Reports | May 01, 2013 18:16

Aronian wins Alekhine Memorial on tiebreak

Levon Aronian won the Alekhine Memorial in St Petersburg on Wednesday. The Armenian grandmaster beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and caught Boris Gelfand, who drew his game with Vishy Anand. Aronian won because of a higher number of wins (or losses, as Nigel Short would probably repeat once more!). Vishy Anand ended third. Vladimir Kramnik won his last game against Michael Adams to finish on 50%.

The last round of the tournanent started 13:00 local time, so one hour earlier than all other rounds. But as in previous rounds in St Petersburg, there was a big turn up right from the start and certainly several hundred spectators throughout the day. Although the first round in Paris was also a big success in this respect, it cannot be denied that the interest in the tournament was clearly higher in Russia than in France.

World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand went into the final round as the tournament leader, half a point ahead of Michael Adams, Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. If he would draw his game, only two could catch him because Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave played against each other, and Gelfand himself played Anand.

The two contestants of the previous event funded by Andrei Filatov and Gennady Timchenko, the 2012 world title match, faced each other in the final round. Right from the start this game was more or less heading for a draw. The same, almost equal ending as in Vachier-Lagrave-Anand came on the board, and obviously the World Champion played it more accurately this time.

And so Gelfand was the virtual winner of the tournament, but not for long. Levon Aronian won a good game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and caught Gelfand in first place. After the game, Aronian said he started playing the 8.Rb1 variation of the Grünfeld for the first time in this tournament.

I was successful with it against Peter [Svider] so decided to see what Maxime [Vachier-Lagrave] was planning against it."

PGN string

Peter Svidler finished a disappointing tournament with a draw against Laurent Fressinet. It was again not a great game by the local hero. Svidler comforted himself with the fact that very recently he has shown that he can play better. For his next event (next week in Norway) he said he

will have four days to forget this tournament ever existed.

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The game Nikita Vitiugov versus Ding Liren was another great fight between two players who are rarely looking for a quick draw anyway. The Chinese might well be the player who made the most positional pawn sacrifices this tournament, and the last round was no exception. It was probably not fully correct this time, but Vitiugov could not demontrate it over the board.

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All rounds in St Petersburg had one game that lasted six and a half hours (or more) and this time it was Michael Adams versus Vladimir Kramnik. The Englishman was never close to a win, which would put him in shared first place as well. By the way, in that case Aronian would have had the best tiebreak. These were the tiebreak rules:

  • # games played with black
  • # wins
  • direct encounter
  • Koya (the number of points achieved against all opponents who have achieved 50% or more)
  • Sonneborn-Berger (the sum of the scores of the opponents a player has defeated and half the scores of the players with whom he has drawn)

In the theoretical case that Adams would win, Aronian would beat him by half a point on Koya. In other words: as soon as Aronian won his game, he had won the tournament.

Adams was defending a difficult ending for a long time but couldn't save it. Kramnik was very persistant in this game, but admitted that he was too tired to know for sure whether it was winning until two moves before the end!

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This game saw a remarkable little incident. Before making his 58th move, Adams claimed a draw by three-fold repetition, but it just wasn't the case that the same position with the same player to move would appear on the board. And so Kramnik got some extra time on the clock, and the game continued. A rare mistake for a super GM.

Aronian edged out Gelfand on tiebreak, with both scoring 5.5/9. Reigning World Champion Vishy Anand finished third with 5 points.

At the closing ceremony Aronian thanked the sponsors of the event, its organizers and spectators, who showed genuine interest to the tournament and inspired its participants to demonstrate their creative talent. The Armenian also said he was happy to finish shared first with his good friend Boris Gelfand.

The prize for a game in Alekhine's style was given to Laurent Fressinet, who defeated Vladimir Kramnik in Paris. The best combination prize went to Ding Liren for his victory against the future tournament winner. Boris Gelfand received the best technique prize, and Nikita Vitiugov got the last special prize for the best play during the St. Petersburg half of the tournament.

