Aronian on Mainz: I wish chess could always be like this

7/26/2009 – The 2007 Chess Classic starts on Monday, with a simul on 40 boards by GM Levon Aronian. The Armenian Olympic Champion and world number four goes on to defend his Chess960 title and then play in the Rapid World Championship against World Champion Vishy Anand. What does he think about the Mainz event? Levon clearly thinks it is great fun. Light-hearted interview.

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Chess Classic Mainz 2009

The 2009 Chess Classic will take place from July 27 to August 2 in the Rheingoldhalle of the Congress Centre, Hilton Hotel in Mainz, Germany. The event includes tournaments and Opens in traditional and Random Chess, with stars like the current World Champion Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian of Armenia, strong Russian junior GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and top German GM Arkadij Naiditsch. Schedule below.

Interview: You need a good feeling for harmony

Levon Aronian is the current number four in of the world. He is also known as one of the very best rapid players. During the 2009 Chess Classic the Armenian Olympic Champion will be the main actor. He will open the Chess Classic with a traditional simul on 40 boards, he will try to defend his Chess960 title and he will fight for the crown in the GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship against World Champion Vishy Anand. Levon is also a great fan of computer chess and you can be sure that he will be a visitor of the Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship. Harry Schaack spoke with the regular guest in Mainz who likes fun in chess, often has a twinkle in his eye, and emanates surprising light-heartedness.

Harry Schaack: Levon, this year you are the main act of the Chess Classic because you will be playing in both main tournaments, the Chess960 and the GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship. Moreover, you will be opening the event with the traditional simul on 40 boards. Let us start with the latter: Do you want to break Anand’s record of 39-1, or is that not on your mind?

Levon Aronian: Well, I like simultaneous events. I think it is a friendly way to give amateurs the opportunity to play with a top player. The most important factor in a simul is time. Since Vishy is such a fast player, I am not sure I can keep pace with his speed. And his score record is not on my mind. I don’t look for the points. I just try to have fun and entertain my opponents.

You are the World Champion in Chess960. What do you think about this unusual event?

In Chess960 you can’t really say this guy is the best. After all the World Championship is played with rapid time control - which is ok for now. Maybe in the future, other organizers besides Hans-Walter Schmitt will start making Chess960 events. Then we can play a proper Chess960 World Championship with classical time control. But for now, I think any format we choose is fine. This event is interesting entertainment.

You won the Chess960 title 2006 in a match against Svidler. 2007 you defended your title in a round robin with a subsequent match between the first and second placed player. Which format is better?

I think people benefit from looking at four players more than from a challenge between two.

And which format is better for you?

I actually don’t really care. In a round robin format there is more randomness and thus more tension. When you are playing in a match, you know what you have to do. With more players, one unlucky result can change the whole situation and decide about the qualification for the final. This makes things exciting and I think the fight is harder when you play with more players. I guess this format is more interesting for the spectators.

This year, you have tough opponents. Have you already played a Chess960 game against one of the participants?

I don’t think so. But I would not call myself a person with a good memory (laughs). I can be mistaken.

Who do you regard as your main rival?

Well, all the players are strong. Everyone can be a rival. And you also have to take into account that this is Chess960, where lower-rated players beat higher-rated players more often.

One of your opponents will be Hikaru Nakamura who is known as one of the best rapid chess players in the world. Can you say a few words about his style?

It’s already a long time ago that I played against him. So I can’t really say something substantial. I like to play with someone to get a direct impression of his chess – to establish a personal chess relation with them. I guess that’s the only way to judge a chessplayer. To comment on a player I haven’t played against would be mere guesswork.

Can you say a few words about Movsesian and Bologan?

Not so long ago I played against Movsesian. I think he has improved because he now plays with more focus. And I am happy to see his results in the last years. I think he is strong enough to pose a threat to anyone. I played quite a few times with Bologan. He is a solid and kind of all-round player. He is good at manoeuvring, and that is why Chess960 suits him.

You have a preference for many chess variations like bughouse etc. Above all, you are the world’s leading expert in Chess960. Can you give our readers an idea what is most important in Chess960?

