Reports | September 26, 2011 23:44

Aronian beats Vallejo in first round Masters Final

Aronian beats Vallejo in first round Masters Final

Levon Aronian took an early lead at the Grand Slam Masters Final on Monday. At the Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo, the Armenian grandmaster defeated Francisco Vallejo of Spain in round 1. The games Vishy Anand vs Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura vs Vassily Ivanchuk ended in draws.

General info

Event 4th Grand Slam Masters Final  | PGN via TWIC
Dates September 25th - October 11th, 2011
Location Sao Paulo, Brazil & Bilbao, Spain
System 6-player double round robin
Players Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Ivanchuk, Nakamura, Vallejo
Time control 90 minutes for the first 40 moves plus 60 minutes to finish the game, with 10 seconds increment per move from move number 41
Prizes Undisclosed
Notes Players are not allowed to agree to a draw without the arbiter’s permission. In case both players request it to him, the arbiter will make his decision after consulting with the technical assistant. The football scoring system is used: 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss.

Round 1

And then it started. And then... six super strong chess grandmasters were suddenly shuffling wood in the middle of a park in Brazil! How on earth did they end up there? Well, it's all about the sponsors, and the booming Brazilian economy. The Grand Slam Masters Final is being sponsored by dozens of Basque companies, and this year they thought it was a good idea to meet with colleagues in Brazil. Last year a similar business exchange was organized in Shanghai, as China is of course another booming economy.

In the third edition, last year, the infamous glass cube was dropped but this time it's back. Both in the Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo and the Bilbao Alhóndiga the players will again be executing their moves in a sound-proof 'aquarium'. This makes it possible to set up a commentary booth right next to the 'playing hall', where Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia and guests are explaining the games during the rounds, and talking to the players after the games.

The only winner of the first day was also the only player missing at the start of the first round. Levon Aronian, who defeated Paco Vallejo in a nice game, appeared minutes late at the board. Afterwards he explained it as follows:

I overestimated my chances. I missed some little nuances on the way here.

Later Magnus Carlsen would send the following tweet:

White against Aronian next. Aronian got lost on his way to the cube today, I'll try to make him get lost in the complications tomorrow

Aronian, faced with a rare line of the Slav, sacrificed a pawn for long-term compensation. It worked rather well: Vallejo didn't find the best way to untangle his queenside and also needed a lot of time on the clock. In a position where he could grab a healthy pawn, Aronian instead went for a full attack on the enemy king. Vallejo defended well in horrible time trouble but couldn't avoid ending up in a bad ending. Perhaps he could have played that ending better, but practically speaking it was lost from the start.

Sao Paulo, 2011


The other two games were much less interesting. Hikaru Nakamura and Vassily Ivanchuk got a unique position after seven moves already, but in the early middlegame the whole centre was exchanged.

Sao Paulo, 2011





Nakamura & Kasparov

After the game Leontxto Garcia asked Nakamura if the rumours were true that he was working with Garry Kasparov. The American grandmaster said that he would 'not comment' and people could 'believe the rumours if they wanted to'. In our opinion this answer makes it even more likely to be true - why wouldn't Nakamura just say no if it wasn't true?

Anand-Carlsen had little to offer, except for Berlin Wall diehard fans who know all the subtleties of the ending and its many transpositions.

Sao Paulo, 2011


Red Hot Chilli Peppers

As pulern pointed out in the comments below, Carlsen had a nice way of warming up for the tournament. On Friday night, together with his manager Espen Agdestein, he attended the festival Rock in Rio where he met band members of Snow Patrol and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Carlsen also played with members of the Peppers, and was 'genuinly suprised' about the good level of their play!  You can read more about it in the Google Translate version of the article in the Norwegian newspaper VG.

