Levon Aronian wins FIDE World Cup

12/18/2005 – This knockout tournament of 128 players would, a year ago, have been the FIDE world championship title. The 23-year-old Armenian Levon Aronian won it, following in the footsteps of Karpov, Khalifman, Anand, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov. In the final round, yet another exciting affair, he beat Ruslan Ponomariov to take the title. Big illustrated report with analysis and statistics.

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The FIDE World Chess Cup is being stage from November 26th to December 18th, 2005, in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. This the 128-player event replaces what was known as the "FIDE Knockout World Championship" and serves as a qualifier for the Candidates stage of the world championship. The prize fund is US $1.5 million, with President Ilyumzhinov providing $300,000 for organisational costs.

FIDE WORLD CUP, 2005 ROUND 7 – Tiebreaks

In the final round in Khanty-Mansiysk the title was decided by two rapid games between the leading players Levon Aronian and Ruslan Ponomariov. Both had played two very spirited regular games, and did not disappoint in the tiebreak. Aronian won both, quite convincingly, to take first place in the event. Congratulations Levon, excellent fighting chess.

On the right you see a full tree table of this event. Clicking it will display a readable version, one for which a high-res monitor and a mouse scroll wheel is recommended.

Aronian,L (2724) - Ponomariov,R (2704) [D60]
WCC Khanty Mansyisk RUS (7.3), 17.12.2005
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 b6 8.Bd3 Nbd7 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Bg3 Bb4+ 12.Ke2 c5 13.a3 Ba5 14.b4 cxb4 15.Qb3 Nc5 16.dxc5 bxc5 17.axb4

17...c4 18.Bh7+ Kh8 [18...Kxh7 19.Qc2+ g6 20.Rxa5+–] 19.Qc3 Bxb4 20.Qxb4 Kxh7 and White has a piece for two pawns – Ponomariov is pinning his hopes on his two central passed pawns.

21.Qd6 Bf5 22.Qxd8 Rfxd8 23.Nd4 Bg6 24.Kd2 a5 25.Ra4 Ra6 26.Rha1 Rda8 27.Nb5 Rb6 28.Rxa5

28...c3+ 29.Nxc3 Rb2+ 30.Ke1 Rc8 31.R5a2 Rxa2 32.Nxa2 d4 33.exd4 Ra8 34.d5 Bf5 35.d6 Bd7 36.Bf4 Kg6 37.Bd2 Ra6 38.Bc3 Rxd6 39.Nb4 Bb5 40.Nc2 Rd3 41.Ra3 f6 42.Bd4 Rxa3 43.Nxa3 Bc6 44.f3 Kf7 45.Nc4 Ke6 46.Ne3 Bb7 47.Bc5 Bc6 48.Kf2 Bb7 49.f4 Be4 50.g3 h5 51.Ke2 g5 52.Kd2 h4 53.Kc3 hxg3 54.hxg3 gxf4 55.gxf4 Bb1 56.Kd4 Bg6 57.Bb6 Bb1 58.Bd8 f5 59.Kc5 Be4

Black has set up a position he hopes he will ba able to hold, but Aronian is a player with great practical experience and finds a way to get at the f-pawn. 60.Bg5 Bb1 61.Nd5 Be4 62.Nb4 Kd7 63.Na2 Ke6 64.Nc3 Bf3 65.Nb5 Be4 66.Nd4+ Kd7 67.Bf6 Kc7 68.Ne6+ Kd7 69.Ng7 Kc7 70.Be7 Kd7 71.Bf8 Kc7 72.Kd4 Kd7 73.Ke5 1-0. A well-played and well deserved victory for the 23-year-old Armenian.

The winner: 23-year-old Levon Aronian of Armenia

Ponomariov,R (2704) - Aronian,L (2724) [C90]
WCC Khanty Mansyisk RUS (7.4), 17.12.2005
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.a3 d6 9.c3 Be6 10.d4 Bxb3 11.Qxb3 Re8 12.Qc2 Bf8 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 g5 15.Bg3 g4 16.Nh4 exd4 17.Nd2 dxc3 18.Qxc3 Ne5 19.Nf5 Nh5 20.Nf1 Nxg3 21.N1xg3 Re6 22.Rad1 Rc8 23.Ne2 Qg5 24.Ned4 Rf6 25.h4 gxh3 26.Qxh3 Qg4 27.Qxg4+ Nxg4 28.Nc6 Re6 29.f3 Ne5 30.Nfd4 Ree8 31.Re2 d5 32.exd5 Nxc6 33.dxc6 Bg7 34.Rxe8+ Rxe8 35.Nf5 Bxb2 36.Rd7 Re6 37.Rxc7 Bxa3 38.Kf1 Bc5 39.Ng3 b4 40.Rc8+ Kh7 41.Ne4 b3 42.c7 Rc6

