On June 2–3, Ernst & Young France organized its now traditional chess tournaments between the best French universities and “Grandes Ecoles”. The winning teams earn the right to play in a clock simul against an invited GM, who this year was no other than Levon Aronian, the world's second highest ranked chess player.
The team of Normale Sup Ulm, the winner of the tournament. In the background
Levon Aronian and Olivier Macard, Ernst & Young partner and organizer of the event
As in the previous year the tournament was dominated by the team of Normale Sup Ulm, who just conceded a single draw, against the second placed team in the tournament, Telecom Bretagne, in the fourth round. After seven round the teams that had qualified for the simul were namend. The Ernst & Young/ Sciences Po team, which had qualified for the simul, in a gesture of fair play gave its place to Centrale Paris. These are the teams that faced Aronian:
The average level of the teams was actually quite strong, many players being rated above 2100.
The Ernst & Young people, or how to combine work with your hobby…
At 2:30 pm on Sunday, a smiling Aronian, in an elegant black suit and pink shirt, arrived at Tower First, EY premices, in Paris. During the prize giving before the simul, he was told that the students had defeated Almira Skripchenko the previous year by a large score: –5, +2, =1. But Aronian said confidently that he was not to be afraid, as he himself shared the same score against Almira. Olivier Macard, Partner at EY and organizer of the tournament, then told the audience that none of the grandmasters invited so far had managed to score 8-0. The tone was set…
The team of Telecom Bretagne, yet unaware of their future outstanding performance
Aronian and the qualified teams went for the simul in the “Cube”, a technology room normally designed for interactive presentations, while the spectators could follow the games in a room with a breathtaking view over Paris. Live commentary was provided by Jean-Claude Moingt, former French Federation president, and Eric Birmingham, the chess trainer who kick-started Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's career.
A relaxed Aronian starting the simul
The super-GM started the simul very convincingly, putting pressure on every board and playing aggressively. His speed of play was astonishing: after 45 minutes of play, Aronian had spend a mere five minutes of his own time…
So everybody thought that things would end quite quickly, and that the closing cocktail would be held at tea time, But the team of Telecom Bretagne found unexpected resources and, patiently, managed to turn the situation in their favour. And when the audience saw that Aronian had his white bishop shut out behind his pawns, and a black rook arrived in a1, combined with a bishop on b7 and a queen in c6, aiming at g2, many understood that the Armenian Super-GM would not have fun on board two. As a matter of fact, after several attempts to save the position, he resigned, to the great joy of Telecom Bretagne, who had their revenge over Ulm1.
Aronian trying to save the only game where he was worse. Black rook on d2, bishop
on b7, queen on c6 – well, quite a burden for g2 and the white queen…
In the final count Aronian won seven games and lost one. After the event he congratulated Telecom Bretagne for their strong play. He was asked when, during the game, he had felt that things were going wrong, to which he answered that Ra1 had been the signal that the game could end badly.
Aronian commenting the games. In the background a view of Paris from E&Y premises
The event was closed with a cocktail (finally!) which saw a smiling Aronian spend time answering the questions of the students and signing autographs. A repeat will take place in 2013, and it will be the 20th edition of the EY tournament. Quite an anniversary, and obviously something special to think about…