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Linares R14: Levon Aronian wins Morelia/Linares Super-GM

3/11/2006 – This prestigious event was won not by FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov, nor by the other favourites Svidler and Leko, but by 23-year-old Armenian grandmaster Levon Aronian, who after all is number five in the world rankings. Aronian achieved this by beating Peter Leko with the black pieces in the final round. Full report with pictures, video and commentary.
 

Round fourteen report

Round 14: Saturday, March 11th

Peter Leko 
0-1
Levon Aronian
Etienne Bacrot 
½-½
Teimour Radjabov
Peter Svidler 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Francisco Vallejo 
½-½
Veselin Topalov

Playing with the black pieces, Aronian won with unexpected easy against a somewhat demoralised Leko, and was proclaimed winner of this highly animated super-tournament. Together with his triumph in the World Cup 2005, this result consolidates the young Armenian's position among the leading Grand Masters at the moment. Vallejo-Topalov saw a theoretical draw by perpetual, while in Bacrot-Radjabov a draw was signed with all the pieces on board. The last game to finish was Svidler-Ivanchuk. Black managed to survive in spite of having lost a pawn right after the opening.

Final standings

Note that the above table, used by the official Spanish web site as well, is automatically generated by ChessBase 9.0 and uses the standard SB tiebreak system. However, in the Morelia/Linares tournament there was a new rule in place which stated that the result of the mini-match between the players sharing the same total points would be decisive. Since Radjabov scored 1.5-0.5 against Topalov, the final standings were:

1. Levon Aronian
2. Teimour Radjabov
3. Veselin Topalov

At the closing ceremony Radjabov was awarded the second prize.


The winner of Morelia/Linares: GM Levon Aronian, Armenia


A pit head tower, landmark of the mining town of Linares


Waiting for the players to arrive: Paco Albalate, technical director of the event


The mayor of Linares Juan Fernández with the Cultural
Secretary of Morelia Luis Jaime Cortez Méndez



Top French GM Etienne Bacrot before his final game in Linares

Bacrot,E (2717) - Radjabov,T (2700) [E93]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (14), 11.03.2006

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Bg5 f6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 Nh6 11.d5 Nd7 12.Nd2 f5 13.f3 Nf6 14.h3 c5 15.Bf2 f4 16.a3 Nf7 17.b4 b6 18.Qb3 h5 19.0-0-0 Bd7 20.Kc2.

There is plenty of play left in this position, but the last round has its own rules. Radjabov seems to have been content with his result already, while Bacrot might have not found strength to fight for improving his relatively modest place. 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]


Surprised everyone with a great result: Teimour Radjabov



A word of encouragement for Francisco Vallejo from mayor Juan Fernández


It's Paco vs the FIDE world champion in round 14

Vallejo Pons,F (2650) - Topalov,V (2801) [D39]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (14), 11.03.2006

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 Bb4. Topalov faces Vallejo with one of his own weapons. In doing so, he might have counted on a certain psychologic effect. 6.Bg5 c5. Of course, it would have made little sense to allow Vallejo make use of Ivanchuk's "lesson" in the variation starting with 6...b5. 7.Bxc4. Vallejo refrains from the main theoretical dispute, arising after 7.e5 and which had brought him a win over Topalov last year in Monte Carlo. After the game move, Black is supposed to be OK at the present stage of theory. 7...cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Qa5 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Qb3 0-0 13.0-0 Bxb5 14.Nxb5 Nc6 15.c4 Rad8.

Something must have gone wrong with Topalov's preparation. White can force a draw by perpetual whenever he wants, something the World Champion had no special reasons to be interested in, given the acute tournament situation. 16.Qg3+ Kh8 17.Qh4 Kg7 18.Qg3+ Kh8 19.Qh4 Kg7 20.f4 Qd2 21.e5 fxe5 22.Qg5+ Kh8 23.Qf6+ Kg8 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qf6+ Kg8 26.Rf3. Technically speaking, this is a novelty, but it hardly changes anything. Previously, 26.Rae1 had been played, invariably resulting into a draw. 26...Rd3 27.Qg5+ Kh8 28.Qf6+ Kg8 29.Qg5+ Kh8 30.Qf6+ Kg8 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]


Missed his final chance to clinch this event: Veselin Topalov



Going for Gold: Levon Aronian with black against Peter Leko

Leko,P (2740) - Aronian,L (2752) [C88]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (14), 11.03.2006

