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    Entries in Levon Aronian (59)

    Thursday
    Aug272015

    Sinquefield Cup 2015, Round 4: Aronian Co-Leads With Topalov After A Beautiful Win Against So

    It was a long day, so this will be a short report. There were four draws, all of which, interestingly enough, concluded in opposite-colored bishop endings. Along the way the games were of varying interest, with the battle between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura the most colorful of the lot.

    The game of the day was between Wesley So and Levon Aronian. This may have been the case even if Aronian had won by prosaic means, by default, but in fact the game was something special. So played provocatively on the white side of a 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian that came to resemble a Modern Benoni, and when he dared to play 13.g4 he reaped the whirlwind after Aronian's 15...Ne5!! Black had fantastic compensation for the piece, and while there was nothing concrete his initiative was practically impossible to quell. With the win, Aronian moved to +2, and is tied for first with Veselin Topalov, half a point ahead of Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri.

    The games, with my notes, are here, and these are the pairings for round 5:

    • Aronian (3) - Grischuk (1.5)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - So (1.5)
    • Nakamura (2) - Giri (2.5)
    • Anand (1) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
    • Topalov (3) - Caruana (1)
    Monday
    Jun222015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 5: Topalov Wins Again; Carlsen, Aronian Win Their First

    The Norway Chess tournament has passed the halfway point, and Veselin Topalov continues his success. When he's not playing Norwegians, he wins cleanly; when he does, he hangs in there and waits for miracles to happen. And that's what happened in round 5. Topalov was in all kinds of trouble with Black against Jon Ludwig Hammer. Maybe he was never flat out lost, but it was close! Topalov finally took over the advantage from move 42 on, yet Hammer defended well and was on the verge of a draw after 73 moves. All he needed to do was play 74.f5, a move that any club player could find and that requires calculating a grand total of two moves ahead. Instead, Hammer played 74.Kc6?? and had to resign after the obvious 74...Ke6. A blind spot for Hammer?

    Yes, but perhaps it was a literal blind spot. It was suggested, very plausibly, that Hammer didn't really look up when Topalov played 73...Ke7 and assumed that Black had played 73...Bb8 instead. In that case, 74.Kc6 would have been the only move. Hammer's haste cost him the game, and completely unnecessarily, especially since he had 15 minutes left on his clock when that happened.

    With the win Topalov leads the second-placed Hikaru Nakamura by a point with an impressive score of 4.5/5. Nakamura started the round half a point behind, but after a draw with Viswanathan Anand the gap doubled. Anand is a further half a point back, tied for 3rd-4th with Anish Giri, who in turn drew comfortably with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    The other two games finished with a winner, and like Hammer-Topalov those victories had a tinge of the accidental to them. In fact, all three games were decided by hasty moves, though in the two games we haven't yet described that haste was due to time trouble. Levon Aronian had an opening edge against Fabiano Caruana, but Caruana had equalized and the game was headed for a draw as the first time control neared its end. 39...Qg6 would have sealed the deal, giving Caruana full, safe equality and the ability to reach the second time control without any big worries. Instead, he thought he spotted an opportunity and quickly played 39...Qxg3+. It's a nice little tactic, and...it loses. Black wins a pawn for the moment, but White's king achieves maximum activity and ransacks all of Black's queenside pawns. Caruana fought on to move 60, but there was no saving the game.

    Finally, Magnus Carlsen had been having a dreadful tournament with only half a point out of four, and despite this he showed his resilience by winning in classic Carlsen style. Alexander Grischuk had managed to equalize, though as usual with Grischuk he didn't manage to do this without getting into time trouble. With the game about to reach the point where a club player could hold Grischuk's position Carlsen tried one last idea: 26.c5! Grischuk could and should have held this, but without time it was far from trivial. Carlsen obtained a very usable edge, though perhaps not yet enough to win the game. On move 40, it was time for another trick: 40.f4. This may not have been the very best move, and had Grischuk replied correctly he probably would have saved the game. Time trouble killed him, though, and 40...exf4?? made it easy for the world champion. (The games, with my notes, are here.)

