Wijk Aan Zee 2009 group A preview

article by Aviv Friedman for coruschess.com

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Alexander Morozevich

Date of Birth: 18/07/1977

Country: Russia

World Ranking: 2

Rating: 2787

The Muscovite crowd-pleaser is making his return to Corus A after a 3-year hiatus – he finished next to last in 2005, with only 4.5/13. This time around he is back eyeing the other side of the cross table, with a new world ranking high, and close to his all time rating high. Alexander is a two-time Russian champion and a candidate for the world championships, who appeared on the chess scene radar in 1994, with his resounding 9.5/10 score in Lloyds Bank in London.

In 2008 he had a few mediocre results finishing equal fourth in the Russian championship, where he was the defending champion, and scoring 6/10 playing 3-4 board for Russia at the Olympiad. He won Bosnia with an impressive 7.5/9, a full point and a half ahead of second place, and tied for second at the Tal memorial (5/9) which he might have won if not for a slow finish.

Moro earns his popularity with his original, combative style, and by introducing openings or variations that are off the beaten track. Alexander is one of the heavy favorites, and is ‘marked’ by many as the one to watch in January.

Magnus Carlsen

Date of Birth: 30/11/1990

Country: Norway

World Ranking: 3-4

Rating: 2786

The Norwegian Magnus express is simply not stopping. The Corus A 2008 co-champion is returning to defend his title, with a hefty new personal best rating, and a near-pinnacle position on the world-ranking list (including a brief stint as the world’s number 1 at one ‘real time’ moment). If last year we said he was en route to the top 10, having broken the 2700 milestone, this time around he is only thinking of the top spot, and a hairs distance away from crossing the magical number of 2800.

In addition to his great success in Corus, Carlsen had other very notable achievements: Second place at the super strong Linares, with an 8/14 result – second only to Vishy Anand a half a point above him, a tie for first at the Baku FIDE Grand Prix tournament with plus 3, and his best result: first place at the Aerosvit super GM event, with a stunning 8/11 score. He tied for second at the Bilbao Masters Grand Slam final, and only his Olympiad and Biel performances (two very reasonable results anyways), were below 2800 TPR!

One needs not ask or guess that top honors in January 2009’s Corus A edition is the only thing Magnus must be aiming for. It’s doubtful that you’d find many (or any!) who would bet against that.

Vassily Ivanchuk

Date of Birth: 18/03/1969

Country: Ukraine

World Ranking: 3-4

Rating: 2786

Twenty years ago a virtually unknown 19-year-old Ukrainian came, saw and conquered the super strong New York open, ahead of many established Grandmasters, and announced his arrival on the chess scene. By now a regular at the very elite, Vassily is one of the most active players on the circuit. After an amazing year in 2007, this year has been quite a roller coaster one for Chuky: After peaking at 2787 he dropped nearly 50 ELO points, only to regain all of them but one!

In last year’s Corus A he tied for 5th place with 7/13, and later scored fantastically at both the Tal Memorial – first place with 6/9, a full point ahead of his nearest rivals, and his best success: clear first in M-Tel, with 8/10 – a stunning 1.5 points ahead of second place. He further sweetened the experience at the same venue, by winning the ultra-strong blitz tournament, held after the main event. Ivanchuk also had two strong second place finishes in the Aerosvit tournament (7/11), and the Bilbao Masters Grand Slam finals (Shared, with 5/10).

It’s been 13 years since the Ukrainian had won in Corus, can this be the year?

Levon Aronian

Date of Birth: 06/10/1982

Country: Armenia

World Ranking: 7

Rating: 2757

It won’t take a mind reader to tell that consciously or not, the pleasant Armenian is coming to Wijk aan Zee with a determined intention of a ‘threepeat’. Having co-won in both the 2007 and 2008 editions of Corus A, Aronian is in good form to try for his hat trick. The former world under 12 and world junior champion is ‘Golden fresh’ after leading his national team to first place at the Dresden Olympiad – the second such gold in a row!

After winning in Corus, Levon tied for third in Linares (7.5/14), and went on to dominate Melody Amber, winning the rapid event, tying for first in the blindfold tournament, and winning the joint event by a cool 2.5 points. He convincingly won clear first at the FIDE Grand Prix in Sochi with 8.5/13, and finished equal second at the Bilbao Masters Grand Slam tournament. Aronian also proved his ability in rapid chess, winning the sentimental Karen Asrian memorial tournament in his hometown of Yerevan with 8.5/14.

Teymour Radjabov

Date of Birth: 12/03/1987

Country: Azerbaijan

World Ranking: 8

Rating: 2751

The Corus A group has been very good to Azerbaijan’s top player: he won it in 2007, and tied for 2nd in the 2008 edition. Radjabov is at his highest ELO point peak, with more point scheduled to come when the latest events are calculated. One of the youngest to ever receive the GM title (at 14, in 2001), Teymour is a former world under 10 champion, and a bronze medallist from the 2004 cycle of the world championship. The always-confident Azeri GM has a dynamic and aggressive style and choice of black openings, which brought him a series of wins with that color versus some of the world’s current and former number ones.