A difficult moment for the commentator. At the time I am writing these lines, the final result of the tournament is known already. Together with the fact that all the other games were drawn, this makes the choice of the main game quite easy. And yet, once the final line has been drawn, there are several questions crowding around: did my previous comments anticipate in any way Aronian's win? Did I grasp all his good creative moments? Have I highlighted enough the talent and strength of this new rising star? The answers to all these questions are far from one-sided, but, fortunately, I got the opportunity of commenting one more fine win of his. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.a4 Slightly dissapointing. It would have been interesting to follow these two great experts of the Marshall Attack having a theoretical dispute in their favourite opening. However, it is quite understandable that after the painfull loss from the previous round Leko preferred a safe position with just a bit of symbolic advantage. 8...b4 9.d3 d6 10.a5 Be6 11.Nbd2 Qc8.

12.Nc4. Strictly speaking, this move looks slightly unaesthetical. White willingly covers the diagonal of his light-squared bishop, placing the knight under some sort of pin at the same time. Indeed, the knight's generally desirable jump to e3 would leave White with double pawns on the b-file. Of course, I would not even dare to dream to criticise a move that has been played in several games at top level. However, since Leko lost this game partly because he failed to find a useful job to this bishop, I would mention that 12.Bc4 is a worthy alternative, aiming for a stable control of the central light squares. The game Akopian-Svidler, Wijk aan Zee 2004 continued 12...h6 13.h3 Re8 14.b3 Bf8 15.Bb2 Qd7 16.Qe2 Bxc4 17.Nxc4 g6 18.Nh2 Bg7 19.Ng4 Nh7 20.Nge3 f5 21.Nd5 f4 22.d4 Ng5 23.Qg4 and White's stability on light squares eventually prevailed over Black's advantage of space on the king side.

12...Rb8. Aronian deviates from his previous game against Svidler, played just two rounds earlier, where he chose 12...h6 He might have considered the fact that, if played at such an early stage of the game, it is not entirely clear whether such a move is useful or it just weakens the king side. The game Radjabov-Svidler from the 13th round is the most recent example of that, although the position was completely different. With his half-waiting move ...Rb8, Black anticipates the opening of the b-file by a later c3 and invites White to define his intentions. 13.Bg5

Leko bravely accepts the challenge, aiming to immediately take advantage of the lack of defence of the g5-square. In doing so, he actually fell in what seems to have been an extremely refined theoretical trap. What are the main alternatives? In the blitz game Sutovsky-Jakovenko, Eu ch blitz, Playchess.com 2006 White activated his light-squared bishop in a rather extravagant way with 13.Ba4 Nd8 14.b3 and eventually won, but this hardly takes advantage in any way of Black's omission of the move ...h6.; White's most solid continuation seems to be 13.h3 followed by Be3. In view of the permanent threat Ng5, harrasing the e6-bishop, Black might have to play ...h6 at a later moment anyway, more or less transposing to the game Svidler-Aronian.

13...Kh8!! The double exclaim refers to the depth of Black's concept; the objective merits of the move will only be revealed by further analysis and practice. Aronian initiates a clever regroupment, underlining the drawback of the early emergence of the bishop to g5. After ...Ng8, the contact between bishops will possibly open a path for the knight to the g6-square, which, in combination with the opening of the f-file with ....f5 will offer Black strong king side initiative. Besides, the gradual clearance of the a2-g8 diagonal will leave the b3-bishop without scope. The move is a novelty over 13...h6 which was played in Paehtz-Kasimdzhanov, Rethymnon 2003. 14.h3?! Leko intends to carry out the thematic occupation of the centre by means of c3 and d4 with all the comfort, but he will fal by just one tempo. Besides, ater the inevitable opening of the f-file, the h3-pawn will be the same sort of weakness that Black avoided by ommitting ...h6. True, 14.c3 Ng8 15.Bxe7 Ngxe7 16.d4 Bg4 would offer Black an exellent game, too; but the immediate 14.d4 comes into consideration, since the king's move to the corner hardly contributes in any way to the fight for the centre, while Bg5 might prove a useful developing move after all. We can see that it is not easy to find the optimal form of apllying the universally accepted recomandation according to which an operation on the wing should be met by an action in the centre. 14...Ng8 15.c3. With hindsight, it is easy to recommend 15.Be3 in order to prevent (or at least delay) the knight's transfer to g6, although it is clear that after 15...f5 Black has a comfortable position. 15...bxc3 16.bxc3 f5.

