Strong start for Aronian at Mainz Chess(960) Classic

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
AronianLevon Aronian scored 3 out of 3 against Bologan, Movsesian and Nakamura during the first day of the Rapid Chess960 World Championship, part of the Mainz Chess Classic. At the moment of writing they're playing their second stage of preliminaries.

This week the big, annual chess festival of rapid chess is held in Mainz, Germany: the Mainz Chess Classic. As always, the first few days it's all Chess960 (or "shuffle chess", or "Fischerrandom", whatever you prefer) before the players return to the classical starting position. The rate of play is 20 minutes for the game + 5 seconds increment per move.

It's held in the Rheingoldhalle of the Congress Centre, Hilton Hotel in Mainz, Germany. During the day many open events take place while at night two unofficial World Championships are held: Tue-Thu the 6th Rapid Chess960 Wch with Aronian, Bologan, Movsesian and Nakamura, and then Fri-Sun the 14th GRENKELEASING Rapid World Championship with Anand, Aronian, Nepomniachtchi and Naiditsch.

One more event (of many!) we'll mention is the 5th Livingston Chess960 Computer Chess World Championship with title holder Rybka (Vasik Rajlich), Shredder (Stefan Meyer-Kahlen), Deep Sjeng (Gian-Carlo Pascutto) and Ikarus (Muntsin & Munjong Kolss).

Rapid Chess960 World Championship: Day 1, Tuesday, July 28th - Tactics Rule

By Johannes Fischer

As Viktor Bologan explained in yesterday’s press conference, in Chess960 the random position of the pieces simply forces you to think of everything. In interviews Levon Aronian also stressed how important tactics are in Chess960. The first three rounds of the Chess960 Rapid World Championship confirmed this view. The games featured quite a number of unusual tactical situations – and it was Levon Aronian who handled them best.

Press conference

Right from the start he showed how good he coped with them. In his first round game against Nakamura he gave his queen for two rooks after just a couple of moves and afterwards he simply brought his pieces to strong squares. Nakamura came under pressure and had to give an exchange but then Aronian used his material plus to mate the enemy king with rook and two knights.

The game between Sergei Movsesian and Viktor Bologan was also characterized by tactics. Tactical tricks gave Bologan an advantage, and a tactical trick allowed Movsesian to extricate himself from a difficult position. However, he could not solve all of his problems and Black still had some pressure. This in turn provoked an inaccuracy from Movsesian which Bologan used to secure a winning position and soon after the point.


However, after this promising start followed a sobering second round, in which Bologan miscalculated and fell victim to a violent mating attack from Aronian.


1.e4 e5 2.d4 d6 3.f3 Ng6 4.Bc4 c6 5.Bb3 Nc7 6.Ng3 exd4 7.Bxd4 Ne6 8.Bc3 Nc5 9.Nf5 Nxb3 10.axb3 f6 11.Qe3 Qc7 12.Nd3 Ne5 13.Be1 g6 14.Nd4 Bf7 15.Bf2 Bg7


Now White played 16.Rxa7 Rxa7 17.Nb5 cxb5 18.Qxa7+ Kc8 19.Nxe5 fxe5 20.Bb6 Qe7 21.Qa8+ Kd7 22.Bxd8 and Black resigned.

With 2 out of 2 Aronian showed why he was considered to be the favorite to win this tournament. The secret favorite Hikaru Nakamura fared much worse. After his first round loss against Aronian things also went wrong against Movsesian. The American played with White, built up pressure in the opening, avoided a repetition and a draw – only to lose his way and the game soon after. „After ten moves I was almost winning, but then I got careless“, he remarked during the press conference after the game.


However, he managed to pull himself together in the third round and won with Black against Bologan. Both players were fond of the enemy pawns, but Nakamura managed to snatch one more pawn than his opponent, which gave him a clear endgame advantage that he finally converted to a full point.


The game between Movsesian and Aronian quickly developed into a sharp encounter. Both players wanted to gain the initiative and did not shy away from material sacrifices. At first it seemed as if Movsesian, who played with White, set the pace, but the tide turned after a strong counter by Aronian.


1.b4 Nf6 2.Ng3 e6 3.e4 b6 4.Bf3 Ng6 5.h4 d6 6.d4 d5 7.h5 dxe4 8.Be2 Nf8 9.h6 Rg8 10.c4 c5 11.bxc5 bxc5 12.Rxb8 Qxb8 13.d5


Suddenly White’s position was critical and Movsesian’s search for counterplay only accelerated his end. There followed: 13...e3 14.Bd1 exf2+ 15.Kxf2 gxh6 16.N1e2 Ng4+ 17.Kg1 Bg5 18.Ba4+ Ke7 19.Qc2 Be3+ 20.Kf1 Bf4 21.Nf5+ exf5 22.Rh3 Be5 23.Nc3 Kf6 24.Qd3 Rg5 25.d6 Kg7 26.d7 Nxd7 27.Bxd7 Ld4 28.Ke2 Nf2 0–1

This led to an amusing situation: three players with 1 out of 3 share places 2 to 4 and will fight hard to qualify for the final tomorrow. At the same time Aronian scored 3 out of 3 and is the sole and dominant leader and more than ever favorite to successfully defend his title of Chess960 World Champion. „All games were hard and tough fights“, Aronian said during the press conference. Maybe – but he still seemed to play all of them with effortless and playful ease. Often a sign of real great skill.

All photos courtesy of the Mainz Chess Classic.


Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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