White is still a pawn down and has pinned all his hopes on the seventh-ranker on the c-file. In this must-win situation he goes for one last attempt: 43.Nf6+ Kg6! Naturally not 43...Rxf6?? 44.Rh8+ Kxh8 45.c8Q+. After 43...Kg7? 44.Ne8+ Kh7 45.Rb8 Bd4 46.c8Q Rxc8 47.Rxc8 White has some winning chances. 44.Rg8+ After 44.Ne4 b2 45.Nd2 Bb4 46.Nb1 Kg7 Black still wins. 44...Kxf6 45.c8Q Rxc8 46.Rxc8. White has a rook for a bishop and two pawns, but the latter are advanced passers that win the game. 46...Bb4 47.Rc1 a5 48.Ke2 a4 49.Rc6+ Kg7 50.Kd3 a3 51.Ra6 a2 0-1.

Runner-up in Khanty: Ruslan Ponomariov, Ukraine

In the fight for third, which until the tiebreaks could hardly be called that, Etienne Bacrot won the first rapid game and drew the second. With that the top French GM took bronze. Looking at the notation we received from Khanty we see the following peculiarity:

Bacrot,E (2725) - Grischuk,A (2720) [E15]
WCC Places 3-4 Khanty Mansyisk RUS (7.3), 17.12.2005
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Bg2 c6 8.Bc3 d5 9.Ne5 0-0 10.Nd2 Bb7 11.0-0 Na6 12.e4 Rc8 13.Re1 Rc7 14.Nd3 dxe4 15.Nxe4 c5 16.d5 exd5 17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 18.Bxf6 Qxf6 19.cxd5 g6 20.Qg4 Rd8 21.Rad1 h5 22.Qa4 Rd6 23.Ne5 Rc8 24.Nc4 Rdd8 25.d6 Bxg2 26.Kxg2 Nb4 27.Qxa7 Nc2 28.Re4 Nd4 29.Rd3 Qf5

White is a pawn up and should be able to win this game. But now comes a strange move: 30.Qe7? After 30...Nc6 the queen can no longer cover the white rook on e4, and White will in fact lose the game. But mysteriously Grischuk ignored the chance and played 30...Kh7? which allowed White a straight win: 31.Rf4 Qd5+ 32.f3 Re8 33.Rxf7+ Kg8 34.Rg7+ 1-0. We suspect there may be an error in the game record, although these things do tend to happen occasionally in rapid chess games between exhausted players. Incidentally Etienne's second name is pronounced "buck-row". The first is "et-tee-en".

Etienne Bacrot of France took bronze

Gelfand vs Bareev was decided in the first tiebreak game when the Israeli grandmaster inexplicably tossed away a position that was not ripe for the picking.

Gelfand,B (2717) - Bareev,E (2675) [D15]
WCC Places 5-6 Khanty Mansyisk RUS (7.3), 17.12.2005
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Nf3 b5 6.c5 g6 7.Ne5 Bg7 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Be6 10.f4 Qc7 11.g4 Ne4 12.Bf3 f5 13.Bd2 Nd7 14.Be1 Nxe5 15.fxe5 Nxc3 16.Bxc3 Bh6 17.Bd2 fxg4 18.Bxg4 Rxf1+ 19.Kxf1 Qd7 20.h3 Rf8+ 21.Kg1 Bg5 22.Qe2 h5 23.Bxe6+ Qxe6 24.Qg2 Bh4 25.Rf1 Rxf1+ 26.Kxf1 Qf5+ 27.Ke2 Kf7

Up to this stage White was not in any big trouble, but now Gelfand gives up the e-pawn and allows the position to fall apart: 28.e6+? Qxe6 29.Qh2 Bf6 30.Kd1 g5 31.Qc7. White's plan is quite unclear. Now simply 31...Qxh3 decides the game. 31...h4 32.Kc1. Once again we don't understand the moves and must consider the possibility of notation errors that may have crept in on the long transmission route from the Siberian Khanty. White needed to play at least 32.Qh2. 32...Qxh3 and now nothing can stop ...h2, ...h2, ...h1Q. 33.Qxc6 Qh1+ 34.Kc2 h3 0-1.

Evgeny Bareev, the winner of place five

Kamsky vs Carlsen saw the more experienced grandmaster (in spite of a long pause from chess) outplaying the youngster in their first game. In the second there was the heart-breaking drama we have to expect in rapid chess games at the end of such a long tournament.