The cup that went to Levon Aronian

Final standings

1-2  Aronian*, Gelfand  5.5/9
3  Anand  5.0/9
4-8  Vitiugov, Fressinet, Kramnik, Adams, Vachier Lagrave  4.5/9
8   4.5/9  18.50
9  Ding Liren  3.5/9
10  Svidler  3.0/9

*Aronian wins on number of wins

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.


GuyFawkes's picture

If Carlsen had played here................................

jussu's picture

... then someone else wouldn't have played here... or they would have had eleven participants.

Horace Umbilical Knocking Shop's picture

.... he'd have made mincemeat of them. The inborn weaknesses of all his putative rivals have been stark at both the Alekhine and Zug tournaments. When they make such a shambles of beating each other, it makes you wonder where any challenge to his impending domination could possibly come from.

RG13's picture

From a rejuvenated Topalov.

Horace Umbilical Knocking Shop's picture

Possibly. In fact I hope so. But will this rejuvenation see him through the next candidates cycle? He is after all an older veteran.

jussu's picture

And here I thought he would have played chess with them. How silly of me.

Eadon's picture

"If Carlsen had played here" then he would have thrashed the french, the isrealies and so on, drawn a few against the senior players, to be polite, and walked off with the trophy. Others would say that he was lucky and could only win against weaker players, lol.

Bonnerjee's picture

if Carlsen will play a Alekine Memorial with two 3000+ players in 2025 he will certainly not win it or become second on (stupid) tiebraeaks as Borja did yesterday.

redivivo's picture

How many 3000+ players do you think there will be in only 12 years? Fischer was 2785 more than 40 years ago, and today only Carlsen is significantly higher than that. Hard to see several players pass 3000 in just a dozen years.

Bonnerjee's picture

sorry my little failure which you you missed as well, it should be 2030 or 2035 !!! besause Boris won his first big tournaments in the ninethys!

antonio's picture

If Carlsen had played here...........
He probably would have won on tiebreaks like
in London.

RealityCheck's picture

@GuyFawkes Go away.

RealityCheck's picture

A Love Supreme A Love Supreme. A Lev Supreme.

Ricitos's picture

I really hoped Gelfy would win this. At least he shared first.

Anonymous's picture

no, he is second ... no share, not in his heart at least ! he is second, dig it

Xenyatta's picture

Well, this is still a fine result for Gelfand. No so easy to make it through the event without a loss. This ranks up there as one of the better results of his career. Gelfand did have good fortune to "miraculously" escape against Kramnik, when Vlad missed a clear win. Arguably, Aronian had better fortune yet, although he played some of the most enterprising chess in the tournament.

This would not be an easy field for Carlsen to feast upon, as the "rabbits" were in good form. It is easy to overpress in such a circumstance.

Mountebank's picture

Interesting that both Carlsen and Aronian won their recent tournaments by the same tie-break rules.

Nevertheless, it won't surprise me a bit to see the same tired old trolls arguing that the win was deserved in one case, but not in the other.

Mountebank's picture

I have to add that the most impressive aspect of the past three tournaments (Candidates, Zug, Alekhine) has been, in my opinion, the re-birth of Topalov. Can't wait to see if he can sustain his current form in Norway next week.

Horace Umbilical Knocking Shop's picture

He is the only one who looks a serious menace to Carlsen - provided he can maintain this form (which will be a challenge). It's a pity that he is in his late 30s. It's a joy to see him back. Yet another figure who is demonstrably better than the 'World Champion'.

Xenyatta's picture

Unfortunately for that theory, Topalov was one of Carlsen's early "Customers", well before Topalov took his hiatus. I'm not sure what conclusions we should draw on the basis of a single tournament result.

Carlsen will have plenty of serious rivals. Aronian is not done (he would do well to reformulate his "risk assessment" in playing provocative moves.

Caruana is progressing nicely. If Giri puts aside his academic studies, and actually becomes a professsional, he could make a nice jump.

