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Aronian Wins Sochi Grand Prix

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Armenia's Levon Aronian has fallen on relatively hard times since he shot into the world's top five a few years back. At 2737 he was only the fourth seed in the Sochi Grand Prix, rated behind Ivanchuk, Radjabov, and a resurgent Svidler. Aronian finished a disastrous equal last with 3/10 at the M-Tel Masters in June. In Sochi he looked more like the player who took equal first at Corus in January. He muddled along for most of the event, losing a nice game to Ivanchuk in the third round. Aronian put his foot on the gas in the last third of the tournament, scoring 3.5/4 with wins over Cheparinov, Gelfand, and Grischuk. The draw in there was equally important to the final standings since it came in the penultimate round with black against Radjabov, who finished a half-point back.

The last round was a rare thriller, with almost all the leaders scoring under pressure. Aronian beat Grischuk while Radjabov took out Karjakin with black in a spectacular Dragon. Can I say how happy I am that two of our most exciting and powerful young players, Carlsen and Radjabov, are playing the Dragon? Nakamura and a few other elites also dabble in it so a full-on revival might be on the squares soon. White's still winning a lot at the GM level, however, so handle with care. Also in the final round Jakovenko won a very pretty game against the plummeting Cheparinov. Jako drew no fewer than 10 games in a row before finishing with three decisive games.

I was surprised to notice that Wang Yue was the only undefeated player. What with the new baby and with family visiting I could only follow the event sporadically (plus, watching the Olympics), but I didn't recall ever seeing the Chinese in trouble. Turns out he drew all his games except for a two-day period in the middle when he beat Gelfand and then Radjabov's King's Indian. Now I remember glancing at the KID game, a rare win against the Samisch Gambit line. A strong endgame performance by Wang Yue. He also beat Gelfand in a bishop endgame, which the Israeli mishandled in very uncharacteristic fashion. A solid performance from the surprising co-winner of the first GP in Baku. Wang Yue leads the Grand Prix standings after two events. Gata Kamsky tied him for =3-4 with 7.5. He used the Grunfeld in all four of his games against 1.d4 and scored 50%. The loss was a near-win against Cheparinov.

Speaking of the Grunfeld and of uncharacteristic play, Peter Svidler was all over the place in his home country. He won his final three games to finish with a +1 result. That tied him with Jakovenko and Karjakin. Ivanchuk and Gashimov had even scores. Ivan Cheparinov was one of the main motors of the tournament. His wildly entertaining attacking play had him at an improbable +2 until the wheels came off in the 10th round. He scored 0.5 from the final four rounds to finish on -1 with Grischuk. Gelfand lost to all the leaders to end on -2. Navara and al Modiakhi were equally hapless to finish deep in the cellar with 4/13. The Qatari even had the moral victory of scoring a win -- against the winless Navara.

Once again I find myself saying that Navara played better than his score. Call it nerves or what you will, but the Czech was considered top-20, maybe even top-10, material a few years ago. He hit 2725 in 2006. He draws, even loses, more superior positions than seems possible. I'm still wondering if he missed the perpetual against Jakovenko or just panicked and allowed it on purpose. al Modiakhi is a pleasant guy who at least seems to be trying to have fun at the board despite his massive rating deficit.

I didn't have a chance to follow the official FIDE GP coverage, which again looked promising. How are the videos? Ready for prime time? What grade would you give the coverage overall? Chess-wise it was a great fighting event; don't be misled by the high draw percentage.


Seems like Gata was in rather good form, excepting the Chepa loss. I, personally, am hoping for a Kramnik-Kamsky match down the road. (hey, lay off! I like solid strategic games)

Anyone want to hazard a guess on his chances vs Topalov?

I put it (sadly) at about 40%. Come on Gata and prove me wrong!

I think that Gata’s chances against topalov are impossible to know right now. Given proper training and a good opening update he should be able to beat him. In most of the games I’ve seen him play since his reactivation he depended on know-how and raw talent, something that got him where he is (match vrs topalov) but I don’t think that’s enough to take down the Bulgarian.
So Gata take my advice:
- order more the just the last 10 copies of New in Chess and the Informant
- drop the Grunfeld, it aint working; wasn’t working 10 years a go, and it aint working now
- get some serious physical training; topalov likes to hit hard just around the 4th hour of play
- try to keep things in flux on both wings; he is bad at switching plans

I like the new Kamsky, though I wish he would develop some new openings. I will root for him hard, but I only give him about a 30% shot of actually beating Topalov. I can't stand Topalov after Elista, but I can't see Kamsky beating him with those openings.

Advice for Kamsky on the Topalov match:

Look, I know you're an underdog and I think you're going to get creamed. Topalov isn't the same player he was in 2005, but he's a class above you anyway. If you're going to beat him, you need a few shortcuts. Here they are:

1. Adopt the Petroff. Preferably, play as many Petroffs as you can, and draw them all, before teh match with Topalov. Then he won't play 1.e4, and you've limited your preparation.

2. Equalize before the endgame. Topalov is a very good endgame player, you won't save as many half points against him as you would against, say, Leko.

3. Play classical openings. Topalov hates balanced positions and is not nearly as good at making something out of nothing as other 2750 rated Grandmasters.

4. Don't castle on opposite sides. See above (3.).

5. Prefer positional advantage to material advantage.

6. Mention Wijk Aan Zee 1999 as often as possible in prematch interviews.

In other news the World Junior was won by India..no seriously top 1-2 in the boys section and 1 and shared 2 in the girls.


Of course.

The balance of power has shifted. Asia is the region of promise! China, India, Vietnam, the Philippines are rising fast. Europe has stagnated a bit despite it still being the strongest region.

It isn't so much that Europe has stagnated... after all, there's not much more room to move farther up. But it's great to see others making a splash.

Aronian did very well- he has the best chance now to win the Grand Prix series as he gets 180 points in his first event and the next best is 153 points for the joint first players in Baku- but it is still very early days.

eg Ivanchuk could have 3 very goos results and then his poor 50% here won't matter.

I think that by the end the winner of the grand prix series will have about 440 to 480 points from his best 3 events.

Incidentally there is luck in that the same score can be worth quite different amounts eg on 50% you could be top half or bottom half in places depending on the distribution. You might be 5th-6th or you might be 8th.

Yifan Hou shared 3-7 place in the open section, achieving a GM-norm. She can try another 6 times (in 2015 she will be too old to participate) to win the title.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 15, 2008 1:24 AM.

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