Former World junior champion Levon Aronian of Armenia comprehensively defeated former World champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine 2-0 in the tie-break games of the final to annex the World Chess Cup that concluded in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, on Saturday.
Winning both the games under rapid time control, Aronian stamped his authority on the event and remained the only contestant in this long seven-round grind undefeated.
The superiority of the Armenian can be gauged by the simple fact that he was stretched to the tie-breaker only twice -- once in round four against Spanish hope Francisco Vallejo Pons and next in the finals against Ponomariov.
Besides, Aronian won all the two mini-matches under normal time control games. The success rate of the Armenian was phenomenal as he won as many as seven out of 14 games under normal time control and drew the remaining.
In the rapid tie-break games, Aronian scored 3.5/4 overall.
The highest rated Armenian ever went home richer by US $80,000 (Appr. Rs 36 lakhs) for his exploits.
Ponomariov, the youngest ever World champion after his triumph in the Moscow World Championship of 2001-2002, had to be content with second place and got US $ 54,000 for his efforts.
Aronian was in his elements and showed tremendous character and will in what many described as the battle of nerves.
Playing white in the first game, Aronian, having drawn both the games under normal time control, went for complexities in quick time in the Tartakower variation of the Queen's Gambit declined and won a piece after Ponomariov made a blunder on his 12th turn. The rest was a child's play for Aronian, who wrapped the issue in 73 moves, handling the technicalities in perfect fashion.
In the return game the onus was on Ponomariov to perform but the Ukrainian crumbled under pressure from the white side of a Ruy Lopez. Aronian kept his cool during the course of this match and digested an early pawn sacrifice by Ponomariov quite easily.
The transition to endgame spelt doom for Ponomariov as he lost control and Aronian romped home after 51 moves.
The third place went to Etienne Bacrot of France who had beaten Alexander Grischuk of Russia in the play-off for the third spot. Grischuk finished fourth.
In other matches of the final round, Boris Gelfand of Israel lost to Evgeny Bareev of Russia also in the rapid tie-breaker.
Gelfand suffered a shock defeat as white in the first game of tie-break and could not recover in the next to finish sixth overall while the fifth place went to Bareev.
The seventh place went to Sergei Rublevsky who had earlier handed Belgian Mikhail Gurevich a 1.5-0.5 defeat.
For the ninth place play-off, all eyes were on Norwegian wonder boy Magnus Carlsen but he was outdone by Russian-turned American Gata Kamsky. Like Aronian, Kamsky also won both games in the tie-break.
The event that basically started off as a qualification event for the next world championship match tournament cycle had 128 players to begin with and after the third round they were reduced to 16 to decide the placing in perfect order. As per rules, the top ten from here qualify to the Candidate stage.
Results (final): Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr) lost to Levon Aronian 1-3.
3-4 places: Etienne Bacrot (Fra) beat Alexander Grischuk (Rus) 2.5-1.5
5-6 places: Boris Gelfand (Isr) lost to Evgeny Bareev (Rus) 1.5-2.5
7-8 places: Sergei Rublevsky (Rus) beat Mikhail Gurevich (Bel) 1.5-0.5
9-10 places: Magnus Carlsen (Nor) lost to Gata Kamsky (USA) 1-3
11-12 places: Vladimir Malakhov (Rus) beat Francisco Vallejo Pons (Esp) 1.5-0.5
13-14 places: Loek Van Wely (Ned) lost to Alexey Dreev (Rus) 1.5-2.5
15-16 places: Konstantin Sakaev (Rus) lost to Joel Lautier (Fra) 3.5 - 3.5 (Lautier won the match by virtue of drawing the sudden death game as black).