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    Entries in Levon Aronian (75)

    Sunday
    Jan292017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Round 12: So Still Leads Entering the Last Round

    But barely. Wesley So entered the last round with a half-point lead over Wei Yi and more against everyone else, and with White against Wei Yi decided to play it safe. Black went for a well-known line of the Queen's Gambit Declined called the Peruvian Variation (I think) that results in Black's having a structure that appears as ugly as sin but which turns out to be very difficult to beat. In the game Wei Yi had no trouble keeping the draw, which meant that he remained half a point behind So, who guaranteed himself of a clear lead heading into the last round.

    Unfortunately for So - and for Wei Yi too, for that matter - both Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian won and also came to within half a point of So. Carlsen was in serious trouble against Pavel Eljanov, who played a great game for 28 moves. Eljanov has played a very good tournament so far, but he has failed to convert several better-to-winning positions, and this one he even managed to lose. His 29th move was a serious error, giving away the advantage, and his 37th to 39th moves left him lost. Carlsen played the ensuing rook endgame just about perfectly to stay within striking range of the leader.

    As for Aronian, his opponent, Loek van Wely, like Eljanov managed to play very well the first half of the game but not the second. Van Wely's queen moves from 22...Qd8 through 27...Qxe4 left him with a lost position, and Aronian did a fine job of navigating the complications to near perfection.

    The remaining games were drawn, several of them quietly, and in any case none of them left the protagonists with a shot at first place. So after the customary link to the day's wins, with my notes, here are the pairings for the final round:

    • Andreikin (5) - Aronian (7.5)
    • Wei Yi (7.5) - Wojtaszek (5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (5) - So (8)
    • Carlsen (7.5) - Karjakin (6.5) - !
    • Giri (6) - Eljanov (6.5)
    • Rapport (4.5) - Adhiban (6.5)
    • Van Wely (2.5) - Harikrishna (6)

    I don't know what the tiebreak situations will be in case two or more players wind up sharing first, so if some enterprising reader (we all know who that is) wants to inform us, he's welcome to do so. Hopefully for the sake of my patriotic prognostication So will make it simple by winning in the last round.

    As for the Challengers Group, the chances of the U.S. national anthem (probably metaphorically) playing took a bit hit as Jeffery Xiong went from clear first to a tie for third after losing to Tari while all his closest rivals - Markus Ragger, Gawain Jones, and Ilia Smirin all won. Ragger and Jones are tied for first, while Smirin and Xiong are tied for third-fourth half a point behind. But the good news for Xiong is that he's the only one of the four with White in the last round, and his opponent has the lowest score of the leaders' four opponents. Here are the critical pairings:

    • L'Ami (6.5) - Ragger (8.5)
    • Lu Shanglei (7.5) - Jones (8.5)
    • Hansen (7) - Smirin (8)
    • Xiong (8) - Bok (5)

    Friday
    Dec092016

    2016 London Chess Classic, Round 1: So, Kramnik, and Aronian Win

    The London Chess Classic got off to an entertaining start in the first round, with three decisive games out of five and only one 1.e4 e5 opening. Part of what made the day entertaining was the presence of blunders - at least two of them. Hikaru Nakamura more or less lost his game with Wesley So, with White (and on his birthday), thanks to 13.Ne2?, while Mickey Adams blundered a piece to Levon Aronian, missing a simple two-move sequence when he played 33...Ka8. The day's other winner was Vladimir Kramnik, who beated arch-nemesis Veselin Topalov in a brisk 28-mover. Caruana - Anand and Vachier-Lagrave - Giri were drawn, and all five games can be replayed here (with notes to the decisive games).

    Round 2 Pairings:

     

    • Kramnik (1) - Aronian (1)
    • Topalov (0) - Caruana (.5)
    • Anand (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)
    • Giri (.5) - Nakamura (0)
    • So (1) - Adams (0)

     

    Thursday
    May192016

    Aronian Interview

    In the wake of his unsuccessful performance in the last Candidates Tournament, Levon Aronian answers questions here, on a mostly Armenian-language website launched by his eternal fiancee Arianne Caoili.