Teymour’s best successes after Corus in 2008 were his win at the Odessa world rapid tournament, and his strong unshared second place in the Sochi FIDE Grand Prix. He tied for third in M-Tel with 5.5/10, finished with 50% in Linares, but had a very lukewarm second FIDE Grand Prix result (6/13) on home soil in Baku.

Wang Yue

Date of Birth: 31/03/1987

Country: China

World ranking: 11

Rating: 2736

Anonymous no more, China’s leading Grandmaster is making giant steps towards conquering a long term claim to a spot on the world’s elite list. His rise to number 11 in the world (the highest of any Chinese player ever) has been meteoric: since 2004 when he was right near 2500, his ELO has risen nearly 250 points. Currently a student at the Nankai University in Tianjin, Yue started playing chess at the age of 6, and before he was 12 was already a world youth champion for his age group. He got his GM title in 2004 at age 17, and quickly amassed a list of wins and high finishes at many open and closed events around the world.

He won the championship of his country in 2004, and not long after that the world junior championship. Wang made it to the fourth round of the world cup in Khanty Mansisk in 2007, and claimed his biggest success yet when he co-won the Baku FIDE Grand Prix (8/11) earlier this year. He followed that with a respectable tie for 3rd at the second Grand Prix in Sochi with 7.5/13. Another recent fantastic achievement was his runaway victory at the NH Hotels event in Amsterdam, where he got 8.5/10.

Wang held an amazing record of 85 games without a loss in 2008, a record that was broken with his first round loss to Jakovenko at the recently started Grand Prix event in Elista.

Michael Adams

Date of Birth: 17/11/1971

Country: England

World ranking: 12

Rating: 2734

Mickey is one of the ‘regulars’ in Wijk aan Zee, making his tenth or so visit to play in the GM A group. He is a former champion of his country, and a multiple time candidate for the world championships – having made it thrice to the semi finals, and once to the very end, losing to Kasimdzanov in 2004. England’s leading player for many years, the British GM is a true gentleman and an exemplary professional, known for his calm demeanor.

After finishing with 50% in Corus 2008, Adams’ most notable successes have been his wins at the Staunton Memorial (second win in a row) with a strong 8/11, and in the Magistral Ruy Lopez with 5.5/7. At the European Championships in Liverpool, Mickey scored 7.5/10, enough for a tie for second place. He played in the FIDE Grand Prix event in Baku, scoring a solid 6.5/13 result. Adams have never won Corus, but finished in a tie for third place several times, and as high as a tie for second once. Can he do this this year?

Sergei Movsesian

Date of Birth: 03/11/1978

Country: Slovakia

World Ranking: 13

Rating: 2732

With his victory in the star-studded Corus B group last year (an awesome 9.5/13 tally), the sympathetic Slovak has earned himself a spot in this year’s premier group. Sergei can be called ‘universal’: born in Tiblisi, Georgia, moved to his family’s fatherland of Armenia till his teens, living in the Czech Republic, and playing for Sloviakia! After many years of having his rating in the mid to high 2600’s, he continued his rating rise from last year, and finally crossed the ever-elusive coveted 2700 mark with a nice cushion. He is expected to increase that, after his fine 5.5/7 score at the European club cup, where he beat Svidler and Carlsen.

Movsesian is a very active European leagues player, playing on teams from France, to Spain, Russia, Germany, Greece, Bosnia, as well as his homeland. His more than fine scores there are partially responsible to his recent rating increase. Sergei tied for first at the Chigorin Memorial with 6.5/9, and shared second at the Euro champs in Plovdiv.

Sergey Karjakin

Date of Birth: 12/01/1990

Country: Ukraine

World Ranking: 15

Rating: 2730

The Ukrainian prodigy is another player who is making a return to Corus after a break (skipped last year’s event). Still the holder of ‘youngest ever to achieve the GM title’, Karjakin is another Corus A player to have crossed the magical 2700 milestone this year. Looking at his ELO rating graph never ceases to amaze: from year 2000 till now there is an exponential rise of well more than 500 rating points! Unfortunately for him, he finished the year on a weak note with poor performances at the European club championships and the Spanish league, which will take a small bite from his near-peak high.

Sergey’s name became known when in 2002, before he was 12 years old, and before he made his GM title, when Ponomariov appointed him as his second for the FIDE world championships match with Ivanchuk. His biggest ‘big league’ success was making it all the way to the semi-finals of the 2007 World Cup, where Shirov eliminated him. Among his most noted result for 2008 was tying for third in Aerosvit (6/11). He also took part at both the FIDE Grand Prix events, scoring +1 in one, and –1 in the other.

Gata Kamsky

Date of Birth: 02/06/1974

Country: USA

World Ranking: 16

Rating: 2729

Four and a half years after his surprising return to chess, the former FIDE vice champion, and PCA semi finalist, has once again advanced close to the top. Gata scored an incredible win at the 2007 world cup, eliminating the likes of Ponomariov, Carlsen, Svidler, among others, and defeating Shirov in the finals. This earned him a match versus Topalov (scheduled to take place two weeks after Corus) for the right to play a match against the world champion Anand later on. A spectacular achievement for someone who was there twice, but then had an unprecedented 8-year break from chess (save for one 2-game mini match in 1999).