Carlsen,M (2570) - Kamsky,G (2690) [B48]
WCC Places 9-10 Khanty Mansyisk RUS (7.4), 17.12.2005
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Be3 b5 9.Nxc6 Qxc6 10.f3 Bc5 11.Qe1 d6 12.Kh1 Bxe3 13.Qxe3 0-0 14.Rfd1 Bb7 15.Qd4 Qc5 16.Qxc5 dxc5 17.a4 b4 18.Nb1 Nd7 19.Nd2 Ne5 20.Be2 a5 21.Kg1 g5 22.Kf2 Ba6 23.g3 Rfd8 24.f4 gxf4 25.gxf4 Ng6 26.Bxa6 Rxa6 27.Nc4 Rxd1 28.Rxd1 Nxf4 29.Rd8+ Kg7 30.Rc8 f5 31.Kf3 Nh3 32.exf5 exf5 33.Rxc5 Ng5+ 34.Ke3 f4+ 35.Ke2 Re6+ 36.Re5 Rc6 37.b3 Kf6 38.Rxa5 Re6+ 39.Kf2 f3 40.Ne3 Re4 41.Ra6+ Ke5 42.Rh6 Rd4 43.Nc4+ Kf5 44.h4 Nf7 45.Rb6 Rxh4 46.Rxb4 Rh3 47.a5 Ng5

White has an easy win. All he needs to do is to push his a-pawn, but after some preparation: 48.Ne3+ Ke5 (48...Ke6 49.a6) 49.Ng4+ (covering the squares h6 and e3) Kf5 50.a6. But the Norwegian lad is impatient: 48.a6?? Ne4+ 49.Ke3 f2+ 50.Ke2. Now 50...Rf3! clinches it, but Black plays 50...Rc3? and White is back on a win, with 51.Kf1+–. But: 51.Nd2? Rxc2 throws it away finally: 52.Rd4 Nxd2 53.Rd5+ Ke6 0-1. For the third time in these tiebreaks we are uncertain if all the moves transmitted from Khanty are accurate.

The winner of the place nine match: Gata Kamsky, USA

Konstantin Sakaev vs Joel Lautier was a tense battle for place 15. The Russian GM won the first rapid game, the Frenchman euqalised in the second. Both the blitz games were drawn, so that the players had to proceed to the Armageddon decider: White, in this case Sakaev, gets an extra minute in this blitz game, but has to win it. In any event Black (Lautier) was better during most of the game an won the match by drawing it in the end.

French GM Joel Lautier

All pictures by Frits Agterdenbos

Final Results

Round 7, Tiebreaks – Saturday, December 17, 2005

For places 1-2
1  Ponomariov, Ruslan (UKR)
0-1, 0-1
 Aronian, Levon (ARM)
For places 3-4
2 Bacrot, Etienne (FRA)  
1-0, ½-½ 
 Grischuk, Alexander (RUS)
For places 5-6
3  Gelfand, Boris (ISR)
0-1, ½-½
Bareev, Evgeny (RUS)
For places 7-8
4 Rublevsky, Sergei (RUS)
 Gurevich, Mikhail (BEL)
For places 9-10
5  Carlsen, Magnus (NOR)
0-1, 0-1
 Kamsky, Gata (USA)
For places 11-12
6  Malakhov, Vladimir (RUS)
 Vallejo Pons, Francisco (ESP)
For places 13-14
7  Van Wely, Loek (NED)
½-½, 0-1
 Dreev, Alexey (RUS)
For places 15-16
8  Sakaev, Konstantin (RUS)
1-0, 0-1, ½-½, ½-½, ½-½
 Lautier, Joel (FRA)

Ranks and Statistics

In this kind of event it is difficult to compare the relative performances of the participants. Often one players may have luck with his opponents, and may face weaker opposition in his way through the field. In the following table we have compiled the performance rating for all the top sixteen players, including the rapid and blitz games, which of course skew the results slightly.

No Player Nat. Elo
 1 Levon Aronian ARM 2724
18 78 2853
 2 Ruslan Ponomariov UKR 2704
20 68 2784
 3 Etienne Bacrot FRA 2725
20 68 2771
 4 Alexander Grischuk RUS 2720
24 60 2723
 5 Evgeny Bareev RUS 2675
22 61 2721
 6 Boris Gelfand ISR 2717
30 58 2699
 7 Sergey Rublevsky RUS 2652
22 57 2700
 8 Mikhail Gurevich BEL 2652
20 50 2662
 9 Gata Kamsky USA 2690
26 63 2707
10 Magnus Carlsen NOR 2570
26 58 2713
11 Vladimir Malakhov RUS 2670
20 60 2688
12 Francisco Vallejo ESP 2674
26 56 2685
13 Alexey Dreev RUS 2694
26 58 2703
14 Loek van Wely NED 2648
29 52 2689
15 Joel Lautier FRA 2679
31 52 2647
16 Konstantin Sakaev RUS 2668
21 55 2683

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