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    Entries in Levon Aronian (111)

    Tuesday
    Sep252018

    2018 Speed Chess Championship: Aronian-Giri

    This match between Levon Aronian and Anish Giri, the second of the quarterfinal pairings of the 2018 Speed Chess Championship, occurred last week. Most of you probably already know what happened, if you've followed the competition closely, but I'll stick to my usual procedure and report the result in the first comment. So: if you want to watch the video coverage as if it were live, here's the link.

    Whatever the final result, Giri had a bit of a problem with a glass jaw in the match, losing a handful of brutal games to lightning attacks. Here are five of them.

    Tuesday
    Aug282018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Caruana, Carlsen, and Aronian Share First; Caruana-So Playoff Tomorrow for the GCT Final

    What an eventful round! After two rounds (and three rounds out of four) with only draws, today there were two wins, and both of them saw the winners catch Fabiano Caruana in first place.

    Had Caruana won his last round game against Wesley So, he'd have taken clear first. The game was a staid Petroff, and though Caruana obtained a tiny edge with Black it was nowhere near enough to achieve anything serious, and the game finished in an uneventful draw. That guaranteed Caruana at least a tie for first, but four other players - two of whom faced each other - had the opportunity to catch him in the lead.

    Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk both entered the round half a point behind Caruana, so if either player beat the other they'd tie for first. An equal but unbalanced position went completely out of control when Aronian offered a gutsy semi-bluff of a rook sac on move 18. Grischuk was relatively short of time even before the sac, and never managed to consolidate his material advantage. He'd alternate, making a series of good defensive moves followed by the occasional error, and after a total of three errors he was lost. Fortune favored the brave, and Aronian caught Caruana.

    Magnus Carlsen was also rewarded, but not so much for bravery as for doing his thing. He had a slight advantage against Hikaru Nakamura, and while the position was objectively drawn Carlsen had nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to try, and eventually it paid off. It has to be said that Nakamura's 62nd and 66th moves were very strange. My guess is that he believed the setup he went for was drawn, and was therefore willing to burn all his bridges to head for it. Considering that the position prior to those decisions was only barely worse and had a big margin for error, this was a needlessly risky decision. As it turned out, he missed something, and the result was a technical win that Carlsen successfully executed. That made it a three-way tie for first.

    If Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had managed to defeat Viswanathan Anand with the black pieces it would have been a four-way tie. But this wasn't going to happen. Anand enjoyed a slight edge in a very theoretical line of the Open Ruy, and Mamedyarov was never going to do more than work his way to a draw after some suffering - which is what happened.

    Finally, in the one game that didn't matter in the race for first, Sergey Karjakin barely avoided a fourth loss in the tournament when he held a rook ending two pawns against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Today's games, with my notes, are here.)

    Will there be a playoff tomorrow? Yes...but not to settle the race for first. The rules called for a three-way tie to resolved by a drawing of lots to eliminate one of the players, followed by a playoff involving the other two. Apparently Carlsen was less than thrilled with this idea, and proposed either a three-way playoff or shared first. As I understand it, the other two players were on board with Carlsen's rejection of the scheme presented in the rules, but one of the two was against the playoff and preferred the shared crown.

    My guess is that the objection came from Caruana, and with good reason: he's already committed to a playoff against So for the fourth and final slot in the Grand Chess Tour final. Therefore the three leaders are also the three champions, each of them a repeat champion. Here are the final standings from the tournament:

    1-3. Aronian, Carlsen, Caruana 5.5 (out of 9)
    4. Mamedyarov 5
    5-7. Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave, Anand 4.5
    8. So 4
    9-10. Karjakin, Nakamura 3

    And these are the final overall standings for the Grand Chess Tour:

    1. Nakamura 34.5
    2. Aronian 34
    3. Vachier-Lagrave 31
    4-5. Caruana, So 26
    6. Karjakin 25.5
    7. Mamedyarov 25
    8. Grischuk 18
    9. Anand 15

    The Caruana-So tie will be settled by a pair of 25'+10" games, and if it's still tied there will be up to three pairs of 5'+3" games. After that, the arbiter and the players will decide on another way of resolving the tie (presumably an Armageddon game, but who knows).