    Saturday
    Apr302016

    Carlsen Wins Norway Chess; Aronian Finishes Half a Point Behind

    It took him four tries, but Magnus Carlsen has finally won Norway Chess, the super-tournament created by his countrymen to showcase their top player, the world chess champion and world #1. In 2013 and 2014 Sergey Karjakin won the tournament, and last year it was Veselin Topalov who finished first.

    This time around Carlsen was in control most of the way, and after defeating Vladimir Kramnik in an impressive game in round 7 (of 9) it looked like smooth sailing. He was playing well and riding a 42-game undefeated streak; what could possibly go wrong? The answer came in the very next round, as Levon Aronian in turn beat him rather badly to catch up with him and share the lead. Had they finished the last round tied there would have been a playoff, but Carlsen rebounded to defeat Pavel Eljanov with white while Aronian was unable to get anywhere with Black against Pentala Harikrishna. Carlsen finished with 6/9; Aronian with 5.5.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, and Kramnik finished a further half a point behind, while Li Chao and Harikrishna concluded their tournaments with creditable 50% scores. Anish Giri had a poor event by his standards, only scoring 4/9; Eljanov lost his last three games to wind up with just 3 points, and Nils Grandelius brought up the rear with 2.5 points.

    Here are Carlsen's last three games, with brief comments.

    Wednesday
    Apr062016

    Grischuk Defeats Aronian 11.5-9.5

    Alexander Grischuk defeated Levon Aronian 11.5-9.5 in their quarter-final match in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship. It was a hard-fought match, and generally well-played, too. Grischuk dominated overall, and was close to winning many more games than he did, but Aronian's tough defense (sometimes aided by Grischuk's characteristic time trouble) kept the match close, and with two games left the match was tied. The penultimate game was key, a marathon battle that saw Aronian start with an extra pawn and a lead on time. Grischuk had the bishop pair, and slowly but surely managed to fight his way back to equality and a likely draw. But the battle continued, and after some final adventures Grischuk pulled out the win.

    In the semi-final Grischuk will play the winner of a similar match between Magnus Carlsen and the winner of a qualifying tournament, and before the latter match the other quarter-final matches will take place: Hikaru Nakamura vs. Pentala Harikrishna on May 4 and Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on May 10.

    The full Grischuk-Aronian match, with commentary by GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch, is available here.

    Tuesday
    Apr052016

    Aronian-Grischuk Blitz Match on Chess.com Tomorrow

    This should be a lot of fun for spectators. Current world blitz champion Alexander Grischuk and erstwhile world #2 (and former world blitz champion) Levon Aronian will face off on Chess.com tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1 p.m. Eastern time = 6 p.m. London time. They will play for three hours in three formats: 5 minutes + 2 seconds for 90 minutes, 3' + 2" for 60 minutes, and then 1' + 1" for another half an hour. (There will be short breaks in between each transition.)

    Better still, this is just the first match in a series. On May 4 a similar match will take place between Hikaru Nakamura and Pentala Harikrishna, on May 10 Fabiano Caruana will play Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and on June 8 or 15 none other than Magnus Carlsen will take on the winner of a qualifier scheduled for May 31. (More here.)

    These four matches are not wholly independent events, but the quarterfinal of an overall competition with $40k in prizes. Not bad for a maximum of nine hours' work.

    Friday
    Mar182016

    Candidates Update: Karjakin and Aronian Lead with +2, Anand at +1 After 6 Rounds

    After three more rounds of the Candidates - six overall, out of 14 - the players get another rest day, and it was well-earned. In round 4 there was only one decisive game, but it was a big one with one leader - Sergey Karjakin - beating another - Viswanathan Anand. That gave Karjakin sole ownership of first place, which he maintained after four draws in round 5.

    In round 6 things livened up. First, Anand pole-axed Peter Svidler, winning with a nice sacrificial attacking game that constituted a serious improvement over a 2004 game between Alexei Shirov and Alexander Onischuk. Svidler's 18...Nb3 was a good move when Onischuk played it, but the seemingly slight difference between the two games made all the difference in the world, and Anand crushed him in good style.

