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On chess: Armenian Levon Aronian makes a comeback, wins Sinquefield Cup

Levon Aronian during Round 9 of the Sinquefield Cup
Lennart Ootes

The 2015 inaugural Grand Chess Tour features three tournaments including Norway Chess, Sinquefield Cup and London Chess Classic. The Grand Chess Tour has quickly established itself as the premier chess circuit in the world, featuring 10 of the top players. Invitations are extended to the three top finishers in the 2015 Grand Chess Tour, the six highest average rated players in 2015, and a wild card chosen by each tournament which rounds out the field to 10.

The Sinquefield Cup has been held here at the St. Louis Chess Club from Aug. 22 to Sept. 3.

Going into the event, people were unanimous about who the favorites were. Magnus Carlsen has always been a top player due to his massive rating; Hikaru Nakamura had been showing amazing chess and many thought he would win; and finally Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov had spectacular performances in Norway and seemed to be ready to conquer more points.

Yet, we must not forget that when you invite anyone in the top 10, they have the capacity to win any tournament, at any time, no matter who the competition is.

Levon Aronian is, to put it in simple terms, a superstar. He is a widely recognized figure in Armenia, where chess is taught at schools as any other subject, such as math or social sciences. Once upon a time, this charismatic and erudite player was considered to be Carlsen's greatest threat. After his victory in Wijk aan Zee in 2014, everyone pointed to Aronian as the obvious challenger to the World Championship title. Unfortunately, this went south rather quickly for the Armenian.

A combination of poor shape and some health problems caused him to have a horrendous year, dropping precipitously from solidly being the No. 2 player in the world to being at serious risk of exiting the top 10. His rather poor showing in Norway meant that no one saw him as a threat in this tournament; the minds of chess fans are easily swayed by recent results. And yet, the 2015 Sinquefield Cup was the Armenian's time to shine.

He won the tournament in his typical style. He is not the type of player who goes for the throat of his opponents. Aronian’s opening repertoire is rather sedate and even predictable; yet his positional comprehension, his understanding of the lines that he does play, and his vast experience and knowledge make him a formidable opponent every round. He won three games and drew six, sufficient to win the tournament a full point ahead of the field – a feat that is rather rare. He was never in any danger of losing a game or of even being worse during one, and his solid style was enough to be dominant in Saint Louis.

“It feels amazing since this leg of the Grand Chess Tour is one of the strongest events in the history of chess,” said Aronian, the new Sinquefield Cup champion. “Winning a tournament by one point is a great accomplishment.”

The Grand Chess Tour finishes in London this December. Going into the final leg of the event, the race has tightened up considerably. Seven people have very real possibilities of taking the crown if they win in London, though for now it is still Veselin Topalov who leads the event.

Alejandro Ramirez has become a frequent guest of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, through roles as both the Club’s Resident Grandmaster rotation and as a player in the nation’s elite events. On Chess is provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.