Tata Steel Final Round Report

An anticlimactic repetition of moves in what was hoped would be the crowning duel of the final round in one of the most combative chess events in recent years, earned Armenia’s Levon Aronian an unshared 10,000-euro first prize in the 74th annual Tata Steel Tournament at the wintry resort town of Wijk-aan-Zee Sunday.

Playing white against Teymour Radjabov of Azerbaijan – one of his main rivals in the field of fourteen – Aronian came up with an innocuous line of the Gruenfeld, followed theory for ten moves and then initiated the repetition that ended the game two moves later. He wrote down the intended (but not executed) 13.Ne5 on his score-sheet, looked up at Radjabov and nodded, after which the two GMs shook hands. Speaking to reporters after their short sojourn in the tournament arena, both players stressed that there had been no deals of any kind beforehand.

“No, no,” said Aronian, “I really came to play today. I was prepared for a fight but when Teymour allowed the repetition of moves, I was glad to take the draw, of course.” His lack of pugnacity “actually came as a pleasant surprise for me.”

And Radjabov explained: “I was surprised by Aronian’s choice for an opening. I had expected him to go for a win in an effort to reach first place on FIDE’s world rating list, and prepared for a completely different line. I ended up slightly worse with black and a draw was fine with me. I was happy to be the only player to remain unbeaten.”

At a press conference later in the day, Aronian said the tournament victory was his “best result so far. Sure, I’ve had some other good tournaments, but winning in Wijk-aan-Zee is very special, because, after all, this tournament is for chess what Wimbledon is for tennis. This year’s edition was very interesting, with several young players who had something to prove. Many games were fighting games, and, of course, there are bound to be mistakes in such games.”

Earlier, Aronian put in an appearance at the commentary pavilion on the town commons, where he told the audience that he was quite happy with his tournament record of seven wins, four draws and two losses. When asked whether he ought not to have tried and gone for a win in his final-round game in an effort to come alongside Magnus Carlsen on top of the world ranking list, Aronian replied: “I want to win tournaments and become World Champion, but a first place on any rating list, FIDE’s or any other, doesn’t interest me at all.”

Radjabov’s final score of 8 points – for his unbeaten tournament record of three wins and ten draws – kept him one point below Aronian’s 9 and was not enough for an unshared second place in the final Group-A standings. The Azeri GM could lay claim to only one-third of the combined 13,000 euros for the second, third and fourth prizes. The remaining two thirds went to Norway’s Carlsen and Italy’s Fabiano Caruana.

Carlsen, black in a Stonewall against Holland’s Loek van Wely, gave it a valiant try for 41 moves, but got no further than a small advantage and in the end proposed to sign the peace himself. With Aronian and Radjabov agreeing on a draw so soon, Carlsen said he “had pretty much given up hope to play for first place anyway. Although … well … they can do what they want, of course … and if they want to make a draw, well I guess that’s okay … although I was a little bit surprised that Radjabov didn’t even try. I suppose he was happy with the outcome.”

Asked about his performance, Carlsen said: “I played really well in the first three rounds and all went okay until the seventh round. After that, it was a total mess. In the end, I was even lucky to finish at plus 3.” He added that he hoped to be invited for next year’s jubilee tournament. “We’ll have to see, of course … but I’ve been here nine times in a row, so it would be a shame to miss out next year,” Carlsen said.

Caruana earned a 500-euro bonus on top of his share of the prize fund, as GM Ivan Sokolov picked his victory in 48 moves with white from a Petroff Defense against Israel’s Boris Gelfand for this year’s final ‘Piet Zwart Prize’. “Nice,” Caruana said. “I mean, it’s always nice to win, but this one was really very welcome. It was probably a draw for quite some time but somewhere Boris went wrong and I profited.”

In the longest Group-A game of the day, U.S. Champion Gata Kamsky ground down Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov in 71 moves from a Queen’s Pawn opening, in which the black-player, clearly not on form throughout the tournament, seriously mishandled the middle game.

The three other encounters –Gashimov-Nakamura, Ivanchuk-Karjakin and Giri-Navarap were all relatively quickly drawn.

Official website: http://www.tatasteelchess.com

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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