    Carlsen has awakened, and while it's almost impossible for him to contend for first it's not too late for him to do some damage. Next up, he has the white pieces against one of his usual "customers", Hikaru Nakamura. If Nakamura had White it might be a great opportunity for the American to get a '1', but with Black it may be another story. We'll see; meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 6:

    • Grischuk (2) - Topalov (4.5)
    • Caruana (2) - Hammer (1)
    • Giri (3) - Aronian (2)
    • Anand (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2.5)
    • Carlsen (1.5) - Nakamura (3.5)

    Friday
    Feb132015

    Zurich 2015: Aronian, Caruana and Anand "Win" the Blitz

    In fact the blitz event was won only by Levon Aronian, scoring an undefeated 4/5, but as the primary aim in the blitz was to finish in the top 3 and thereby acquire an extra White game in the classical tournament starting tomorrow, Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand were in that important sense also winners by virtue of their second-place tie with 3.5 points apiece. Hikaru Nakamura finished with 2 points, while Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin tied for last with just a single point each to their name.

    Pairing numbers were received and pairings were made, and this is what we have to look forward to tomorrow:

    • Anand - Kramnik
    • Aronian - Karjakin
    • Caruana - Nakamura

    Tournament site here.

    Tuesday
    Feb102015

    Next Up: Zurich

    Despite its brevity, this year's Zurich Chess Challenge will still be a true super-tournament. There are only six players, but the "weakest" of them is rated 2760. Here's the lineup:

    • Fabiano Caruana 2810
    • Hikaru Nakamura 2792
    • Vladimir Kramnik 2783
    • Viswanathan Anand 2782
    • Levon Aronian 2774
    • Sergei Karjakin 2760

    If I understand the tournament website correctly, there will be a blitz tournament on Friday the 13th which will determine the pairings for the classical tournament. That will run from the 14th through the 18th, and then there will be a rapid event on the 19th. As I mentioned in an earlier post, octogenarians Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann will play also four rapid games with each other (two each on Sunday and Monday), so this should be a very entertaining event.

    Saturday
    Feb072015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 5: Carlsen Catches Naiditsch

    As usual, Magnus Carlsen has bounced back from a loss in style and with a vengeance, and after his second straight win in the Grenke Chess Classic he has caught up to Arkadij Naiditsch. Both players have 3.5 points out of five, and lead their closest pursuer by half a point with two rounds to play.

    Carlsen was playing the tournament tailender and bottom seed, David Baramidze - with the white pieces, to boot, so his win isn't exactly shocking. Still, it was a nice, typical Carlsen win: he chose a variation (within a mainline opening, it's true) that was slightly off the beaten path, offering a position with plenty of play and no easy way for Black to simplify the position. He maneuvered, increased the tension and created imbalances, and in due course Baramdize erred. 28...Re6 wound up a waste of time, and a further error on move 38 took away all hope.

    Naiditsch had White against Fabiano Caruana, and to his credit he did what few super-GMs are willing to do: allow the Marshall Gambit. For once someone seemed better prepared than Caruana in the opening, and although Naiditsch returned the extra pawn his bishop pair looked very strong, and he surely had good winning chances. Caruana defended well, and although he had to suffer for a long time he never broke, and he remains in the hunt for first - especially given his pairing for the next round.

    The day's other winner was Levon Aronian, who improved his lot in life by adding to Viswanathan Anand's recent miseries. Anand had outplayed Aronian on the black side of a Ragozin, and was building a promising kingside attack before playing 23...Nh6? I suspect he missed something like 24.e4 Qxf3 (Anand played 24...Bxc5) 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26.e5+ Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 28.Rc3! Aronian wasn't immediately winning, but Anand didn't adapt well to the sudden change, and he was losing just a few moves later and then resigned somewhat prematurely.

    Finally, Etienne Bacrot was the only player to make a good case for the black pieces in any of the games, and enjoyed a winning advantage against Mickey Adams. Adams defended well, and like Caruana, saved half a point after a lot of suffering.

    The games are here (I've analyzed the two decisive results), and the pairings for the penultimate round are:

    • Anand (1.5) - Baramidze (1)
    • Caruana (3) - Carlsen (3.5)
    • Bacrot (2.5) - Naiditsch (3.5)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Adams (2.5)

    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    St. Louis, Final Day: Nakamura Defeats Aronian in Blitz

    The "Showdown in St. Louis" between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was tied after four classical games, so the winner in tonight's best-of-16 blitz match would win the event and $60,000, while the loser would "only" get $40,000. After a shaky first couple of games, Nakamura felt he got in the zone, while Aronian kept getting into time trouble and all the difficulties it tends to generate. Afterwards Aronian opined that while he's a good blitz player when it's 4'+2", 3'+2" - the time control used in this match - was a bit too fast for him. In the end Nakamura won 9.5-6.5, clinching match victory with two games to spare.

