One hundred and seven to One…..Yes, a hundred and seven boards were put up against Super Grandmaster Levon Aronian in a simultaneous exhibition match, towards the end of the South African Junior Chess Championships in Johannesburg, South Africa and only one player came out victorious at the end of the day.
Tuesday, 7th of January, played host to the most participation in a simultaneous exhibition in South Africa and in Africa as a whole. With players ranging from young to old, and ratings from 2000+ and below, Grandmaster Levon Aronian took on the players with impressive zeal and showed why he is a top player in the sport.
Before this event, the Armenian Grandmaster has been shown a little of Jo’burg with his exercise at the Joubert Park, where he traded a hat for a loss against Simphiwe and defeated all else.
As the exhibition kicked off at 0930 hours, and the players took their seats to face the Super Grandmaster, there was a will to fly the flag of South Africa proudly and maybe do just enough to earn the praises of the grandmaster.
The games started and the Armenian maestro walked around the boards, made his move and continued onto the next. Each of the one hundred and seven participants must make their move before the grandmaster gets to the board, which gives them more than enough time to think and make their moves.
After a few minutes, a few of the players lost their way in the game and consequently lost the game, while the others continued to hold their own and push GM Levon to the limits. A few hours down the line and more players gave up on their position, as they were now obviously lost, while a few others had pretty good advantage, but had to go participate in the next round of the South African Junior Chess Championship, and thus Super Grandmaster allowed them draws.
While all these was going on, one player was more than fortunate to steal the show against the Armenian grandmaster, and that individual was thirty eight (38) year old Klaver Cornelius, who is currently rated ELO 2052.
Playing the Mieses-Kotroc variation of the Center Counter opening line, Cornelius missed his way a bit on move 12, playing Rad8 instead of the solid Rfe8 continuation, which would have made his position quite solid.
And after GM Levon castled to the queenside of the board, it was clear that Cornelius’ 12th move would have probably come back to his mind like: “I really should have played Rfe8 there”.
The game continued however, and on the 14th move, after being probed, the Armenian sacced his Bishop on e6!? A move that was expected to shake the player with over seven hundred (700+) ELO rating below the grandmaster, but instead of picking up the bishop, the South African played the dubious Nc5?!
He probably did not realize that his light squared bishop was more important than the dark squared bishop at this point, which would have probably aided the attack against the queenside castled king, and that it would be locked in with the f5 pawn push.
But the South African had his own plans, and would rather create his own threats than respond fully to the grandmaster’s threats. After the exchange of the light squared bishops, Cornelius gave his own sac on a3 with his bishop on move 16, in other to open up the king for the attack that would ensue.
Instead of continuing his attack with the interestingly promising gxh7+!?, which would have led to some continuations that many believed suited GM Levon, the Armenian decided to respond to Corno’s attack with Na2, which both tries to defend the position and as well opens up a line of attack on the black queen that was quickly defended with a push of the b-pawn to white’s 4th rank.
Now, Cornelius is really feeling the game and feels like he has something really good brewing up in the game, which made him go for the Nd5 move, looking at the possibility of Nc3+!?, with a crushing attack on the king. But after GM Levon played d4, the idea of Nc3+ went out the window because now the queen can help defend the position via c4!
This made Cornelius rethink his strategy and do for Na4 instead, to increase the pressure on the king and his positional setup. The opposing queen capture for a check and brought her knight with her on the next move, now showing intent and a winning drive.
Cornelius was close to giving up at this point, but chose to give it a few moves more by capturing on b2 with his bishop, which opens up a door of opportunity for the knights to jump in and do some damage if the Armenian grandmaster does not find the smothered mating pattern in the position.
And that was exactly what happened. Instead of challenging the rook on f8 with either of his rooks, GM Levon went for the Nf7+??, which was sacced upon immediately, and after the pawn captured back and Cornelius defended sat his rook on f8 to stop the pawn and the queen in their tracks, GM Levon missed his continuation.
In forgetting about the threat at his queenside, GM Levon tried to create a multiple attack on the rook and the b4 pawn by playing Qd6??, which turned out to be the huge blunder of the match, and with the incoming Nac3+!! the game was effectively over and Dane had to resign.
Thus bringing the final score to 78W-28D-1L (78 wins, 28 draws and 1 loss) for the Armenain Super Grandmaster on the African soil, after seven (7) hours of chess playing!