov-Mamedyarov (try pronouncing that quickly a few times!) was a 4.Bf4 Gr?ºnfeld Defence where instead of the usual taking on c4, Black chose a setup with a6 and b5, reminiscent of the Chebanenko Slav. In the complicated middle game position that arose, both players had tactical tricks all over the place but it was Black who had to be most careful. Mamedyarov succeeded just fine, as White had just enough weaknesses to compensate for his two bishops. As usual the Bg7 was a killer and in the end, this was the only light piece left for Black, who then could seal safely towards the draw.

Games round 13

The rest of the games were pure heaven for chess fans. Where to start? Perhaps by noticing that Sergey Karjakin has made some strange opening choices in this tournament. Against Boris Gelfand, he again went for a dubious endgame in a Chebanenko Slav where he had very pleasant memories of an earlier win against Eljanov.This time, he was less fortunate. He got a passive position, and by playing even more passively (it was hard to understand why he went for 15…Nd7 instead of the more active 15…Nd5), he got stuck with his king in the centre and two rather useless rooks. Still, he could have defended more tenaciously on several moments, notably with the logical move 32…Nb4 and, after Gelfand perhaps misplayed with 36.Rd6+ instead of taking on g7, with putting his rook on the second rank with 38…Rd2 instead of 38…Rd3. Still, the endgame was hell for Black from a practical point of view, and it’s no surprise Gelfand finished it in style with a pseudo-exchange sacrifice.


Bacrot: now more draws in the second part of the tournament

Evgeny Alekseev’s good tournament was ruined on the last day when he couldn’t put up a fight against Etienne Bacrot. Alekseev played the Petroff, but it’s not clear what he had in mind with the opening, since his position was already worse on move 12. This is especially curious because the line Bacrot played isn’t known to be dangerous for Black. Anyway, in the game White got an advanced e-pawn and two bishops, which he exchanged just at the right moment to reach a favourable opposite bishops ending. Although according to the computer Bacrot missed several quicker wins, victory was never in doubt.

A very difficult game was Eljanov-Akopian. In a quiet 4…Bf5 Slav (does anyone know what this line is called?) the position took on a closed, but very principled form. White was advancing on the queenside while Black gained space in the centre. With a nice pawn sacrifice, Akopian got rid of Eljanov’s bishops, and subsequently White’s Bd2 became a ‘useless monument’ as we say in Dutch. Black’s Knight invaded the white squares and with a textbook exchange sacrifice, Akopian tore up White’s last defensive hopes. A great game by Akopian!


Tournament leaders meet, Aronian the strongest

But the exchange sacrifice of the day must still be given to another player, for Levon Aronian was in an inspired mood today against Peter Leko. I had the idea Black never fully equalized in this Nimzo Indian, and Aronian’s bishops soon looked annoyingly at Leko’s king and queen. Slowly but steadily, Aronian made progress, and with the superb 34.Re5! he already more or less decided the game in his favour. His centre pawns were simply an unstoppable force, supported by active queen, rook and two bishops. Of course, Leko played on for a long time still, but the result was settled already.

And so it's Levon Aronian again who finished first in a tournament that was full of fighting chess and very interesting opening developments. We hope you enjoyed the articles by our different editors! Peter is travelling back to Amsterdam tomorrow and hopes to finish the last video while waiting in Moscow airport for five hours. It'll be uploaded tomorrow night, hopefully...


Aronian wearing a Caucasan felt cloack at the closing ceremony, with female singers next to him


Q = Qualification: CH = World Championship, CP = World Cup, RL = rating list, RR = reserve rating list, PR = presidential nominee, HC = host city nominee, nc = not qualified



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