    Friday
    Aug242018

    More St. Louis Action Coming Up: Chess960 Matches Starring Kasparov

    Here's the quick summary: five 20-game matches, with six rapid and 14 blitz games taking place from September 11-14 of this year. All the games are Chess960 (aka Fischerrandom), and the positions will be unknown to the players until the start of the round. Here are the pairings:

    • Garry Kasparov - Veselin Topalov
    • Hikaru Nakamura - Peter Svidler
    • Wesley So - Anish Giri
    • Sam Shankland - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    • Levon Aronian - Leinier Dominguez

    Wednesday
    Aug222018

    Energetic Bullet Chess From the Caruana-Aronian Match

    I've been looking at the matches played so far in the 2018 Speed Chess Championship, posting some of the games that have caught my eye. The latest one, and the last one I intend to post from the matches played so far, is a bullet game from the match between Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. While it's only a bullet game, Aronian's very high energy play made a pleasing impression, and I hope you'll be impressed and enjoy it as well. Have a look.

    Saturday
    Aug182018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 1: Wins for Aronian and Mamedyarov

    The series in St. Louis has come to its culmination with the start of the Sinquefield Cup on Saturday. (Always avoid alliteration, I know.) 10 of the world's top 14 are playing, including the top 3 - which includes world champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Fabiano Caruana.

    It was the world's #3 player who won first though, as Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - one of the hottest players in the world going back to the end of last year - took advantage of the suddenly ice cold Wesley So. Alexander Alekhine (world champion from 1927-1935 and 1937 until his death in 1946) used to boast that an opponent would have to beat him three times to win a game: once in the opening, once in the middlegame, and once in the endgame. On this occasion So managed to lose three times, once in each stage of the game. He came out of the opening with a poor (but not technically lost) position, immediately went wrong in the queenless middlegame with a miscalculated idea that wasted multiple tempi, and then after Mamedyarov tried taking a shortcut in the ending So missed a bonus chance to draw. It was a good game by Mamedyarov but a remarkably poor one for So. Hopefully he will bounce back from the problems he has suffered in St. Louis over the past week and return to his world-beating form straight away.

    Levon Aronian was the day's other winner. Surprising Sergey Karjakin (and just about everyone else) by playing 1.e4, he took the white side of the Berlin ending and ground his opponent down in a long (69 move) game. Overall it was a very good effort by Aronian, even if he was disappointed in himself for allowing Black to play ...g5 late in the game.

    In the day's draws, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a better position against Magnus Carlsen for a while, before letting it slip. Then Carlsen may have been a little better, but there wasn't much he could do after MVL closed up almost all the lines on the board. Hikaru Nakamura had a little surprise for Viswanathan Anand in a well-traveled line of the QGD. He obtained an edge, but 19.Qe2 let Anand liquidate his way to a speedy draw. Finally, Fabiano Caruana and Alexander Grischuk played a very long game. Grischuk was slightly better in the middlegame, despite playing Black, but by the end of the first time control Caruana was winning. He either missed or underestimated his best plan, however, and Grischuk managed a narrow escape.

    Here are today's games, with my comments.

    Thursday
    Mar222018

    2018 Candidates, Round 10: Mamedyarov-Caruana Drawn, Kramnik Wins Another Tactical Slugfest vs. Aronian

    Once again, for the third round in a row, play in the Candidates resulted in three draws and a decisive result in Vladimir Kramnik's game. Kramnik's results since round 3 have been atrocious - two draws and four losses. His last win was in round 3, against Levon Aronian, and now he has reprised it with a second win over Aronian. In fact, like the first game, this too was a thrilling tactical slugfest, but with some differences.

    For starters, Kramnik got a great position in the opening of the earlier game, but this time his opening play was poor while Aronian's was excellent, and Kramnik was in trouble even early on. He went all-out for a kingside attack, and after an Aronian inaccuracy on move 22 the position was unclear. Both players kept the balance in the Mikhail Tal-style middlegame that followed, and as often happened in Tal's games, the defender would stay alive for a pretty long time before collapsing on a relatively simple point. Aronian's mistake on move 36 wasn't the sort of thing one only spots on a good day or with an engine; normally one would expect Aronian to see the problem with his move in a blitz game. It's just the pressure of calculating move after move, hour after hour, exerting one's imagination to the utmost that gives rise to the occasional lapse, and alas for Aronian, he slipped. Kramnik is now at -1, not yet mathematically eliminated from the race for first, but - as he might way - it would be a "miracle" if he could win.

    The two players with the best chance to win faced off, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov playing White against Fabiano Caruana. It was a Catalan - the theme opening for this tournament - but a very sharp line for a change. Had Caruana played ...h4 on moves 13 or 14 it would have been utter chaos on the board. Instead, after setting the fire with his play on moves 5-12, he called the fire department and ran around with an extinguisher, playing not for middlegame sparks but a drawish semi-middlegame, semi-endgame a pawn down. Mamedyarov may have missed a chance on move 17, but that aside it was a very well-played and interesting game from beginning to end.

