IS there something mysterious about the way the Armenians play chess? It is hard to pinpoint precisely what the secret of their success is, but many attribute it back to when Tigran Petrosian became a national hero in Armenia during his reign as world champion, from 1963 to 1969.
The closest parallel to a modern-day Petrosian is their talisman star player, Levon Aronian, who is instantly recognised and often mobbed in the streets of the capital, Yerevan.
And again he’s become a main focus of attraction for the nightly news back home, as they revel in his current exploits at the 74th Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee.
Performance-wise, the Armenian World No 2 has hit a purple patch to lead the tournament on a +5 score of 7.5/10, a full point ahead of his nearest rival.
In the process, his winning run has also gained him 21.5-points on the unofficial live ratings, to now be just six points off of sensationally toppling World no1 Magnus Carlsen from the top spot.
Aronian’s latest conquest, that of the Dutch No 1, Anish Giri, was not only impressive but eerily almost Petrosian-like in its execution with a superb early exchange sacrifice (all home-preparation!) for long-term pressure, with the coup de grâce coming with a fantastic combination at the end.
A Giri - L Aronian
74th Tata Steel GM-A, (10)
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Be7 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bf4 0–0 6 e3 Nbd7 7 Be2 dxc4 8 0–0 Nb6 9 Qc2 Nh5 10 Be5 f6 11 Ng5 fxg5 12 Bxh5 Bd7 13 Bf3 Rxf3 14 gxf3 Bd6 15 Qe4 Bc6 16 Qg4 Qe7 17 Bxd6 cxd6 18 Ne4 h6 19 Qg3 d5 20 Nc3 Rf8 21 Ne2 Rf5 22 Kg2 Nd7 23 Rh1 Nf8 24 h4 Ng6 25 f4 Nxh4+ 26 Kf1 Qb4 27 Rb1 Be8 28 Nc3 Qe7 29 b4 Rf8 30 Rb2 Bg6 31 Ke1 Bd3 32 fxg5 Nf3+ 33 Kd1 hxg5 34 Qh3 Qf6 35 Kc1 Bg6 36 a4 Rd8 37 Ne2 e5 38 Qg4 exd4 39 exd4 Re8 40 Qd7 c3 41 Ra2 Ne1! 42 Rxe1 Qf4+ 43 Kd1 Qe4 0–1