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Aronian Surpasses World Champions, Wins Elite Rapid & Blitz Tournament In Astana
Aronian, the tournament victor, is received by fans like a superstar. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Aronian Surpasses World Champions, Wins Elite Rapid & Blitz Tournament In Astana

AnthonyLevin
| 15 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Levon Aronian won the Satty Zhuldyz Rapid 2023 and Satty Zhuldyz Blitz 2023, which concluded on Tuesday. Finishing second in both events, he was the most consistent player in the field of 12 world-class players including several former world champions.

GM Arjun Erigaisi finished in second. He had a dominant start in the rapid segment, finishing with 9.5/11 and 1.5 points ahead of the rest, but his fifth-place finish in the blitz event caused him to drop out of first. GM Haik Martirosyan finished in third; he finished first in the blitz with 15.5/22 but fifth in the rapid.

See what happened

You can click here to find all the details of what happened during the event, including games, results, standings, and more, as part of our live events platform.

The Satty Zhuldyz (“Lucky Stars”) was a chess festival held alongside the FIDE World Chess Championship 2023 at the Hilton Astana in Kazakhstan. In addition to the masters tournaments, there was a youth event with several divisions for players under the age of 20. The festival featured a $265,000 (USD) prize fund. 

Besides the chess, spectators and players enjoyed cultural events, including music programs, performances, a simultaneous game session, and a display of Kazakh IM Bibisara Assaubayeva's private art collection. 

A true festival. Photo: Damir Kuzhumov/Satty Zhuldyz.

The super-tournaments in rapid and blitz featured several players representing a wide spectrum of generations. The youngest player was 17-year-old GM Javokhir Sindarov; the oldest was GM and former world championship challenger Boris Gelfand, 54.

There were some former classical world champions, like GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Hou Yifan, who played her first tournament outside of China in three years.

Hou Yifan, the highest-rated woman player in history since Judit Polgar. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The event featured a women's rapid world champion, GM Kateryna Lagno, who is also a two-time women's blitz world champion. Her husband, GM Alexander Grischuk, is also a three-time blitz world champion and participated in Satty Zhuldyz.

The power couple, Lagno and Grischuk, at the opening ceremony. Photo: Damir Kuzhumov/Satty Zhuldyz.

Assaubayeva, who is the reigning women's world rapid blitz champion at just 19 years of age, also played. 18-year-old GM Vincent Keymer, Germany's number one, and GM Jakhongir Vakhidov, who won a gold medal with the rest of Team Uzbekistan at the 2022 Chess Olympiad, closed out the star-studded field.

Assaubayeva in her game against Gelfand in the rapid. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Aronian won the masters division after finishing second in both the rapid and blitz events. He went undefeated in the rapid, scoring 8/11, and followed up his strong performance with 15/22 in the blitz. One of his quickest and most crushing wins over the five-day period was against Grischuk in round three of the blitz.

Aronian earns 20,300,000 tenge ($44,686.29) for finishing first. WIth this win, he also leads the new FIDE Circuit. 

Asked on-site by FM Mike Klein whether playing in the event was just for himself or if he felt like he was playing for his generation, with so many young opponents in the field, Aronian responded that he wanted to play as long as GM Viktor Korchnoi but be a nicer person along the way. 

Meanwhile, Erigaisi had the flashiest start to the event and finished first in the rapid tournament. He remained in first place from the first day to the third and scored a remarkable 9.5/11 in this field of strong grandmasters. He ultimately finished a full 1.5 points ahead of Aronian in the rapid portion.

The Indian phenom Erigaisi sports a fresh cut. Photo: Damir Kuzhumov/Satty Zhuldyz.

His most one-sided victory was a 24-move miniature in round five over Vakhidov. Who said the London System is boring?

After a fifth-place finish in the blitz, Erigaisi concluded the event having made 14,400,000 tenge ($31,698.65) placing second.

After a relatively slow start in the rapid tournament, where he finished in fifth, Martirosyan kicked into gear in the blitz portion. He ultimately finished in first with 15.5/22. His final-round game against the ultimate winner must surely have left a positive taste in the Armenian grandmaster's mouth, even if Aronian lost the battle but won the war.

Martirosyan. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In round 22, on the fifth day of play, the game between Martirosyan and Aronian came to an abrupt end after 23.Bc1? left White's rooks disconnected. From what started in an equal (albeit slightly unpleasant) endgame, White resigned just five moves later.

Martirosyan makes 10,800,000 tenge ($23,773.99) for finishing in third.

In the table below, the decisive tiebreaks for players with the same rank in the rapid and blitz are their results in the rapid tournament.

Final Standings

# Fed Name Rapid Rank Blitz Rank Rapid + Blitz Prize (tenge)
1 GM Levon Aronian 2 2 4 20,300,000
2 GM Arjun Erigaisi 1 5 6 14,400,000
3 GM Haik Martirosyan 5 1 6 10,800,000
4 GM Alexander Grischuk 3 4 7 9,500,000
5 GM Vladimir Kramnik 4 6 10 7,650,000
6 GM Vincent Keymer 7 3 10 6,750,000
7 GM Boris Gelfand 6 9 15 6,300,000
8 GM Jakhongir Vakhidov 8 8 16 5,850,000
9 GM Javokhir Sindarov 9 7 16 4,950,000
10 GM Kateryna Lagno 10 10 20 4,500,000
11 GM Hou Yifan 11 11 22 4,500,000
12 IM Bibisara Assaubayeva 12 12 24 4,500,000
All Games | Rapid & Blitz

The Satty Zhuldyz Rapid & Blitz 2023 took place April 20-25, 2023, in Astana, Kazakhstan. The format for the rapid tournament was a round-robin with 12 world-class players; the blitz was a double round-robin. The time control for the rapid games was 15 minutes for the entire game plus a 10-second increment starting on move one; the blitz was played with three minutes plus a two-second increment.

AnthonyLevin
NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at Chess.com.

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At Chess.com, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.

Email:  anthony.levin@chess.com

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