    The other two games weren't particular interesting, and were drawn quickly. Though Alexander Grischuk had White and was within a point of Caruana, he didn't seem to have anything special prepared against Sergey Karjakin, and by move 15 it already seemed that he had given up on the game, which was drawn by repetition in 28 moves. Ding Liren vs. Wesley So was also drawn quickly. Surprisingly, while both Mamedyarov-Caruana and Grischuk-Karjakin were Catalans, the most devoted Catalan addict in the field, Ding Liren, avoided it against So, entering a conventional Queen's Gambit Declined. So went for an unusual pawn sac on move 9, and it worked perfectly. If there's an advantage to be had for White, it had to be demonstrated somewhere between moves 12-14. After 14.Kg1 Bxf3 15.Bxf3 e5 Black had completely equalized, and the remaining moves were necessary only for the sake of reaching move 30. White made his 31st move and offered a draw in a dead rook + three pawns vs. rook + three pawns ending.

    (All four games, with my comments, are here.)

    Four rounds remain, and Caruana still leads Mamedyarov by half a point; Grischuk is a further half a point behind, followed by Karjakin and tournament drawmeister Ding Liren. (He's 10 for 10, just four games away from joining the immortal Anish Giri.) It's not too late for any of them, but it's getting close. Here are the pairings for round 11:

    • Ding Liren (5) - Grischuk (5.5)
    • So (4) - Mamedyarov (6)
    • Caruana (6.5) - Kramnik (4.5)
    • Aronian (3.5) - Karjakin (5)

    One would expect the first two games to end in solid draws and the second two to be anything but. The first time around, both Kramnik and Karjakin lost to their rivals with White, in both cases - especially Kramnik's - doing great damage to their tournaments. If they win with Black - which won't be easy, especially for Kramnik - they're back in the hunt.

    Friday
    Mar162018

    2018 Candidates, Round 6: Shakh Catches the Car; Aronian, Kramnik Look on in the Distance

    Please excuse the overly informal subject line, offered for the sake of painting a picture. As Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Fabiano "Car"uana drive away, two of the pre-tournament favorites, Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian, are left behind as their hopes vanish in the distance. It's still not too late - there are eight rounds remaining - but it's not looking good for them, and they're going in the wrong direction.

    The game of the day, at least in the race for first, was Mamedyarov-Kramnik. For the second straight day Kramnik played the Semi-Tarrasch with Black, and for the second straight day managed to equalize. Also for the second straight day, Kramnik was unsatisfied with an easy draw with the Black pieces, and decided to play on. At this point the script diverged. Again Wesley So in round 5 Kramnik never overstepped the bounds of acceptable risk, but against Mamedyarov in round 6 he did so, repeatedly, as if he was still "on tilt" from the loss to Caruana in round 4. A poor mini-plan on moves 23 and 24 could have been punished by 25.f4, with a big advantage for White, but Kramnik got away with that one. A further mistake on 31 could have been punished by 32.Rbc1, with a winning advantage for White...but Kramnik got away with that one, too. On move 34 he went too far, and instead of enjoying full equality and even some small chances of playing for a win after 34...Rxc1 35.Rxc1 Bc6, he uncorked 34...Rdc8?? Three strikes and you're out: Mamedyarov played 35.Rxc7+ Rxc7 36.Rh1, winning the h-pawn for nothing, with a vastly superior position to boot. Kramnik tried valiantly to save the game, coming up with some nice tricks at the end, but they were too simple for an alert Mamedyarov.

    With the win, Mamedyarov caught up Caruana in first place, a point ahead of their closest competitors. Caruana was doubtlessly hoping for more with White against Alexander Grischuk, and he seemed to be better most of the way. The position was tricky though, and in the end Caruana decided that it was better to play it safe and allow a repetition than to take big risks.

    Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin avoided serious risks; in fact, they avoided almost all risks. Ding played something new on move 11, varying from what had been played by a number of super-GMs - himself included. But after just two more moves, he decided that it was time to allow (and semi-force) a repetition, which was accomplished after 18 moves in total.

    Levon Aronian's event had been disappointing so far, with a bad loss to Kramnik that was mostly an opening disaster and a couple of winning positions he had failed to convert. Despite this, he was still on 50%, and although he was Black in the round his opponent was Wesley So, who was still on -2 and tied for last place. So deserves a lot of credit, though. He lost his first two games, but has rebuilt his confidence and proved that he can compete here. In round 3 he took a safety draw with White, and in rounds 4 and 5 he drew "real" games. Now in round 6, he played an excellent game, showing good preparation and good play after the preparation as well to convincingly outplay his very experienced opponent. Both players are now on -1, but So must feel a lot better about his standing in the event than Aronian does about his own.

