Aronian Wins Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour
Levon Aronian wins in St. Louis. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian Wins Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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61 | Chess Event Coverage

Despite losses in his first and last game of the day, Levon Aronian ended on top at the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour. The Armenian GM scored half a point more than Yu Yangyi, Ding Liren and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Right after his last game, Aronian said he was extremely happy with this victory.

“At this point I already don’t care if I blundered anything," said Aronian. "The win just brings the relief. Before today I was thinking OK I am playing so badly, maybe I will have trouble catching up with Maxime. So the win is a great feel for me.”

Chess.com's interview with Aronian.

Aronian had also won the rapid and blitz tournament in St. Louis two years ago, when the 13th world champion Garry Kasparov participated. Back then the winner's total score was 24.5 points; this year 1.5 points fewer were enough. 

Aronian won $37,000 and 13 Grand Chess Tour points, which put him in third place in the overall standings, behind Magnus Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave. The playoffs in London are looming.

Levon Aronian Saint Louis 2019
The London playoffs are looming for Levon Aronian. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Aronian started his day with a loss to Sergey Karjakin, which meant Vachier-Lagrave, who drew with Carlsen, increased his lead to a point. Meanwhile, Yu defeated Ding to catch his compatriot in third place, half a point behind Aronian.

Karjakin successfully played Alexander Motylev's idea in the Four Knights: 9.Bd2, which he had also tried against Ding at the recent Lindores Abbey tournament.

Karjakin-Aronian 2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
Karjakin-Aronian. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Vachier-Lagrave won his next game vs. Richard Rapport, but that's where it all ended for the winner of the last GCT event in Paris. In rounds 3-7, MVL scored just 0.5/5.

Energy levels must have dropped for the French GM, who even lost the following game, from a line in the Gruenfeld that is known to lead to a dead-drawn position:

MVL also lost to Yu, who was the best player on the second blitz day, with 6/9. In a sharp position from a 5.Bf4-Gruenfeld the Chinese GM sacrificed a knight, which could actually have been taken:

Yu Yangyi. 2019 Grand Chess Tour
Yu Yangyi had the best score on the last day. | Photo: Austin/Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian caught Vachier-Lagrave in the third round, and took over the sole lead in the fifth round of the day. One of his wins included a bit of luck, as Ding flagged in a position that was still holdable:

After the penultimate round, Aronian was on 22 points and close to victory: Yu had 21, and both Ding and MVL had 20.5 points.

Aronian then ended his tournament in most dramatic fashion, finishing with a loss! He went for a strange pawn grab that was just too dangerous. Trading rooks for a queen, Black kept a strong passed pawn on c3.

I’m not a guy who plays safe.

—Levon Aronian

Just when Aronian seemed to get back in the game, he blundered a tactic on f3.

Aronian Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
Aronian went kind of berzerk vs. Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian: “It’s difficult to play [when a draw is enough –PD] because you’re thinking I have to play safe and I’m not a guy who plays safe. At least in a classical game you have the time to readjust and just start playing for a win and here, I don’t know. It was a terrible game. As terrible as the previous game against Maxime," Aronian said. 

With a win Yu could have forced a playoff, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who finished in last place in the tournament, held the draw. In the opening, Yu had avoided the most critical lines in a Nimzowitsch Sicilian (instead playing the insipid 7.c3) but late in the bishop ending he did miss a win. 

Yu Yangyi 2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
Yu was close to forcing a playoff. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

A shared second place was still an excellent result for the wildcard player, and Yu seems to have a good chance to become a full GCT participant next year.

"I told him yesterday he's very strong," Ding said about Yu. "Today he defeated me, which proves that my words [were] right!" he smiled.

“The single time I won the world championship in blitz I’ve also lost I think the last two games so I have this tendency of committing suicide and then winning!” said Aronian. “This year I haven’t won anything so at least this is a good start.”

Aronian Maurice Ashley 2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
Aronian with Maurice Ashley. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

And what about Carlsen? Well, he started strongly in fact, and seemed on his way to play at least one good day of chess. After drawing with Vachier-Lagrave, he won three games in a row, against Karjakin, Mamedyarov and Ding.

He crushed Karjakin, using a novelty in a Saemisch Nimzo-Indian:

However, just like with MVL, at some point the engine just stopped running. Carlsen lost three games in a row, and so his prediction yesterday proved correct: "You're probably going to see more of the same tomorrow."

The first to beat him was Fabiano Caruana, who did much better on the second day of blitz with 5.5/9. He ended up scoring 3.5-0.5 against the world champion in this tournament.

Dejan Bojkov Game of the Day

When things go bad, Carlsen tends to look for offbeat variations, and this time it was no different. Against Yu he tried the Cochrane Gambit, named after the Scottish lawyer (1798-1878) who popularized the knight sacrifice in a period when grabbing the f7 pawn in one way or another was almost obligatory.

The gambit has been considered to be quite unsound since Vladimir Kramnik's 5...c5! (after 5.Nc3) vs. Veselin Topalov, Linares 1999. Carlsen went 5.d4 instead, but Yu followed the same recipe, tempered White's initiative and ended up with just an extra piece.

Magnus Carlsen 2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz | Photo: Austin/Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
It was the first tournament in 2019 for Magnus Carlsen that he didn't win. It was his worst event since Norway Chess 2017, where he scored 4/9 and finished in a tie for seventh place. | Photo: Austin/Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz final standings
The final standings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.
2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz final standings.| Image: Spectrum Studios.
The standings with GCT points and prizes. | Image: Spectrum Studios.
2019 Grand Chess Tour standings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.
The current GCT standings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour took place August 10-14 at the Saint Louis Chess Club. After three days of rapid (nine rounds), two days of blitz followed with nine rounds on each day. Chess.com provided daily coverage on Twitch.tv/Chess and Chess.com/TV.

Day 5 coverage:

All games of blitz rounds 10-18 for replay/download:


You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.

Next on the agenda is the Sinquefield Cup with Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, Ding Liren, Sergey Karjakin and Wesley So starting Saturday. Chess.com will have full coverage. 


Previous reports:

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