Speaking of chess, we really ought to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that the first major grandmaster chess tournament of the year has now ended. I refer of course to the annual event at Wijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands. This year’s event ended in a three-way tie between Veselin Topalov, Teimour Radjabov and Levon Aronian.
The last time we saw Topalov was during his big World Championship match with Vladimir Kramnik last fall. You might recall that Topalov lost the match, and pretty much humiliated himself by manufacturing a scandal about Kramnik’s frequent bathroom use. He seems to have bounced back from the experience, however. He led throughout the tournament, and only a bad blunder in a winning position against Peter Svidler late in the tournament prevented him from winning the tournament outright. There is no question that he is playing the best and most imaginative chess in the world right now.
This was an important win for Radjabov. He burst on the scene a few years ago by scoring a surprising upset against Kasparov. The win had more to do with Kasparov’s poor play than Radjabov’s skill, but a win is a win. Since then he has had to fight a bit to make it clear that his win was not a fluke, and with this victory he has pretty much cemented his place among the world elite. Even more remarkable were the several points he scored with the King’s Indian Defense. This opening has lately been considered suspect among the world’s elite. But going back through history we find that it’s most recent defenders were Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov, so Radjabov is in good company.
Likewise for Aronian. He is another young star with some impressive wins to his credit. This one pretty well cements his place in the world’s elite.
Also remarkable was the participation of Vladimir Kramnik. He turned in his typically professional but uninspiring performance, finishing in clear fourth a half-point behind the winners. His game with Topalov was closely watched. Topalov managed to obtain some advantage into the endgame, but Kramnik found a characteristically clever way to secure the draw.