    The games, with my comments, are here. Tomorrow is a rest day (the pattern, which continues throughout the event, is to have a rest day every three rounds), and the pairings for round 7 - the last round of the first cycle - are as follows:

    • Grischuk (3) - Mamedyarov (4)
    • Kramnik (3) - Ding Liren (3)
    • Karjakin (2) - So (2.5)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Caruana (4)

    Thursday
    Mar152018

    2018 Candidates, Round 4: Kramnik Loses a Soul-Crusher to Caruana

    Wow, what an amazing round! In a normal tournament, the game between Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren would be talked about for days. It was a razor-sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit, and on top of that Grischuk trotted out the fascinating 12.Nxf7 piece sac Veselin Topalov used against Vladimir Kramnik in Wijk aan Zee 2008 to win a huge grudge-match game. Both sides had winning chances, there were crazy tactics and material imbalances practically from start to finish, there was time pressure - practically everything a fan could want in a game. Yet this spectacular draw was completely overshadowed by the war between Vladimir Kramnik and Fabiano Caruana.

    Nothing presaged what was to come. Caruana played the Petroff (yawn), and Kramnik played 5.Qe2 (triple yawn). The game looked dull and was dull, and then Kramnik came up with a plan that didn't work out very well. Soon he was worse, then losing. Unfortunately for Kramnik, he started playing very well at this point, from move 24. Despite his growing time trouble, Caruana played very well too until his 33rd move, and from there to the end of the time control he not only squandered his advantage, but wound up worse. His 41st move was a further mistake, and now Kramnik's advantage was decisive.

    This was no ordinary position, however. Caruana was a piece up, with two (split) passed pawns on the kingside. Kramnik, however, had four, count 'em, four passed pawns on the queenside, and both sides had some troubles with their king. This time it was Kramnik's turn to falter, and once he realized that what he probably thought was winning wasn't, he started burning a lot of time. Now he had to survive until the third and final time control, and while he hung on very well from move 46 until move 58, he finally cracked on move 59, the next-to-last move of the control. He made the time control, but there was no saving the game at this point. He played a few more moves, mainly to collect himself and his composure, to resign and face the press conference.

    Had he won the game, he'd have been a huge favorite to win the event, even with ten rounds to go, but as it is he trails Caruana by half a point and must regain his psychological equilibrium. It would have been much easier on him had he just lost the first time he had a losing position, but let's stay tuned and see how he bounces back.

    Speaking of bouncing back, Levon Aronian overcame his shellacking by Kramnik in the previous round, and beat Sergey Karjakin with the black pieces. Karjakin got tricked or confused by Aronian's unusual move order in the Vienna Variation of the Ragozin, and came out of the opening down a couple of pawns for inadequate compensation. He recovered one of them, but the result was a winning endgame for Aronian. Though the game went 68 moves, it didn't take anywhere near as long as the 66-move Kramnik-Caruana game, and the technical task for Aronian was pretty easy.

    Finally, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Wesley So kept the commentators and the annotators from a complete overload by playing a short and unimpressive draw. Considering how poor So's tournament had been, it's a little surprising that Mamedyarov didn't go for a "position" rather than trying a relatively forcing, clear-cut theoretical line.

    Anyway, the games, with my notes, are here; this is what we have to look forward to in round 5:

    • Aronian (2) - Grischuk (2)
    • Caruana (3) - Karjakin (1)
    • So (1) - Kramnik (2.5)
    • Ding Liren (2) - Mamedyarov (2.5)

    Monday
    Mar052018

    Aronian's Candidates Preparation

    We begin by linking to an article that is interesting, but could have been even more interesting - and valuable - had they supplied some detail. The gist of the article, which is in Spanish (Google Translate does an adequate but not fantastic job with it), is that Levon Aronian's preparation for the Candidates includes work with the doctors and nutritionists of the Spanish soccer team Real Sociedad*. This is an excellent idea, and hopefully he started working with them soon enough for it to make a difference in the Candidates.

    HT: Pedro Espinosa

    *Google Translate renders this "Royal Society" in English, giving the misleading impression that Aronian is working with the Spanish analogue to the British scientific society whose most famous past member was Isaac Newton. It's not; it's a soccer team.

    Tuesday
    Dec052017

    Aronian Interview

    There are few chess specifics, but for those who aren't well acquainted with Levon Aronian this interview may be of interest.