I think you need a feeling for harmony. You have to develop your pieces properly and must know how to manoeuvre them. It is a very tricky game. Tactics play a much bigger role in Chess960 than in classical chess. Some players who play this game well survive because of their tactical strength. But if you want to play a perfect game, you need a strategic vision.

Why are tactics more important in Chess960 than in classical chess?

In Chess 960 unusual and tactical motifs often crop up, motifs, which you might see in problems or studies but rarely in classical games.

The spectators can’t wait for the highlight of Mainz 2009, the GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship – also a round robin with four players. You will try for the second time to dethrone World Champion Vishy Anand, who has won the event eleven times. Many people remember your fantastic matches in 2007 when you lost with 1.5-2.5 in the final. What mistakes did you make in 2007?

I don’t think I made any big mistakes in 2007…


Anand vs Aronian in Mainz

Was it just bad luck?

No, Vishy played better and won deservedly. But it has nothing to do with dethroning or anything. “Going for it” is fun. When people – for example me and Vishy – have played against each other for a while, they establish a connection. They try to beat each other even without any extra stimulus – just for the feeling of it. Because it is fun.

But it is also a competition, isn’t it?

Yes, but in rapid tournaments your rating doesn’t count. Nowadays, rating is so important for a professional player. All invitations are connected with rating. That means you are more relaxed and more creative in rapid chess, I would say. And the players are in a more friendly mood.

You are willing to take more risks in rapid games?

Yes. I think most people do. You go for lines that are entertaining though not necessarily completely correct.

Is the surprise-factor in the opening more important in rapid chess?

Surprise is always important. But in rapid tournaments you can also go for some dubious lines. Just to surprise your opponent, because he doesn’t have so much time to refute your idea.

How do you assess your chances against Vishy this year?

Well, this time I want to win. That is the plan (laughing).

With Nepomniachtchi and the German number Naiditsch, two youngsters want to make your life difficult. What do you expect from these opponents?

It is a good field. Double A (Anand, Aronian) against double N (Nepomniachtchi, Naiditsch). I have not played against them for quite a while. I don’t know, but I’ve seen their games and they are dangerous.

You are a great fan of Computer Chess, and I am sure that you will visit the Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship. Why are you so fascinated by this clash of chess programs? Or to put it this way: can’t you have the same thing at home on your personal computer?

Yes, but you don’t get that amount of information. You sit next to the people who developed these programs. And you see how much they care and how important it is for them. They know everything about the programs. I am fascinated by the atmosphere of joking and having fun.

Do you think you can learn anything about the programs?

I am not sure if that is the best way to learn something about the programs. But just talking to people who do things which are very important for chess players make me want to go there. The whole atmosphere is nice.

You have been a regular guest of the Chess Classic for many years. Before you won the Chess960 World Championship, you were the only player ever to win the FiNet Chess960 Open twice. What does the Chess Classic mean for your career?

Well, you know, the first time I won the tournament, my rating was around 2600 or maybe even less. Winning that tournament gave my self-confidence a boost. For me, Chess960 is a kind of pure chess. This kind of chess somehow shows whether someone knows where to put his pieces. Maybe that was the reason why I won this tournament twice, to show that my success was no coincidence (laughs). In my opinion Chess960 shows that a player has talent. And that was a good feeling.

You think Chess960 is a good indicator of talent because you cannot hide behind your opening knowledge?

Yes, I think in Chess960 the more creative players are in a better position than people who are more into remembering opening lines.

Did you play Chess960 in other tournaments or in private?

No, somehow I have never played it.

Did you do any preparation for Chess960?

Yes, I read some books and watched some movies (laughed). To be relaxed is good training for your inspiration.

The Chess Classic is a big festival. What’s your impression of the event? What is different compared to other events, what is unique?


Aronian with his girl-friend Arianne Caoili, who will also be playing in Mainz

One thing is that a lot of people enjoy this form of chess. Everybody is there and they say: “I wish chess could always be like this.” For me it is a meeting with people I haven’t seen for a long time. I have many friends from that part of Germany. When I was playing for Wattenscheid in the Bundesliga, I used to hang around that area. So it is an opportunity to meet old friends. And the location is great: a nice city and a good tournament hall. The organisation is pleasant, everything is very relaxed. For me it is a nice holiday and a good tournament. I am playing my favourite chess variant and I am around people who love that game too. What could be better?