Thomas Oliver's picture

Yep, Topalov is or was Carlsen's "client" - but for better or worse, past results offer no guarantee for the future: Ivanchuk was another Carlsen client, and many people (not just Carlsen fans, but for example also me) expected Magnus to score at least 1.5/2 at the candidates event against Chucky ... .
I thought H.U.K.S. was talking about the Norwegian supertournament where Caruana and Giri don't play. But there is at least also Aronian, maybe (if they find back their form) Karjakin or even Radjabov. I don't include Nakamura, because IMHO his bad score against Carlsen has "structural reasons" (inferior chess understanding and lack of objectivity).

bronkenstein's picture

Congrats to Lev and BIG congrats to Boris! Another big one for ´The Unworthy Challenger´ =)

The Champ finished third, nice bounceBack after that early defeat. Vlad returned back to 50% and 2800 club.

It was a nice day indeed =)

Eadon's picture

Boris manages, eventually, to second in a close tournament (usually he's floundering) and suddenly he's a worthy challenger to WC? Pfffffttttttttttt

fuzzylogic's picture

you are comments are sadistic.What you are trying to say ? boris played well in qualifier cycle and got the title short. If someone looks at this era after 100 years, history will show that both carlsen and boris were challenger to vishy and both were defeated by vishy and boris played decently to take it to tie breaker and carlsen got thrashed :-)

Eadon's picture

Candidates tournament - Carlsen 2 - Gelfand 0. Think about that. And where is Anand? He's beaten by Topalov and Gelfand in the tourney coming third. Nice guy, but he can't win tournaments, and, much worse, he can't play exciting chess. He's been overtaken by Topalov now, who can and does play exciting chess.

Anonymous's picture


Thomas Oliver's picture

"Exciting chess" is always a matter of taste - I would say Anand's wins against Ding Liren and Fressinet (OK, not the nominally strongest opponents) were as exciting as Topalov's wins at the Zug GP, and more exciting than typical Carlsen wins.
But once people made up their mind that Anand doesn't play exciting chess while Topalov and Carlsen do, they stick to their opinion - why bother actually looking at the games?

CigarStoreJesus's picture

Gelfand finish at +2 with a 2824 TPR-- a good performance for him but hardly the kind of 2900 - 3000 TPR that would shout out potential World Champion. And it isn't very often that such a mild score and TPR is sufficient for first in this type of event.

Greco's picture

Those dreadfull tiebreaks.......its an outrage...Oh wait its Aronian not Carlsen huh?...ok carry on people!

Chess Fan's picture

When Vishy was getting all unfairly hyperbolic critical comments after the first two rounds, I told then that the eventual winner would be between Vishy, Vlady, and Aronian.
See how correct I was: Aronian won, Anand got the second highest untied scorem and Vlady got the third highest untied score. Gelfand, one of the players I always respect, performed very very well.
Please give the World Champion due respect and let the World Champion be decided in the World Championship. That is why we have it.

Horace Umbilical Knocking Shop's picture

I'm a critic of Anand and yet I have infinite respect for him. It's the same species of admiration I had in the 1980s when Wimbledon were the FA Cup holders.

RealityCheck's picture

@Horace Umbilical KS Your infantile sense of humor is as dry as a wet-fahrt and as stale as two week old white bread.

Horace Umbilical Knocking Shop's picture

Your imagination needs some heavy renovations if you have any ambition to insult me.

RealityCheck's picture

@HUKS. Sorry chum, I wasn't trying to insult you. I was just stating the obvious, the facts.

Le Tensnake Face xD's picture

" I told then that the eventual winner would be between Vishy, Vlady, and Aronian."

Congratulations, you predicted that either the world #2, world #3, or the world champion would win a tournament.

Get over yourself.