Grand Slam Masters Final 2011 | Schedule & results

Round 1 26.09.11 20:00 CET   Round 6 06.10.11 16:00 CET
Nakamura ½-½ Ivanchuk   Ivanchuk - Nakamura
Anand ½-½ Carlsen   Carlsen - Anand
Aronian 1-0 Vallejo   Vallejo - Aronian
Round 2 27.09.11 20:00 CET   Round 7 07.10.11 16:00 CET
Ivanchuk - Vallejo   Vallejo - Ivanchuk
Carlsen - Aronian   Aronian - Carlsen
Nakamura - Anand   Anand - Nakamura
Round 3 28.09.11 20:00 CET   Round 8 08.10.11 16:00 CET
Anand - Ivanchuk   Ivanchuk - Anand
Aronian - Nakamura   Nakamura - Aronian
Vallejo - Carlsen   Carlsen - Vallejo
Round 4 30.09.11 20:00 CET   Round 9 10.10.11 16:00 CET
Aronian - Ivanchuk   Carlsen - Ivanchuk
Vallejo - Anand   Vallejo - Nakamura
Carlsen - Nakamura   Aronian - Anand
Round 5 01.10.11 20:00 CET   Round 10 11.10.11 16:00 CET
Ivanchuk - Carlsen   Ivanchuk - Aronian
Nakamura - Vallejo   Anand - Vallejo
Anand - Aronian   Nakamura - Carlsen

Standings after round 1
1  Levon Aronian 3
2-5  Anand, Carlsen, Nakamura, Ivanchuk 1
6  Vallejo 0

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


sulutas's picture

I expect Anand to continue with 1. e4 in this and upcoming tournaments - probably he doesn't want to give away his opening repertoire for 1. d4 before the WC games with Gelfand. Although the game continued around the 50th move, it is unbelievable how quickly Vallejo got lost against Aronian today. Also check out Carlsen's tweet today about his game tomorrow against Aronian, who apparently got lost today on his way to the playing hall. I like his sense of humor.

Al's picture

I can see how Kramnik outsmarted Kasparov in the WC match with the berlin wall, Carlsen made his draw seem effortless, however boring it may have been.
He is learning now that Anand is stronger than him and his go for a quick win approach doesn't work, playing for safety against Anand is the smart choice.

I just hope Carlsen doesn't play for draws against the others.

Great line up, I hope for some exciting chess, and I sure look forward to this event!

arkan's picture

Uhm i think he should be aiming for a draw with the black pieces against the World Champion it would have been rather weird to see him go all-out with the black pieces in game 1 against the WC?

MJul's picture

I still remember Anand as a great 1.e4 player. So, IMO, playing safety vs Anand's 1.e4 with black is the best option (for top player, I'm lost vs Anand it doesn't matter what he choose... -2700 too in a normal day, IMO)

ken toh tan's picture

what????.the world champion could only draw with white?tsk..tsk..anand may be a world champ but he is not a dominant tourney player like carlsen.tis will be the 6th tourney for carlsen and anand as participants,carlsen crowned 4 times against once on anand.

tomtom's picture

Magnus would already beat him(and his team), probably Aronian and Kasparov could too. But he probably will stay WCC till he falls from 4th to 10th.

RealityCheck's picture

@ken toh tan,
Listen, toe head. GM Anand has more tournament wins than GM Carlsen has years on this planet. Don't believe me? Get your pocket calculator out. Take a walk to Vishys' sponsors web site: When you're done counting the tournament wins, call me.

RealityCheck's picture

@ken toh tan
Remember, just add up the tournament wins. Don't include the Head-to-Head Matches i.e. World Championships or Rapids or Blitz. It will save you valuable time. Who knows, you could be counting on your fingers or using an abbicus.

S3's picture

RealityCheck, they are just trolling to hide the fact that Carlsen was playing for a draw from the start. After all those defeats against Anand he prolly felt a draw was already a minor victory in itself.

anonymous coward's picture

So how did Nakamura respond to the question posed by Garcia? Is he working with Kasparov or not?

Anonymous's picture

@ ken toh tan, It doesn't matter what color you draw with - it matters what the final score is at the end of the tournament. Since Anand has to save his best opening preparation for his upcoming match, he should be satisfied with an undefeated 2nd or 3rd. Believe me, any player like Carlsen or Aronian who has already been over 2800 would rather have the World title more than anything else in chess - it is much harder to attain than the #1 ranking. Maybe if Carlsen finds the balls he can try his luck in a match against Kramnik. Since he is so highly hyped I am sure that his manager would have no problem finding a sponsor for such a match.

cak's picture

No doubt Aronian is an incredibly strong player, but one would think there were easier ways to win from the position after the opening.

pulern's picture

Carlsen warmed up against Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Here is a google-translate version of the the coverage in the Norwegian Newspaper "Verdens Gang":


Peter Doggers's picture

Thanks, did a small update!