A former junior champion of the USSR, Kamsky’s ascent started soon after his move to the USA in 1989. He was a strong Grandmaster within a year, and made a name for himself by winning countless events – from his country’s national championship to co-winning Tilburg and many in between. His famous tenacity brought him envious results in match play, which propelled him to the aforementioned success in the two world championship cycles. In 2008 he had mixed results: tying for third in the Sochi Grand Prix, only 4/9 at the Tal Memorial, -1 in the Baku Grand Prix, and a solid 6.5/10 on board one of the US Bronze team at the Olympiad.

The first visit to Wijk aan Zee in 2006 was when he was still ‘elite-rusty’, and surely this time around we will see the ‘rust-free’ version of Gata.

Leinier Dominguez

Date of Birth: 23/09/1983

Country: Cuba

World Ranking: 21

Rating: 2719

Cuba’s leading player and their board one holder during the last Olympiad where he scored a solid 6/10, Leinier is another new member of the exclusive 2700+ club, having crossed it a bit earlier this year. Multiple times champion of his country, Dominguez recently won the strong and exclusive world blitz championship, with 11.5/15. He first made a name for himself when in the 2004 FIDE knockout world championships managed to advance as far as the fifth round, where Radjabov finally stopped him. His win at the 2006 powerful Barcelona tournament with an 8/9 result, marked his performance rating at a sky-reaching 2932(!).

Making his debut in Corus, the Cuban GM’s results in 2008 have already signaled that his placement is fitting. He shared first place in Biel with 6.5/10, took clear first place at the Capablanca Memorial (with 6/9), and claimed second spot at the Bosnia super GM event. With such form it is safe to say that the GM from Havana is eagerly awaiting his chances to sting here in January.

Loek van Wely

Date of Birth: 07/10/1972

Country: the Netherlands

World Ranking:

Rating: 2618

Year 2008 was a chess year to forget for the friendly Dutch local hero. His ELO, which at one time was over 2700 has taken a slopey slide and is at a 5-year low, and for the first time in many years the once top 10 player is now out of the top 100 list. Many times his country’s national champion, Loek’s year started with a 5/13 result in Corus A and a shared last place, which unfortunately was the sign of things to come. Mixed results in the several European league matches he took part in are partially responsible for the dent in his rating (especially the Russian teams competition where he shed 16 points).

Van Wely played in two super GM events, but without success: in Aerosvit he ended up with a 4/11 score and a penultimate place on the cross table, while Dortmund was simply a total eclipse of the mind, with a winless 1/7 finish. Loeky scored 6/9 at the Baku President’s Cup open, but it was against a low average opposition, and more points went. His one moment of shine in 2008 was his clear second at the Staunton Memorial, with a very good 7.5/11 points. A good result in the 2009 edition of Corus A would be a very welcome new start for the veteran participant!

Daniel Stellwagen

Date of Birth: 01/03/1987

Country: the Netherlands

World Ranking:

Rating: 2605

This year’s Corus A will the first such experience for the Chemistry graduate student from Utrecht. For the last several years he participated in the GM B group, with varying results. After a few years of continuous rise, 2008 have been a bit of a slow year for the friendly Dutchman, as his ELO dipped 30 some points from its peak last year. Still, his results were mixed almost evenly.

There were two disappointing ones: penultimate place in the Marxd Memorial in Hungary and only 4.5/11 in the German Bundesliga (where last year he gained the lion’s share of his points), Two mediocre ones: -1 in Corus B, and an even score at the NH Hotels tournament (5/10), and two very good ones: tie for second at the Dutch championship with a strong 7/11 (Daniel led the event, and only a last round loss prevented him from winning the event), and clear second place at the Siegman & co in Sweden (6.5/9). Stellwagen also scored a solid 6/9 playing third board for Holland in the Olympiad.

In a recent candid interview van Wely spoke very highly of Daniel’s undisputed chess talent and understanding, saying/hinting that he would go much further if he handled adversity a bit better. A good idea for a first 2009 resolution!

Jan Smeets

Date of Birth: 05/04/1985

Country: the Netherlands

World Ranking:

Rating: 2604

Chess pro-turned Economics student Jan has some good reasons to be happy: his rating took a nice climb of nearly 50 ELO points, allowing to break 2600 for the first time, and he took clear first in his national championship (an impressive 7.5/11, including a last round win against Stellwagen). His good results didn’t end there: his 7/11 points netted him unshared third place in the Staunton Memorial, and he was part of a big tie for fifth place at the GM-infested European Championships in Liverpool with a +3 finish (a big positive change in an event that last year was his worst tournament ever!).

Smeets had a decent showing on Holland’s second board at the Olympiad, scoring 5.5/10. His only lukewarm events of 2008 were Corus B last year (6/13), and in the Essent Crown Group (2.5/6). Jan is a self-described aggressive (and tricky!) player, whose calm attitude at the board had paid off for him many times. He is also making his first appearance in Corus A after competing several times in the other two GM groups. In the last two years he started strongly with 3.5/4 and 3/4 respectively, can he maintain a longer stamina this time around?