    In the GM norm event Sam Sevian drew his last game (a long game, not a quick handshake deal as in his previous game with the black pieces) and finished in clear first with 7.5/9, a ton of rating points and the grandmaster title. He is the youngest U.S. player to achieve the title, and the sixth-youngest of all time.

    Congrats to him, to Nakamura, and also to Michael William Brown who made norm in the concurrent IM norm event as well!

    Monday
    Nov242014

    St. Louis News, Day 4: Just Like Day 3

    In brief: game 4 of the match between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was drawn, and thus they finished the classical portion of the match 2-2 - or rather, 8-8. (Classical games were worth 4 points each, while each blitz game tomorrow will be worth a single point.) That means that whoever wins the blitz part of their competition (16 games!) tomorrow will take match victory.

    Meanwhile, in the GM norm event 13-year-old Sam Sevian continues to make a mockery of the field. He took a very quick draw with Black in the morning round before dragging another bamboozled opponent to his death in his white game in the evening. His score is 7-1 and his TPR 2801. It isn't quite Fabiano Caruana at the Sinquefield Cup, but it's incredibly impressive all the same. With the white pieces he has been brutal, winning all five of his games; four with smashing attacks that went fewer than 40 moves.

    Sunday
    Nov232014

    St. Louis News: Nakamura-Aronian Draw Game 3, Sevian Keeps Rolling

    After a couple of wacky match games Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian drew game 3, leaving their match tied 6-6 with one more classical game to go before the blitz battles on Tuesday. Even this game had some ups and downs though, with first Nakamura and then Aronian briefly enjoying a strong plus before equality was restored.

    In the concurrent GM norm tournament, 13-year-old Sam Sevian was slowed down briefly in the morning round, drawing a tough game with an IM before beating GM Ben Finegold in the evening round in yet another tactically flashy game. He has blown past the 2500 rating level he needed to achieve his GM title, and right now has a fantastic 2873 TPR. (It's amazing to think that's pretty much just another day at the office for Magnus Carlsen.) It will be exciting to see if he can maintain and increase the level of tactical savagery he has displayed in this tournament as he grows as a player.

    Saturday
    Nov222014

    Ongoing & Completed Events: St. Louis (x3), Ukrainian Championship, Tal Memorial Blitz

    The ongoing world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has drawn the lion's share of the chess world's attention the past couple of weeks, but some other interesting events have taken place in the meantime as well. Let's take a quick tour of the landscape.

    1. Aronian - Nakamura. This is the main event in St. Louis, a five day match with four classical games (worth four points apiece) followed by 16 blitz games (worth one point per game). Game 1 was won by Hikaru Nakamura, when Levon Aronian got into time trouble and lost what would normally be considered a very drawish position. Today the reverse happened: it looked like Nakamura wanted to squeeze blood from a stone, and to his surprise wound up in an ending that should still have been drawn but turned out to be more challenging. He lost, and so the match is tied 4-4.

    2. There are concurrent GM and IM norm tournaments in St. Louis, and the big story is taking place in the GM event, where 13-year-old Sam Sevian is about to earn - or perhaps, has now earned - his grandmaster title. He already had the three norms needed, and simply had to get his rating over 2500 at some point. He entered the tournament rated 2484, and his 4-0 start, including two wins over GMs, has brought him to the promised land. He won't be awarded the title on the spot, but he has now become the youngest American player in history to achieve the grandmaster title. Have a look at these two wins from the tournament, and you won't find his accomplishment at all surprising. Congratulations to him!

    3. The Ukranian Championship finished earlier today (yesterday now, for the Ukranians themselves), and after a dramatic last round Yuriy Kuzubov and Pavel Eljanov finished tied for first with 7.5 points out of 11, with Kuzubov finishing first on tiebreaks.

    4. Tal Memorial Blitz. This took place a week or so ago, but deserved to be mentioned. It was a 12 player double-round robin event spread over two days, and on day 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a fantastic score of 10/11, giving up just two draws. He received enough gifts for a couple of Christmases, and not all of them could be chalked up to his very great tactical resourcefulness. He had a big lead, but the next day he had only normal luck and scored just 6 points out of 11, but Alexander Grischuk couldn't quite catch up and finished half a point behind. Alexander Morozevich, Boris Gelfand and Sergey Karjakin tied for third. Video coverage links: day 1, rounds 1-6; day 1, rounds 7-11; day 2, all rounds.

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Aronian - Nakamura: Nakamura Wins Game 1 With White

    A good game for Hikaru Nakamura, but Levon Aronian will be disappointed by how many mistakes he made - including a blunder on the last move. More here.