August 08, 2013 06:25:05 PM
The top seed

By Bobby Ang

The 2013 World Cup will be starting this weekend and I would like to write something about the top seed, GM Levon Aronian. He would always be the sentimental favorite of Filipinos, for as most of our BW readers know he has a Filipina girlfriend, WIM Arianne Caoili (she played top board for the Philippine women’s team in the 2000 Istanbul Chess Olympiad). On the other hand, objectively, he really is the strongest player in the field.

By the way, before the leave the topic of Arianne Caoili, an interviewer recently asked her if she regularly plays chess with Aronian and how many times has she won. Her answer was “we have never played an entire chess game against each other. I am not so stupid to even try.” Good answer.

Back to Aronian. Eight years ago, in the 2005 Khanty-Mansiysk World Cup the eight survivors who were about to start on the quarterfinals and semi-finals matches were Boris Gelfand, Evgeny Bareev, Sergei Rublevsky, Mikhail Gurevich, Alexander Grischuk, Etienne Bacrot, Ruslan Ponomariov, and Levon Aronian. The first four were the veterans and the last four, all around 22 years of age at that time, the young upstarts

Mark Paragua also played in that world cup. He upset Sergei Movsesian in the 1st round and then fell to Alexey Dreev (a former candidate) after a very exciting battle in the second. I met GM Mark in a party hosted by Dodong Romero shortly before the quarterfinals and naturally asked for a prediction — who does he think will win. The answer I expected was either Ponomariov or Gelfand, but surprisingly Mark chose Aronian. Why? “I had observed his play and how he thinks — he is a genius”.

Despite my skepticism Mark’s prediction came true — Aronian defeated Gurevich 1.5-0.5 in the quarters, Etienne Bacrot 1.5-0.5 in the semis, and then beat Ruslan Ponomariov 3.0-1.0 in the finals to win the World Cup. Under the previous rules he would have been declared FIDE World Champion outright, but 2005 was the year when FIDE experimented with a new format — the World Cup winner will be one of the qualifiers for the Candidates matches which will in turn qualify the top finishers to the 2007 Mexico world Championship tournament (this was the one which Anand won).

It has been eight years since GM Mark first said that thing about Aronian’s being a genius, and it looks to me that it might be true. Only a genius can play a game like this.

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