Black has obtained strong initiative. Both his rooks exert strong pressure along the b- and f-file respectively, while the battery Q+B create tactical threats against the h3-pawn. White loses ground in the centre and, what is even worse, all his minor pieces are vulnerable. 17.Ba4?! White tries to activate his light-squared bishop, but the forced sequence that follows will only increase the strength of Black's attack. We can only try to guess whether Leko missed any tactical detail or he simply misjudged the position arising after Black's 21st move. 17...fxe4 18.Bxc6. The least of the possible evils. 18.Rxe4 Bd5 19.Bxe7 Ncxe7 20.Re3 Ba8! followed by Nd5 would offer Black a practically decisive advantage. Besides the consistent threat of jumping further to f4 and produce ireparable damage to the king side structure by a sacrifice on h3 or g2, Black could eventually switch his attention to the undefended c3-pawn.; In case of 18.dxe4 , the hanging position of the minor pieces will lead to materiallosses for White, for instance 18...Bxc4 19.Bxc6 Rxf3 and now 20.Bxe7 would only make things worse in view of 20...Rd3 21.Qa4 Bb3. 18...exf3 19.Bxe7. This move marks the triumph of Black's previous strategy. White is forced to help the enemy knight get closer to the g6-square. 19...Nxe7 20.Bxf3 Ng6.

Black has an advantage in the centre and excellent attacking prospects on the king side. If White had his h-pawn on its initial square, he could have obtained now a slightly passive but entirely defensible position with 21.g3, restricting the enemy knight. The way it is, White's position is hardly survivable. 21.Bg4. Leko tries to justify the move h3, by making use of the g4-square. However, the contact between bishops tends to favour Black, since White's eventual capture on e6 would only bring the black queen closer to the attacking area. After a further transfer of the queen to g6, the h3-, g2- and d3- pawns would be under dangerous pressure. 21...Nf4 22.Ra2?! Leko's desire to bring more pieces to the defence of his king side is understandable, but the vulnerability of the rook on the a2-square allows Black to win by force. 22...Qb7! Unpinning the bishop with gain of tempo. 23.Bf3. Sad necessity. White has to allow the enemy bishop remain the unchallenged master of the a2-g8 diagonal. 23.f3 would have left the own bishop trapped after 23...Bxc4 24.dxc4 h5; while 23.Qf3 Qxf3 24.gxf3 Nxd3 would have led to even bigger material losses than in the game. 23...Qb3.

White's whole queen side is hanging now. Material losses are inevitable. 24.Rc2 Nxd3 25.Qxd3 Qxc4 26.Qxc4 Bxc4 27.Bc6 Rb3 28.g3 g5 29.Re3 Ra3. After the loss of the second pawn, White's position is just hopeless. Leko needed 11 more moves to accept the unhappy end of a tournament in which he had been in lead for most of the time. 30.Be4 Rxa5 31.g4 Bd5 32.f3 Bxe4 33.fxe4 Ra1+ 34.Kg2 Rff1 35.Ree2 Rg1+ 36.Kh2 Rh1+ 37.Kg3 Rag1+ 38.Rg2 Re1 39.Rgf2 Re3+ 40.Kg2 Rexh3 0-1. [Click to replay]


A disappointing end for the hero of Morelia: Peter Leko



Vassily Ivanchuk vs Peter Svidler in the final round

Svidler,P (2765) - Ivanchuk,V (2729) [C88]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (14), 11.03.2006

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.a4 Bb7. In spite of the unfavourable result, Ivanchuk remains faithfull to the variation he employed against Leko in Morelia. Apparently, he dislikes the idea of weakening the c4-square at such an early stage of the game. 9.d3 d6 10.Nbd2 Na5 11.Ba2 c5 12.Nf1 b4. Now that the knight has been installed on the a5-square, from where it controls the critical c4- and b3-squares, Black decides to block the position. The aforementioned game continued with 12...Bc8. 13.c3. Svidler deviates from a previous game of his, too. After 13.Ne3 Rb8 14.Nd2 Bc8 15.Bc4 Nxc4 16.dxc4 Be6 17.b3 Rb7 18.Rf1 Nd7 19.Qe2 Nb8 20.Nd5 Nc6 21.Bb2 Bg5 22.Rad1 a5 Black gradually equalised in Svidler-Adams, Moscow 2001. By playing 13.c3, White prepares the immediate occupation of the centre. 13...bxc3 14.bxc3.

