Armenia (and friends) versus the World

6/8/2004 – What do Lputian, Akopian, and Vaganian have in common? Easy one. Why put Kasparov, Leko, and Gelfand on the Armenian team with them? We'll tell all. They will face a World all-star team of Anand, Svidler, Adams, Bacrot, Vallejo, and van Wely in a spectacular team event starting June 10 in Moscow.

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Team Petrosian takes on the World

The Petrosian Memorial – June 10-15 – Ararat Park Hyatt Hotel, Moscow, Russia

In this year of the 75th anniversary of the 9th world champion's birth there has already been one Petrosian Memorial tournament and later in the year there will be another. But the one that everyone is likely to remember best starts Thursday in Moscow. With two days to go before the first round we haven't seen any official website for the event, but we'll be bringing you reports and games.

It's a Scheveningen-format team tournament that matches the best of Armenia against a team of international stars. Each of the six team members will play everyone on the other team for a total of 36 games. Best of all, it's classical chess. (Although Tigran Petrosian was legendary in casual blitz, we're sure he would approve.)

The Petrosian team is manned by the cream of Armenia's powerful chess crop. 1999 World Championship runner-up Vladimir Akopian, feared Bundesliga warrior Rafael Vaganian, and experienced international Smbat Lputian. It's worth noting that tiny Armenia has the second-highest number of players participating in the 2004 FIDE world championship in Libya this month, seven. (Russia has 19.)

The rest of the team is made up of players with connections to Armenia or Petrosian himself. Garry Kasparov's mother is Armenian and he has always been claimed by that chess-mad nation. Peter Leko married an Armenian, one named Petrosian no less! (No immediate relation, sadly.) His wife Sofia is the daughter of Armenian GM Arshak Petrosian, who is also his trainer and will be the coach of the Petrosian team in Moscow.

Then comes Israeli Boris Gelfand, who is not about to change his name to Gelfandian to fit in. The lanky GM was the top student of Petrosian's school back in the early 80's before Petrosian's untimely demise in 1984 at the age of 55.

The World team is a powerful line-up with one player each from India, Russia, England, Netherlands, France, and Spain. In the 2002 Russia versus the World rapid tournament Akopian and Gelfand were on the World team. But Armenia comes first! Vishy Anand was also first board for the World team in that event. When will India be ready to take on the World so he can play for the home team?

The tournament was to have ended exactly on Petrosian's birthday on June 17, but had to be compacted due to the FIDE world championship getting underway in Tripoli the next day. So there won't be any rest days in Moscow. The three Armenians plus Adams, Vallejo, and Bacrot will immediately head to Libya after the final round.

Kasparov's team may look outrated but actually the teams are perfectly equal! Both have an average rating of 2705. No doubt the Armenians would benefit from playing in Yerevan instead of Moscow, but the appropriately named Ararat Hotel might serve as compensation! Mount Ararat, the resting place of Noah's Ark in legend, is actually in Turkey, but most Armenians look to it as an ancestral symbol.

In normal pairings it's #1 vs #6 on day one with the clash of the top boards left for the final day. That would mean first round pairings of Kasparov-van Wely, Leko-Vallejo, Gelfand-Bacrot, Akopian-Adams, Vaganian-Svidler, Lputian-Anand, colors to be determined.


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