Interviews Sep 17, 2015 | 2:00 PMby Colin McGourty

Aronian on his World Cup exit and much more

Levon Aronian’s early exit from the Baku World Cup was both a shock and a disappointment for the tournament, but the Armenian no. 1 retained his good humour in an interview with the local website Extra Time. He explained how a one-move blackout ended his tournament and noted that he’d be in favour of Magnus Carlsen’s World Championship proposal... but only if you added the possibility of a poker-style buy-in after a loss!

Levon's T-shirt declared his plan, but it didn't quite work out in Baku... | photo: official website

We reported yesterday on how Levon Aronian lost 2:0 in Round 2 rapid tiebreaks to Ukrainian Grandmaster Alexander Areshchenko. That was the starting point for his interview with Extra Time, which we’ve translated from the Russian below:  


What happened in the tiebreak against Alexander Areshchenko?

The World Cup ended here for Aronian | photo: official website

I blundered something in the first rapid game and in the second game I played too boldly. In the first game, of course, I committed an awful blunder. You might even say a shameful one.

After the first rapid game did you start to think it would be problematic to come back?

No, I never have such thoughts - I’m always confident. But in the game I did something wrong. Perhaps I went for b4 too early after which I didn’t manage to retain resources to continue the fight. Of course I had to agree to a draw… but I didn’t want to acknowledge my defeat prematurely.

After the Sinquefield Cup, where you won, the impression was that you were in good form. Your performance in Baku – was that the cost of a single mistake, or does your sporting form come and go?

It seems to me it was simply one mistake. A blackout. The World Cup is the kind of tournament where one blackout means the end of the tournament.

Can we say that for you the current World Championship cycle is over? Do you still have chances to fight for the world chess crown?

I never lose hope. If I’m not mistaken there will still be tournaments in which I should take part.

It seems at the end of your World Cup you have a certain feeling of things left unsaid…

I’ve got a feeling… Here you could add a lot of unprintable words. (smiles) But they would be addressed exclusively to me.

What impression did you get of the organisation of the World Cup in Baku?

The tournament organisation was excellent. It seems to me that all the Armenian chess players were very glad that we were treated well and there were no problems at all. You know, the only problem was our own, since players are used to going out for a walk or to run on the street. Naturally that had some effect. The organisers did absolutely everything they could so that was possible, but we didn’t want it ourselves.

The political situation may have made it tough for the Armenian players to walk around outside in the Azerbaijan capital, but Aronian was of course very comfortable in this chess company - here with Peter Svidler | photo: official website 

Next year the World Chess Olympiad will take place in Baku. No doubt we’ll also see the Armenian Team among the participants?

The Chess Olympiad will take place in a year from now and I think it can’t be ruled out. In any case, I’d be glad to return to Baku and play chess. Chess is very popular in Azerbaijan. That’s very clear, and the players are strong.

By the way, in the light of the reinforcement of the US and Azerbaijan teams is the Armenian team planning to resort to such an approach?

Our usual policy is to attract players with Armenian blood who play for other countries. Therefore you might say that we’re waiting for the appearance of an Armenian chess player in another country (smiles).

For example, in the USA there are chess players such as Samuel Sevian (who Teimour Radjabov beat in the first round of the Baku World Cup), Varuzhan Akobian…

I don’t know… we’ll see. For now there aren’t any such plans.

How difficult do you think it will be for the challenger to take the chess crown from Magnus Carlsen?

Magnus is a very strong chess player who plays very well, but I think there are lots of players striving to take away his crown. Currently the crown is fixed very firmly on his head, but it seems to me that all chess players in their heart of hearts feel their time has come.

Overall both the Sinquefield Cup and a series of other tournaments have shown that Carlsen isn’t currently displaying the same stable level of play as before. Ups and downs have occurred in his play.

If only I was as unstable as him (laughs). There are a lot of strong players who are capable of giving him decent competition. It’s hard to say. There are players who aren’t as strong but at the same time play very strongly. And there are strong players who… lose in the second round (laughs). Traditionally I play badly against Magnus, but that’s for another reason. I simply can’t believe he can beat me, but at times he forces me to believe. He really does play well and at times he finds unexpected resources, after which it seems to his opponents that Magnus is invincible. If a player isn’t very resistant to defeats Carlsen presses him.

How can Magnus beat me? | photo: official website

It would be interesting to know your opinion on Magnus Carlsen’s proposal to play the World Championship using a knockout system like the World Cup’s. After losing in the second round of the Baku World Cup you’re probably against such a proposal?

No, why? In general I think the strongest player will win the World Cup, though you can’t deny there’s an element of chance. Therefore you could introduce the system as in poker tournaments where after you lose there’s a buy-in, or double elimination, as Alexander Khalifman once suggested. To eliminate one-off mistakes. I think you could run a World Chess Championship using such a system.

Returning to the Baku World Cup, what do you think are the prospects of the Azerbaijan chess players Radjabov, Mamedyarov and Guseinov, who are still in the event?

In my view the guys are playing excellently. Moreover, on their home soil I think they should delight the local fans.

It was a pleasant surprise for many that Gadir Guseinov beat the strong David Navara in the second round…

The thing is that Azerbaijan players – I’m not talking now about Radjabov and Mamedyarov, but the other guys – have strengthened a lot recently. It seems to me that’s largely down to Alexander Khalifman, who in my view has done a great deal for Azerbaijan chess players. I even remember Rauf playing on the first board for the Azerbaijan team and doing it very well. You see, a big flaw for the majority of chess players from the Caucasus is that by themselves they’re lazy and play originally, without opening knowledge. That doesn’t always help, though, and you can’t always show good play. The presence of an experienced trainer who knows about openings and has an awful lot to offer is a great advantage. That’s shown both by Gadir’s experience in the World Cup and by Rauf’s results in recent tournaments.

Levon did finally manage to walk around Baku after his exit | photo: Extra Time / World Cup press centre

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