What are your most memorable experiences of the Chess Classic?

Probably the first time I beat Svidler and won the Chess960 World Championship 2006. You want to win because that guarantees you an invitation for next year’s tournament. I was kind of lucky that my title defence from 2008 was delayed to this year because last year I had other obligations. So I got an additional year.

But this year you will have two chances to be reinvited…

Yes, I will try to grasp this opportunity.

Thank you very much and good luck.


Schedule of events

GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship – July 31 to August 2nd, 2009

Rapid Chess, 20min/game + 5s/move. Course of events: Fri, 31 July: first rounds 1, 2 and 3; Sat, 1 Aug.: second rounds 4, 5 and 6, possible tiebreak; Sun, 2 Aug: four-game matches, big and small final, possible tiebreak, award ceremony. Start time of rounds: 18:30h, 19:30h, 20:30h, final additionally: 21:30h. Participants:

Player Nation Title
Rating
WRnk
Viswanathan Anand India  GM
2783
2
Levon Aronian Armenia  GM
2754
6
Arkadij Naiditsch Germany  GM
2710
26
Ian Nepomniachtchi Russia  GM
2628
113

Full details

6th Chess960 Rapid World Championship – 28-30 July 2009

Rapid chess, 20min/game + 5s/move. Course of events: Tue 28 July: first set of rounds 1, 2 and 3; Wed, 29 July: second set of rounds 4, 5 and 6, possible tiebreak; Thu, 30 July: four-game matches, big and small final, possible tiebreak, award ceremony. Start time of rounds: 18:30h, 19:30h, 20:30h, final additionally: 21:30h. Participants:

Player Nation
Rating
Title
WRank
Levon Aronian Armenia
2754
 GM
6
Sergei Movsesian Slovakia
2734
GM
16
Hikaru Nakamura USA
2699
 GM
32
Victor Bologan Moldavia
2687
 GM
43

Full details

16th ORDIX Open – August 1-2, 2009

Eleven rounds Rapid Chess Open, 20min/game + 5s/move. Registration until Sat 1 Aug, 11:30h. Sat 1 August: rounds 1-5; Sun 2 August: rounds 6-11. Start of rounds: Sat 12:00h, Sun 10:00h. Award ceremony Sun 17:30h. Details.

FiNet Chess960 Open – July 30-31, 2009

Eleven rounds Chess960 Rapid Chess, 20min/game + 5s/move. Thu 30 July: rounds 1-5; Fri 31 July: rounds 6-11. Start of rounds: Thu 12:00h and Fri 10:00h. Award Ceremony Fri 17:30h. Details.

3rd Mini-ORDIX (28th July) and the 3rd Mini-FiNet (29th July)

3rd Mini-ORDIX Open: Rapid Chess Open for Children and Talents U14, 20min/game + 5s/move. Registration
until Tue, July 28, 10:30h. Seven rounds: 11:00h, 12:00h, 13:00h, 14:00h, 15:00h, 16:00h, 17:00h. Award ceremony: 18:00h. Details.

3rd Mini-FiNet Open: Rapid Chess960 Open for Children and Talents U14, 20min/game + 5s/move. Registration
until Wed, July 29, 10:30h. Seven rounds: 11:00h, 12:00h, 13:00h, 14:00h, 15:00h, 16:00h, 17:00h. Award ceremony: 18:00h. Details.

5th Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship– 29-31 July 2009

Rapid Chess, 20min/game + 5s/move. Course of events: Wed 30 July: first set of three rounds; Thurs 31 July: second set of three rounds; Fri 1 Aug.: four-game matches, big and small final possle tiebreak (5min/game + 5s/move). Start time of rounds: 11:00h, 12:30h, 14:00h, final additionally: 15:30 h, tiebreak: 17:00h. Participants: Rybka, Deep Shredder, plus two qualifiers. Details.


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