Levon Aronian aiming to close world ranking gap on Magnus Carlsen
Leonard Barden

guardian.co.uk,
Friday 27 April 2012 22.55 BST


3251: Series Helpmate in 13. The April British Chess Magazine quotes
this puzzle, which took me 20 minutes to solve. Can you do better?
Black plays 13 consecutive moves (White not moving at all) and at the
end of that sequence White can mate in one. Black may check only on
his final move. Illustration: Graphic
At midday on Saturday the world Nos2 and 3, Levon Aronian and Vlad
Kramnik, start the final round of their six-game match in Zurich. It
will be broadcast free and live on the internet, with grandmaster and
computer move-by-move running commentary, and its outcome will be
crucial to the global rankings.

When Aronian won the opening round with the black pieces he stoked up
his challenge to Norway's golden boy, Magnus Carlsen, who became No1
at 18 in 2010. Carlsen has since become a brand name in Oslo where his
company Magnuschess reported $1.5m yearly income, mainly from G-star
men's clothing and other endorsements. Aronian himself is a national
hero in Armenia, whose 2010 gold medal Olympiad team flew home to
Erevan in the presidential jet and where chess has become a compulsory
subject in primary schools.

At 29 Aronian is in his lifetime best form and has won two major
events in recent months ahead of Carlsen. But Kramnik, former world
champion, conqueror of Garry Kasparov and winner of the 2011 London
Classic, is a tough opponent. He struck back in game three where his
surprise use of the Scotch 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 provoked Aronian
into a risky and eventually misfiring queen sacrifice. They were
locked at 2.5-2.5 on Friday after two cautious draws set up Saturday's
finale.

The daily rating list for the 46-strong GM elite ranked 2700+ has
growing status. Its names include England's Michael Adams, Luke
McShane and Nigel Short, though they are all in the lower half. At its
top Aronian is close to Carlsen and, if he can win the current match,
he will reduce the Norwegian's lead to less than 10 points.

The surge of public interest in daily ratings has been such as to dim
the lustre of next month's $2.55m official world title series in
Moscow between India's world No4, Vishy Anand, and Israel's world
No20, Boris Gelfand. Both are aged over 40, making them veterans by GM
standards.

The chess public increasingly views the real struggle for supremacy as
Aronian v Carlsen. The pair will meet head-to-head in Moscow in June
and at major autumn events, leading up to the candidates tournament to
be staged in London in March 2013 which will decide the next title
challenger.

Below, Aronian stood better from the opening after his 16...Qe6!
novelty and sparked Kramnik's rash 26 f4? pawn push. After that White
was a pawn down and was losing even before his time pressure blunder
40 Rd7? Aronian's 41...Bd6! threatened mate by Bxh2+ and Rf1 as well
as Rxg6 so won a piece.

V Kramnik v L Aronian

1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 c4 c6 4 Nc3 e6 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bxf6 Qxf6 7 e3 Nd7 8 Bd3
dxc4 9 Bxc4 g6 10 0-0 Bg7 11 Re1 0-0 12 e4 e5 13 d5 Rd8 14 Re3 b5 15
dxc6 bxc4 16 Nd5 Qe6! 17 exd7 Rxd7 18 Qa4 Bb7 19 Qxc4 Bxd5 20 exd5
Qxd5 21 Qxd5 Rxd5 22 Rae1 Re8 23 g4 Kh7! 24 g5 hxg5 25 Nxg5+ Kg8 26
f4? Rb8! 27 fxe5 Rxb2 28 Nf3 Rxa2 29 e6 fxe6 30 Rxe6 Rf5 31 Nh4 Rf4 32
R6e4 Rf6 33 Rg4 Kf7 34 Re1 Bh6! 35 Rc7+ Ke8 36 Re4+ Kd8 37 Rh7 Bf8 38
Rd4+ Ke8 39 Re4+ Kb8 40 Rd7? g5! 41 Ng6 Bd6! 0-1


3251 (by Rudolf Queck, 1947) Black plays Qc7, Kb7, Kc6, Qe5, Kd5, Ke4,
Qf4, Kf3, Kg4, Qg5, Kh5, Kxg6 and Qxf6+, then White mates by R7xf6.