    That brought Anand within half a point of the lead by round's end, and Karjakin was fortunate to remain in first (shared first by round's end) as he was in some serious trouble against Fabiano Caruana. Fortunately for Karjakin his opponent preferred 30.g5 to 30.Bf3, after which he saved the game with a couple of spectacular moves.

    The third game to finish was a draw between Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri. Giri came close to a win, outplaying his opponent step by step, but Topalov made a last desperate stand and held the game a pawn down.

    The fourth and final game was an oddity. Levon Aronian was pushing with White throughout against Hikaru Nakamura, but the rook endgame that arose after White's 52nd move should have been drawn. Nakamura promptly made a serious error, which Aronian in turn failed to take advantage of. Another 22 moves go by with Aronian still pressing and Nakamura still probably drawing. Unfortunately for Nakamura, he hastily grabbed his king with the obvious intention of moving it, only to realize that it was a huge error. At that moment he tried to turn it into a "j'adoube", which is pretty amazing. Of course Aronian would have none of that, and the arbiter came quickly to help resolve the situation. Nakamura gave up the claim, moved the king, and soon had to resign the game. Here's the video of the critical moments (HT to Ross Hytnen):

    The games of the last three rounds are here, and I've analyzed three of the four games from round 6, either in whole or in part. Here are the pairings for round 7, on Saturday:

     

    • Svidler (2.5) - Caruana (3)
    • Karjakin (4) - Aronian (4)
    • Nakamura (2) - Topalov (2)
    • Giri (3) - Anand (3.5)

     

    Tuesday
    Mar012016

    Aronian Interview

    As the Candidates' tournament approaches, preview articles and interviews are bound to sprout like buds in the spring. Here is an interview with the always interesting Levon Aronian, whose optimism and ambition remain strong, unbroken and seemingly undented by his less than stellar results in Zurich, past Candidates' events, and other dips in form over the years. One hopes he gets at least one chance at a World Championship match while he's still at or at least near his peak form.

    Saturday
    Feb132016

    Zurich Blitz: Blitz Recap and Day 1 Pairings, Plus Gelfand-Morozevich

    The main event in Zurich starts today, Saturday, but before that the organizers had the players compete in a blitz tournament. This was entertaining for the spectators (both those on scene, including Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi[!], and the rest of us watching on the internet), of course, and it had the additional purpose of determining the pairings. Placement determined one's pairing number, and so the top three players will all have an extra game with the white pieces in the main event.

    Hikaru Nakamura won his first three games in this six-player round-robin before Alexei Shirov (barely) pulled out a draw in round 4 and Viswanathan Anand beat him in the final round. Those three finished with plus scores, and thus get the extra white game in the rapid round robin to follow. Nakamura (obviously) finished with 3.5/5, while both Anand and Shirov wound up with 3 (Anand took second on tiebreak). Vladimir Kramnik was next with 2.5, Levon Aronian scored only two points (but defeated Anand in their game), while Anish Giri brought up the rear with a winless 1/5.

    Because it's a rapid event (G/40' + 10"/move), there will be two games per day. (At least for the first two days; on day 3 there will be a rapid game followed by another blitz round-robin. Strange, but entertaining.) Here are the pairings for rounds 1 and 2; round 1 starts at 3 p.m. local time in Zurich (= 9 a.m. ET).

    Round 1:

    • Shirov - Kramnik
    • Nakamura - Giri
    • Anand - Aronian

    Round 2:

    • Kramnik - Aronian
    • Giri - Anand
    • Shirov - Nakamura

    There's an added bonus: Boris Gelfand and Alexander Morozevich will concurrently play a two-game match with the same time control.

    Hopefully the quality of the games will be high; whether it is or not, however, they're sure to be entertaining.

    Thursday
    Feb042016

    CNN on Aronian

    Here. It's always good to see strong players positively profiled in the popular press.