Chess Fan's picture

What is wrong with you?
I said that when someone said that Vishy is a disgrace to be a World Champion after Adams won the first two games.
Instead of making such stupid half baked ill-informed comments, if you read my comment in full, you will not make such ignorant comments.
But remember this when you and other make stupids comments about Vishy, Vlady, Gelfand etc. after each round. Of course, you and others have a right to make stupid comments. But then get over yourself too (whatever it means).

Anonymous's picture

" When Vishy was getting all unfairly hyperbolic critical comments after the first two rounds, I told then that the eventual winner would be between Vishy, Vlady, and Aronian. "


Chess Fan's picture

If you feel good making such a stupid, negative comment, then good for you.
My point is, in spite of my healthy respect for Magnus, this (next World Championship) is an even match with chances for both Vishy and Magnus. This is a world championship match, not a popularity contest for a 22-year old Norwegian in a chess web site.

Jim's picture

What in Anand's tournament makes you think that? Sure, this was a fine result for Anand... but Carlsen's only had one tournament result this bad in the last four years. What do you see that makes you optimistic?

Chess Fan's picture

If you think Anand is going to play the same level in the World Championship than in these tournaments, then you may be right. But the fact that I believe that he would approach it and play it at a different level makes me think that the chances are more equal. Think about Anand's performance in the 2007 title match or his match against Kramnik. I am hoping that he would play that well. This is not to take anything away from Magnus, who I think has proved that he could be argued as the strongest player of all-times. My talking for Anand ALSO is not not against Magnus or to take anything from him. I am his chess fan also and have been mesmerized by his brilliant games many times.

redivivo's picture

Anand's match against Kramnik was five years ago though, and he played much worse in the later matches against Topalov and Gelfand.

Chess Fan's picture

Anand's back with Kramnik was 13 years after his match with Kasparov.
His match win against Topalov must be considered monumental especially given the hostile conditions including IBM super-computer preparation and support, including the first game grab he ensured. I won't call it worse. With Gelfand, with Aronian and other great team members support, and Gelfand himself being a legend, I won't call his ultra-cautious play and comeback worse by any means.
We will see in November, won't we?

Chess Fan's picture

Typo corrections:
(Anand's MATCH with Kramnik)
(ENDURED not ensured)

Jambow's picture

I remember the Anand/Topalov WC match as being even lower in quality than the one with Gelfand but neither was particularly impressive imho. Both were decided by and included blunders much below the participants level of play going on memory. Not to say they are lower level players at all simply wasn't great chess. I also think especially last time around there were far more worthy challengers but fault neither Gelfand or Anand but rather FIDE and commend Boris for making it a fight.

If Anand can withstand Carlsen then much of the complaints about selection methods and WC match quality will be forgotten, if not then the chorus of chess fans saying I told you so will be exceptionally audible. I suspect the latter will happen but generally I'm just happy that the two players who by my account seem to be the most worthy are going head to head.

I honestly barely followed the last match and it is rather vague already. The one previous stood out as being well below a WC caliber event too.

I think Anand vs Carlsen will be a huge draw. Since I saw Magnus as a potential world champion while he was still a 2600 elo player I can boast of being a wonderful talent scout too. ;0]

Chess Fan's picture

Jambow: Others like Magnus have not quite panned out to this level. You could be plain lucky or you could really be a talent scout! Good luck to you ;0]

Eadon's picture

@Chess Fan - Carlsen 2 - Gelfand 0. And Gelfand finished above Anand here! And Aronian finished above Gelfand. Hmmmm. Anand is a great guy but he hasn't been WC material for years.

Chess Fan's picture

If Anand is motovated plays his full potential without fear, he could beat anyone. That is my opinion about Anand.
Apply Kasparov-Kramnik-Anand situation to your logic. You would understand what I am alluding to.

Chess Fan's picture

Typo corrections:
..."motivated" ....and "TO his full potential".....

Ian.A's picture

Problem for him is that Carlsen isn't anyone :)

EadonSucks's picture


You simply don't get it, do you? You should switch to parcheesi, fits better to you...


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