MJul's picture

"Nakamura & Kasparov
After the game Leontxto Garcia asked Nakamura if the rumours were true that he was working with Garry Kasparov. The American grandmaster said that he would 'not comment' and people could 'believe the rumours if they wanted to'. In our opinion this answer makes it even more likely to be true - why wouldn't Nakamura just say no if it wasn't true?"

Psychological tactic?

Daaim Shabazz's picture

Nakamura just told me that the rumour was started by Dennis Monokroussos. Still trying to find out the truth of it.

MJul's picture

Hope you find it.

I won't believe that until it's confirmed.

Thomas's picture

I wonder how you could "find out the truth" about something which only Nakamura, Kasparov (and maybe Rex Sinquefield paying Kasparov) know for sure - unless at least one of them makes a clear public statement.
I think Nakamura's cryptic answer doesn't mean anything about the rumor being right or wrong, it merealy indicates that he likes such a rumor ... and why not? If they do work together, they may announce it in public if, and only if, Nakamura's results in forthcoming events turn out to be (much) better than his Bazna and Dortmund performances. If that's not the case, at some stage someone (most likely Kasparov) might say that it was just a rumor, or at least that the collaboration was small-scale.
On the other hand, if the rumor is nothing but a rumor, it may circulate for a while - even if any psychological effect on Nakamura's opponents would slowly fade away.

S3's picture

Of course it's not true. But when chessgames don't get attention you just need some gossip about secret coaches or relations with with bad musicians if you want to be on the front page.

troll_on_parole's picture

according to the picture of the Ivanchuk-Nakamura game, there's a completely new 2753 player on the chess circuit - HIRAKU Nakamura. :P who is he? :P

redivivo's picture

The funny thing is that before the tournament most people say that Anand will win it, when I looked he had more than 60% of the votes in the poll here. At the same time he is said to be saving preparation for Gelfand (eight-nine months away?) and hasn't won a classical tournament in almost four years, and this is one of the toughest tournaments he has played in these years. Anand is playing also Tal Memorial, London and Tata the next months, and I wonder if he will be expected to win also them. Aronian and Carlsen are very tough opponents that also will be in these events, and it won't be as easy as many seem to think for Anand to end his winless sequence here.

RealityCheck's picture

First and foremost, chess is never easy. Now, as regards Anand not winning many tournaments the past four years. No, he hasn't won the tournaments but, he's consistently beaten the tournament winners. At London last year, he body slammed Carlsen, the tournament winner, twice.

Quite frankly, I get tired of hearing all the same lame arguments questioning GM Anands status. He's World Champion dammit.

Lest you forget, emphasis has shifted back to match play since 2007.

And these trivial ass tournaments played at excelerated time controls, played in glass cages, (imagine Fischer, Botvinnik, or Huebner putting up with this sh.. ) football scoring, dual contintent etc. etc. pumped up to be the real deal, hell they make Kirsans' program look sane.

redivivo's picture

"No, he hasn't won the tournaments but, he's consistently beaten the tournament winners. At London last year, he body slammed Carlsen, the tournament winner, twice"

Maybe he did, but they also played a game of chess that Anand won. Anand's last eight tournaments had these winners, by the way. I don't know about consistently beating the tournament winners, the one win against Carlsen is the only win in all his games against the tournament winners during these years.

Wijk 2011: Nakamura (draw)
London 2010: Carlsen (win)
Nanjing 2010: Carlsen (two draws)
Bilbao 2010: Kramnik (two draws)
Wijk 2010: Carlsen (draw)
Tal Memorial 2009: Kramnik (draw)
Linares 2009: Grischuk (two draws)
Bilbao 2008: Topalov (loss and draw)

Not much reason to see him as such a huge favourite to win this one, but we'll see how it ends.

Thomas's picture

Such polls don't tell you who is (considered) a "huge" favorite, only whom many might consider a slight favorite. Maybe it's public majority opinion that it's Anand's turn to come out on top - after all, he had been close (just 0.5 points behind the winner) at several of the events you list.

ken toh tan's picture

anand just lucky becoming world champ,kramnik and topalov were just not the same players they used to be,in a match against aronian or carlsen,anand will lose.

MJul's picture

Anand is, IMO one of the greatest in history. I see Kasparov as an extremely intelligent workaholic with a ridiculous talent for chess. Anand, in my view, is an extremely intelligent nice person with a ridiculous talent for chess.

ken toh tan's picture

even kasparov help,nakamura will not reach carlsen status,thre's a difference b/w a genius and being great.

MJul's picture


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