14...c4. The typical reaction. The insufficient defence of the e4-pawn allows Black disrupt White's central structure. 15.Ng3 cxd3. This natural move will leave White with strong pressure against the backward d6-pawn. The more restrained 15...Re8 16.d4 Qc7 would have been worthy alternative. Although White has a clear supremacy in the centre, the queen side situation looks to favour Black, because of the weakness of the b3-square and of the a4-pawn. 16.Qxd3 Bc8 17.Ba3. This might be even better than 17.Bg5 Be6 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Nf5 Nb7 20.Bd5 with just an edge for White in Nisipeanu-Solleveld, Santo Domingo 2003. 17...Qc7 18.Red1 Nb7 19.Qc4 Qxc4 20.Bxc4 Re8 21.Rab1 Ra7 22.Rb6 Na5 23.Bf1 Nd7 24.Rbb1 Nc5 25.Bxc5 dxc5 26.Nxe5 g6.

White has managed to win a clear pawn, but the weakness of White's whole queen side as well as the black pair of bishops make the technical phase far from easy. 27.f4 Be6 28.f5 Bb3 29.Rxb3 Nxb3 30.Bc4 Bg5 31.Nxf7 Be3+ 32.Kh1 Nd2 33.Nd6+ Nxc4 34.Nxe8 Kf7 35.Nd6+ Nxd6 36.Rxd6.

After some nice fireworks, White has won a second pawn, but Black managed to activate his remaining army radically. 36...Rb7 37.fxg6+ hxg6 38.h4 Bf4 39.Rd3 Ke6 40.Kh2 Rb3 41.Kh3 c4 42.Rf3 Ke5. Little by little, it becomes clear that White has no real chances to win. 43.Nf1 a5 44.Kg4 Bh6 45.h5 gxh5+ 46.Kxh5 Bc1 47.Rf5+ Kxe4 48.Ng3+ Kd3 49.Rf3+ Kc2 50.Ne2 Bd2 51.Nd4+ Kb2 52.Nb5 Bxc3 53.Rf2+ Kb1 54.Rf4 Bb4 55.Rxc4. A nice figthing game. 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Pictures and videos by Nadja Woisin


Schedule and results

Round 8: Friday, March 3rd

Peter Leko 
½-½
Francisco Vallejo
Veselin Topalov 
1-0
Peter Svidler
Vassily Ivanchuk 
0-1
Etienne Bacrot
Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Levon Aronian

Round 9: Saturday, March 4th

Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Peter Leko
Levon Aronian 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Etienne Bacrot 
0-1
Veselin Topalov
Peter Svidler 
½-½
Francisco Vallejo

Round 10: Sunday, March 5th

Peter Leko 
½-½
Peter Svidler
Francisco Vallejo 
0-1
Etienne Bacrot
Veselin Topalov 
1-0
Levon Aronian
Vassily Ivanchuk 
0-1
Teimour Radjabov
Free day: Monday, March 6th

Round 11: Tuesday, March 7th

Vassily Ivanchuk 
½-½
Peter Leko
Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Veselin Topalov
Levon Aronian 
1-0
Francisco Vallejo
Etienne Bacrot 
½-½
Peter Svidler

Round 12: Wednesday, March 8th

Peter Leko 
½-½
Etienne Bacrot
Peter Svidler 
½-½
Levon Aronian
Francisco Vallejo 
½-½
Teimour Radjabov
Veselin Topalov 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Free day: Thursday, March 9th

Round 13: Friday, March 10th

Veselin Topalov 
1-0
Peter Leko
Vassily Ivanchuk 
1-0
Francisco Vallejo
Teimour Radjabov 
1-0
Peter Svidler
Levon Aronian 
½-½
Etienne Bacrot

Round 14: Saturday, March 11th

Peter Leko 
0-1
Levon Aronian
Etienne Bacrot 
½-½
Teimour Radjabov
Peter Svidler 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Francisco Vallejo 
½-½
Veselin Topalov
End of Tournament

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