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Levon Aronian GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship
GM Levon Aronian – Nr. 6 der Weltrangliste
31.7.-2. August 2009, 18:30 Uhr, Rheingoldhalle Mainz

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July 27- Aug 2nd, 2009 Rheingoldhalle, Mainz
Chess Classic Mainz 2009 (CCM9)
6. Chess960 Rapid World Championship
GM L. Aronian, GM V. Bologan, GM H. Nakamura, GM S. Movsesian



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Chess Classic

Chess as a spectator’s sport
Aronian wins Chess960 World Championship in dramatic match against Anand

17.08.2007 - When Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian sat down to play their four game match for the title of Chess960 World Champion it was hard to name a favorite. Both are excellent rapid and blitz players and though Aronian in contrast to Chess960 newcomer Anand has already shown his skills in this form of chess, most people thought Anand’s speed of chess thinking should make up for this. But everyone agreed that it would be a tough and exciting match. And they were right: The final of the FiNet Chess960 World Championship was packed with drama, mystery and fighting chess.

Closing Ceremony: Old and new Chess960 World Champion Levon Aronian (Foto: Christian Bossert)

Right from the start Anand showed how motivated he was. Being Black in the first game he played the opening aggressively, continuously creating threats to put Aronian under pressure. This strategy seemed to pay off, when Aronian fell behind on the clock and around move 20 had only 20 seconds left while Anand still had five minutes on the clock. But Aronian fought back, played quickly and used the five seconds increment to master all tactical tricks. Meanwhile Anand tried to find a clear way to advantage, spending more and more time on every move. Then, suddenly, it was all over: Aronian pointed to Anand’s clock, the players shook hands and left the stage. The spectators could hardly believe it: Anand had lost on time, after his loss against Kamsky in the final of the PCA-World Championship in Las Palmas 1995 the second serious game in his 25 years long career he had lost on time. A bitter disappointment for the world’s number one.

The schedule in Mainz is tough and after a ten minute break the players had to be back on stage for the second game. But this short break seemed to have been enough time for Anand to recover and he again managed to put pressure on Aronian. However, the Armenian again showed his defensive skills. Having been slightly worse throughout the game he reached a tricky ending with only seconds left on the clock, which he still easily and confidently turned into a draw.

Vishy Anand at Chess960 Pillory (Foto: Frank Stiefel)

By hindsight, the third game is a mystery. Aronian again showed an amazing skill to steer his pieces with apparent ease from their random positions to active squares, giving him an almost winning advantage, much more so because Anand had practically no counterplay at all. However, the ease with which he seemed to be able to defend his title of Chess960 World Champion might have made Aronian too confident. His play lost focus and he let Anand back into the game. After Aronian missed one or two opportunities to cash in on his positional advantage he suddenly found himself in a pawn-down rook endgame. But although Anand was close to win this ending, in the end Aronian’s active king and advanced passed pawn secured the draw.

Now, Anand had to win the fourth game to tie the match, and this game turned into a fascinating struggle, giving the spectators everything they looked for. Despite needing only a draw, Aronian sacrificed a pawn on the second move which led to an exchange of blows and counterblows that lasted until the end of the game. If one player seemed to get an advantage, the other came up with an amazing resource only to be countered by an even more amazing move. After an early exchange of queens, both sides sacrificed material repeatedly and tried to mate their opponents. In the end Anand came out on top: He managed to stop Aronian’s passed pawn and won material. However, even with only a few pieces left Aronian conjured up dangerous counterplay, creating mating threats out of nowhere. But Anand coolly defended and forced the match into a tie-break.

This game showed why Chess960 and a time limit of 20 minutes + 5 seconds increment can be so attractive: Right from the start the game featured unknown positions, which brought out the best in both players. The result was tremendous chess and a game, which has every chance to become a classic of Chess960.

Chess960 Titan Levon Aronian (Foto: Frank Stiefel)

After four exciting rapid games both players were visibly tired and this showed in their blitz games when Anand blundered the exchange overlooking a relative simple two-mover. Though he managed to get some counterplay his position turned out to be beyond repair and after a few more moves he resigned.

Now he had to win the second blitz game. But again, he seemed to be tired and lacking inspiration. After he failed to exert any serious pressure on Aronian’s position he sacrificed a pawn or two to get winning chances but after a couple of exchanges had to agree to a draw. Thus, Aronian won the match and successfully defended his title of Chess960 World Champion.

The final between Anand and Aronian overshadowed the match for third place between Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Etienne Bacrot a bit. Here Etienne Bacrot showed that the lack of practice he had complained about earlier was gone. After his disappointing result in the preliminary Bacrot decided something had to be done. So he registered for the FiNet Chess960 to get some practice and to boost his self-confidence instead of brooding over his losses in his hotel room. The fact, that he now in addition to his four games in the evening had to play five more games during the day, did not frighten, but motivated the passionate chess player and gambler Bacrot.

His match against Kasimdzhanov showed that Bacrot was comfortable with a full day of chess: He clearly dominated his opponent and after drawing the first two games he won games three and four to finish third in the Chess960 World Championship.

Friday evening it’s back to classical chess. Kasimdzhanov will be happy to be back to familiar positions, Bacrot, who has to play rounds 6 to 11 in the FiNet Open will have to readjust to classical chess, Aronian will try to win the second title and Anand will try to prove that he is still the champion of the Chess Classic Mainz.

Johannes Fischer

Published by Harry Schaack

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