Tournament Seeks to Turn the Game Into an Art Form
Published: April 27, 2013
The Alekhine Memorial tournament began last weekend as an unusual attempt to highlight chess as an art form.
The first half of the event was held in a temporary building at the Tuileries Garden in Paris just west of the Louvre, and it has now moved to the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
Andrei Filatov, a Russian billionaire, came up with the idea of affiliating chess tournaments with museums. Last year, he sponsored the world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
“I think the synergy between chess and art holds great promise,” Filatov said last year in an interview with RBC Daily, a Russian newspaper.
Yet Filatov himself, who trained to be a chess coach and a referee before the Soviet Union collapsed and who is now a part owner of a shipping company, said he considered chess to be more of a sport. But because so many people play the game, he thought it could be used to promote museums, and vice versa.
Filatov is not the first to host a chess tournament at a museum. In 2010, the first round of the Women’s World Chess Championship was held at the Antakya Archaeological Museum in Turkey.
The Alekhine tournament, which is named after Alexander Alekhine, the fourth world champion, features a heavy-hitting lineup this year. It includes Anand, the current world champion; Gelfand; Levon Aronian, who is ranked No. 2 in the world; and Vladimir Kramnik, who is No. 3.
The early rounds have produced some excellent games. The best was a victory by Ding Liren of China, who at age 20 is a three-time national champion, over Aronian.
The first 11 moves have been played often. But Ding’s 12 Ne1 was interesting. Another option would have been 12 Ba6, when the game might have continued 12 ... Ra6 13 b5 Ra8 14 bc6 Nb8 15 Ne5 and White would have had a small edge.
The idea behind Aronian’s 12 ... Bc4 was to prevent Ding from getting his knight to d3 after the bishops were exchanged on c4. The drawback was that Aronian gave up control of e4 after he played 13 ... dc4.
Though it was not immediately clear, the sequence beginning with 28 ... Nc3 and ending with 31 ... Nd2, which won an exchange, was a mistake. Aronian should have tried to hunker down on defense by playing 28 ... Nec7.
Ding’s 32 Nd5 was the beginning of a brilliant combination culminating with 37 Bg7, ripping open the protection around Aronian’s king.
Ding avoided a pitfall by playing 45 Qh6 instead of 45 Rh6, when Aronian could have played 45 ... Qc1 and 46 ... Qh6. Aronian resigned after 46 Qf6 because there was no way to avoid mate.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 28, 2013
An earlier version of this column incorrectly referred to what Levon Aronian of Armenia should have played in the game against Ding Liren of China in the Alekhine tournament. His 26 .... Qa8 was correct, but instead of playing 28 ... Nc3, he should have played 28 ... Nec7.