Bilbao Masters: Topalov out, Aronian in

8/8/2009 – Originally it was bigger, with the winners of six major tournaments invited to participate in the Basque town of Bilbao. A major financial crisis led to the down paring of the event to a four-player double round robin (six rounds) and the prize fund considerably reduced from last year's total of €400,000. Now one of the participants, Veselin Topalov, has opted out, and is replaced by Levon Aronian. Press release.

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Grand Slam Chess Association

The Masters Final 2009 will be held in Bilbao from September 6th to 12th

The II Grand Slam Final Chess Masters 2009 will be held in Bilbao from September 6th to September 12th on the same stage that hosted the 2008 Bilbao Masters Final. Therefore, the Bilbao Plaza Nueva (central square), in the heart of the city, will again host the great glass cube that made it possible last year for a tournament of such prestige to be played outdoors for the first time in the public domain.

The Masters Final 2009 is played exclusively by the four winning players of the tournaments that, along with Bilbao, make up the Grand Slam Chess Association and are among the best tournaments in the world: Corus Wijk aan Zee, Holland; Ciudad de Linares, Spain; Mtel Masters, Sofia, Bulgaria; and the Pearl Spring Tournament of Nanjing, China, this year incorporated into the Grand Slam.

The four chess players who will compete in the Bilbao Final are Sergey Karjakin, the winner of Wijk ann Zee, Alexander Grischuk, winner of Ciudad de Linares, Alexei Shirov, winner in Sofia, and Levon Aronian, second-place winner of Nanking – since as Veselin Topalov, winner of Nanking, has refused the invitation to play the Final.

For the Organizing Committee, along with institutions, sponsors and partners, the international economic situation has been a determining factor to decide that, in this Final, the budget and prizes must be tightened up in order to be sensitive to the social effects derived from the crisis. This approach doesn’t meet the expectations of Veselin Topalov, who also has valued the hardness of the Final Masters. The World Championship that he will play is just around the corner, and these factors have led him to refuse the invitation of the Grand Slam.

The organisers have confirmed that all those aspects which contributed to the excellent results achieved in 2008 are all to be expected again this year as well as the great turn-out that was witnessed both locally and internationally. A varied programme of extra events, the “expert’s spot” commentary and analysis area for all audiences to follow, big screens, live internet transmission, the great glass cube and media representatives from every continent are all also to be expected at the event. And, most importantly, the hosting of an elite chess event outside, amongst the greater public.

The Masters Final supports interesting and novel rules in order to guarantee a battle and spectacle in each game. The so called named “Sofia’s Rule” which states that draw-offers will only be allowed by the Arbiter, will be applied in this double round-robin tournament. The scoring system will be once again similar to football scoring system: Players will get three points for winning a game, one point for drawing and zero points for losing. This scoring system was first applied in an elite chess tournament during the last Bilbao Final Masters 2008, and is known as “Bilbao’s Rule”.


Alexei Shirov – Spanish nationality and born in Riga, Latvia, in 1972. He is noted for his attacking style and he has pointed out that aggressiveness is an essential feature of his playing mode. He has been called “the last Romantic chess player”, or the “Leonardo da Vinci” of chess, thanks to his creative approach along with the risks he takes while playing. In 2000, Teheran, he reached the final of the FIDE World Chess Championship, losing to Viswanathan Anand. In 2007 he played in the Chess World Cup 2007, but he lost the final to Gata Kamsky.

International Chess Grandmaster Alexander Grischuk was born in 1983 in Russia. Along with being a very talented young player, Grischuk is also known as one of the best blitz chess players, having won the 2006 World Blitz Championship in Israel.

Sergey Karjakin, born in Ukraine, January 12, 1990, holds the record for the youngest grandmaster in history, achieving the title at the age of twelve years and seven months. In 2004, at 14, he played in Bilbao in the Man vs Machine World Team Championship. Karjakin was the only human to win against a computer. In 2007 he played the Blindfold World Chess Cup again in Bilbao. He is a very talented player who guarantees a splendorous future for himself, not only for his great command of tactics but also for his gift for strategy since the beginning of his career, a rare quality among children. It is for this reason that the pools for future World Champion always include Karjakin.

Levon Aronian, born in Yerevan, Armenia, 1982. He is the only player of this Final who took part last year in the first edition of the Final Masters. He is a great chess luminary: at 26 he has already won the World Cup and the Linares and Wijk aan Zee (twice) tournaments. That naturalness, his universal style and belonging to a country where chess is the national passion, as well as a balanced nervous system configure the 26 year-old Armenian Levon Aronian as a very solid value. Prone to the high risk in his games, both organisers and followers are fond of Aronian.

Bilbao, August 7th, 2009

Links

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