Aronian Electrifies in Mainz
The Mainz Chess Classic has a variety of fun events. It has an open action event, and an open Fischer Random action event. It also has World Championships in both action chess and Fischer Random (action), each of which features 4 players: the defending champion, the winner of the previous year's open tournament, and two invited top-class players. All events are played at a time control of 20 minutes for the game plus 5 seconds added each move. There is also an under16 open, which this year was won by an 11 year old, Alexander Donchenko, with 5 wins, 2 draws, and no losses, and a Fischer Random open for computer programs.
The three events of particular interest to me are of course, the Fischer Random events, because they are the only big public events where you can see Grandmasters playing this variant. Today the first three rounds of the World Championship were contested between super-strong Grandmasters Levon Aronian, Sergei Movsesian, Hikaru Nakamura (the recently crowned US Champion has been on an impressive streak of late), and Viorel Bologan. The 6 games were one more recommendation for Fischer Random. All 6 games were very interesting, and all 6 ended in a decisive result! I can't remember seeing 6 games in a row with decisive results in 2700-level play in a long time. I'd like to show all 6, but I'll limit myself to only 4 or 5.
The best performance of the day was definitely turned in by Levon Aronian, the #4 ranked player in the world, and the only player who will be competing in the Grenkeleasing World Rapid Championship as well. He scored a perfect 3-0 in very decisive style. There is a fun interview with the friendly and humorous super-Grandmaster on the event homepage: http://www.chesstigers.de/ccm9_index_news.php?id=1753&rubrik=6〈=0&kat=2
Here are two of his games (the third is presented with annotations at the bottom of this article).
In the first one, a strange tactic occurs as early as move 7, leading to a queen vs two rook imbalanced game. Nakamura strives to create some mischief on the dark squares before black can get organized (which is what I would try as well). Once the two black knights reach light squares, thus defending the dark squares, I think Aronian is comfortably winning.
The next one has an even fiercer battle. At some point, Aronian played a sick surprise move, 13...e3! just the kind of shot he seems to manage to get in in a lot of these games. I was watching excitedly, and observing the dubious pawn covers of both kings, observed that the game would probably end with one king or the other getting destroyed. Aronian handled the complications beautifully (to my superficial examination).
Aronian's games were all quite dynamic and imaginative. But Fischer Random can also lead to positional battles. Here is a nice, smooth positional game from US Champ Nakamura, which at some point has the feeling of a Queen's Gambit or Meran gone wrong for white:
Finally, I spent some time trying to at least understand one of Aronian's games in order to present some analysis. I chose the easiest one to tackle. Here are my thoughts:
Interestingly, this was the only game on the day that white won-- against five wins for black! Tomorrow they will play another 3 rounds, and I can't wait!!