- The Washington Times - Friday, December 23, 2005

In a dominating performance, 23-year-old Armenian GM Levon Aronian has won the FIDE World Chess Cup in Khanty-Mansyisk, Russia, putting him squarely in the hunt for the 2007 world championship cycle.

The rapidly improving Aronian, who gained 50 rating points this year even before the FIDE tournament, did not lose a game in the three-week knockout event, defeating Ukrainian GM Ruslan Ponomariov in the finals. The two drew their classical chess games, but Aronian won both of the rapid-game playoff matches to take the crown.

As reported last week, American GM Gata Kamsky finished in the top 10 and will join Aronian, Ponomariov and at least seven other WCC qualifiers in the candidates’ matches that begin in September. Among the others making the cut: French GM Etienne Bacrot, Russian star Alexander Grischuk and 15-year-old Norwegian sensation Magnus Carlsen, who finished 10th.

The finals were no cakewalk, as Ponomariov put up a game fight before submitting. In the first rapid game, a misguided sacrifice puts Black on the defensive early, but Aronian needs a heavy dose of grandmasterly technique to earn the point.

In a classic Tartakover QGD, Black’s bishop finds itself in an awkward spot after 11. Bg3 Bb4+ 12. Ke2 (losing castling rights but getting good c-file pressure in return) c5?! 13. a3 Ba5 (c4 14. axb4 cxd3+ 15. Qxd3 Nf6 16. Rhc1 gives White strong queen-side pressure) 14. b4 cxb4 15. Qb3!, when Black may have missed that 15…Qe7? is met by 16. Qxd5 Nf6 17. Qxa8! Bb7 18. Bd6! Bxf3+ 19. Qxf3, winning the exchange.

White snares the piece on 15…Nc5!? 16. dxc5 bxc5 17. axb4 c4 18. Bh7+ Kh8 (Kxh7 19. Qc2+ Kg8 20. Rxa5 is no better) 19. Qc3, and Aronian methodically proceeds to pick off Black’s remaining queen-side pawns.

By 31. R5a2 Rxa2 32. Nxa2 d4 33. exd4, one would think resignation was in the air, with Black down a full piece and pawn. But the gritty Ponomariov makes his opponent sweat, and by 54. hxg3 gxf4 55. gxf4 Bb1, White has to take care to protect his last, vital pawn. In a nice maneuver, Aronian’s knight sidesteps its way from e3 to g7, all the time keeping Black’s king at bay.

By 69 Ng7 (finally) Kc7 70. Be7 Kd7 71. Bf8 (the bishop and knight efficiently wall off the Black king) Kc7 72. Kd4 Kd7 73. Ke5, Black’s f-pawn must fall. Ponomariov resigned.

Our second game, a real change of pace, comes from this month’s championship tournament for New York’s fabled Marshall Chess Club. The nine-round(!) event was won by Israeli GM Leonid Yudasin by a half-point over American GM Nick De Firmian.

Unlike Aronian in his grinding win, FM Yefim Treger needed just 25 moves to dispatch Class A player Zachary Young at the Marshall event, capping things off with a nice rook sacrifice.

In what transposes to an Old Benoni, the lower-rated Young has the worse of the opening battle after 9. Nxe4 Qa5+ 10. Nc3 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qxb5, with Black enjoying a safer king and better pawns. After 12. Kf2 Nd7 13. Nd2 c4!, White will have major difficulties freeing his pieces and defending his d-pawn.

Already down material after 15. Re1 Qxd5, White seeks salvation in complications, but only opens himself to a vicious attack: 16. Qg4?! f5 17. Qh3 fxe4 18. Qxd7 e3+!, drawing the White king into the open.

Now 19. Rxe3 (Bxe3?? Qxg2 mate) Rxf4+ 20. Ke1 Qxg2 21. Qe6+ Kh8 22. Re2 Qf1+ 23. Kd2 Rf5 24. Bb2 Rd5+ 25. Qxd5 Qf4+ 26. Ke1 Bxd5 costs White his queen, but the game’s 19. Kxe3 (see diagram) can’t hold the floodwaters back, either.

Thus: 19…Rxf4! (not hard to spot, but admirably aggressive) 20. Kxf4 Rf8+ 21. Kg3 (Ke3 Qe4+ 22. Kd2 Rf2+ 23. Kd1 Qxc2 mate) Qxg2+ 22. Kh4 Qf2+ 23. Kg5 Rf5+ 24. Qxf5 (White gets two rooks for his queen, but that is little consolation when your king is stuck on g5) Qxf5+ 25. Kh4 Qf2+.

As 26. Kg5 (Kh3 Bc8+ 27. Re6 Bxe6 mate) Qf6+ 28. Kg4 h5+ 28. Kg3 Qf3+ 29. Kh4 Qg4 is mate, Young resigned.

Chess fans can pick up a little holiday cheer this week by dropping in on the 32nd annual Eastern Open, one of the biggest events on the local calendar. Play runs Tuesday through Friday at the Wyndham Washington Hotel at 1400 M St. NW, a superb venue for chess. We’ll also have some games and full results from the Eastern in upcoming columns.

Thanks to all for reading this year, and may your ratings increase in 2006.

FIDE World Chess Cup, Khanty-Mansyisk, Russia, December 2005


1. d4Nf638. Bc3Rxd6

2. c4e639. Nb4Bb5

3. Nf3d540. Nc2Rd3

4. Nc3Be741. Ra3f6

5. Bg5h642. Bd4Rxa3

6. Bh40-043. Nxa3Bc6

7. e3b644. f3Kf7

8. Bd3Nbd745. Nc4Ke6

9. cxd5Nxd546. Ne3Bb7

10. Nxd5exd547. Bc5Bc6

11. Bg3Bb4+48. Kf2Bb7

12. Ke2c549. f4Be4

13. a3Ba550. g3h5

14. b4cxb451. Ke2g5

15. Qb3Nc552. Kd2h4

16. dxc5bxc553. Kc3hxg3

17. axb4c454. hxg3gxf4

18. Bh7+Kh855. gxf4Bb1

19. Qc3Bxb456. Kd4Bg6

20. Qxb4Kxh757. Bb6Bb1

21. Qd6Bf558. Bd8f5

22. Qxd8Rfxd859. Kc5Be4

23. Nd4Bg660. Bg5Bb1

24. Kd2a561. Nd5Be4

25. Ra4Ra662. Nb4Kd7

26. Rha1Rda863. Na2Ke6

27. Nb5Rb664. Nc3Bf3

28. Rxa5c3+65. Nb5Be4

29. Nxc3Rb2+66. Nd4+Kd7

30. Ke1Rc867. Bf6Kc7

31. R5a2Rxa268. Ne6+Kd7

32. Nxa2d469. Ng7Kc7

33. exd4Ra870. Be7Kd7

34. d5Bf571. Bf8Kc7

35. d6Bd772. Kd4Kd7

36. Bf4Kg673. Ke5Black

37. Bd2Ra6resigns

Marshall Chess Club Championship, New York, December 2005


1. e4g614. Ne4Bb7

2. d4Bg715. Re1Qxd5

3. f4c516. Qg4f5

4. d5d617. Qh3fxe4

5. Nf3Nf618. Qxd7e3+

6. Nc30-019. Kxe3Rxf4

7. Be2b520. Kxf4Rf8+

8. Bxb5Nxe421. Kg3Qxg2+

9. Nxe4Qa5+22. Kh4Qf2+

10. Nc3Bxc3+23. Kg5Rf5+

11. bxc3Qxb524. Qxf5Qxf5+

12. Kf2Nd725. Kh4Qf2+

13. Nd2c4White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington times.com.

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