Tactics Galore As Aronian Beats Giri In Speed Chess
Aronian was the lower seed but dominated his Speed Chess match vs Anish Giri.

Tactics Galore As Aronian Beats Giri In Speed Chess

| 16 | Chess Event Coverage

Winning all three segments and using lots of nasty tactics, Levon Aronian defeated Anish Giri in the second quarterfinal of the 2018 Speed Chess Championship on Thursday. The winning score for the Armenian GM was 18-11.

The next Speed Chess match, between Wesley So and Vidit Gujrathi, is on with commentary on and Don't miss it!

It was a high-class match between two players who are side-by-side on the FIDE rating list: Aronian is currently the world number-six in classic chess, and Giri number-seven. More relevant perhaps are the over-the-board blitz ratings: in this domain Aronian is world number-four with 2854, vs Giri world number-20 with 2751.


The SmarterChess prediction had it right this time. 

Whereas Duda-Grischuk took 18 games to see a first draw, Aronian and Giri split the point in the first two games, with the latter being under slight pressure in both, but holding.

Giri drew first blood when Aronian went for a somewhat eccentric rook maneuver where a standard pawn break in the center would have equalized instantly. Black couldn't get counterplay against White's strong center.

Game five was another draw, but not without a bit of drama. In a position where he was playing for two results, Aronian suddenly blundered a full piece and seemed lucky to escape with a draw. Giri shook his head when the game ended, but in fact it was always a draw from the moment it was bishop vs pawns.

Eric Hansen provided commentary from the house of an even more famous commentator, who liked White in this game.

Aronian was fully warmed up after this mishap, and won two games in a row to take over the lead. The first of those was a remarkably crushing black victory in a King's Indian-turned-Benoni-turned-Accelerated Dragon.

Levon Aronian Speed Chess

Giri, however, won the next and all was equal again. It was a long game starting from an Anti-Berlin, and the phase with QR-vs-QR, played in big time trouble, was especially exciting.

In the next game, it was Aronian's turn to grind his opponent down in a queen ending, and so it was the Armenian player who had a small lead going into the three-minute portion.

5|1 segment | Score

# Name Fed Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 Aronian 2996 2933 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 4.5
2 Giri 2889 2952 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 0 3.5

Precisely as in the five-minute portion, the players started with two draws followed by a Giri win. That seemed unlikely after the opening when he allowed a petite combinaison, but in reality Giri went for a prepared deviation from an earlier game against the same opponent from Leuven 2018!

As it turned out, White wasn't even worse and about 10 moves later he was just better in the endgame and converted nicely to level the match.

A wonderful little game followed, where Aronian played true coffeehouse chess and checkmated Giri in just 18 moves! Commentator Daniel Rensch: "The real plan is gonna come out for Levon: full of tricky and frankly great openings for blitz."

After a draw in game 15, there was a game Giri could never lose, except that he was playing against the nasty trickster Aronian!  

The Armenian GM had given up a queen for rook and bishop, initially to secure a fortress. Although his pieces got more and more active, Giri's queen was always good enough for at least a perpetual but he gave one check too many...

Rensch: "That was one where Giri was beating himself, for sure."
Eric Hansen: "His blunders have been game-ending. I wouldn't wanna deal with Levon in this form."

Anish Giri Speed Chess

Aronian was the first player in the match to take a three-point lead, and he went on to win another one as Black. By then, Giri was probably happy to start with the bullet (he even played on longer than normal with a bunch of pre-moves, flexing his bullet muscles).

However, the time wasn't over yet and one more three-minute game was played—and Aronian won again. That meant a five-point lead at the end of the three-minute segment.

3|1 segment | Score

# Name Fed Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 Aronian 2979 3042 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 7
2 Giri 2895 2832 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 3

Five games were too tough a mountain to climb, even though Giri started with giant steps. He won the first two bullet games and anything was possible when he got a winning position in the third as well. Winning that one was quite a relief for Aronian, who really needed to turn the momentum there.

The following game also shows why bullet shouldn't be taken too seriously. (Which can also be said for analyzing it!)

That was indeed the turning point of the match, and the final knockout blow for Giri. Aronian also won the next three, creating an insurmountable lead of 15.5-8.5 on the scoreboard. The final score of 18-11 had a bigger margin than the games showed, but there was no doubt that Aronian won convincingly.

Giri did win four bullet games, of which the following was very good:


But, especially when he went for 1.d4 and 2.Bf4 systems, Aronian just scored too many quick and crushing wins, like this one.

1|1 segment | Score

# Name Fed Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Score
1 Aronian 2944 2952 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 0 6.5
2 Giri 2889 2881 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 4.5

"At some point I just demonstrated to children the definition of tilt," said Giri. "I think I had it twice. There was a streak, I think in the three-minute portion, where every position I started losing. Also the completely safe ones."

Aronian made a good call by letting go of 1.e4 and facing Giri's Petroff, as his 1.d4/2.Bf4 systems went well. "At some point I thought it's time to strike," he explained. "It was clear to me that Anish was playing better in the five-minute phase. Also in the bullet, where I was kind of expecting it. But in the five-minute..."

Giri: "Surprise!"

Aronian: "It was clear that it wasn't working, although I was up in the score. My play was rather sad, to say the least. I thought it was time to mix it up."

Aronian earned $2,459.70 and will face the winner of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Hikaru Nakamura (The Nakamura-MVL match is on October 11). Giri earned $597.64. $57.34 was donated by the chess community on Twitch, which was added to the original $3,000 prize pool. 


It won't be easy for Aronian to reach the final, as he is playing either MVL or Nakamura.

You can watch the archived broadcast again here.

The next Speed Chess match, between Wesley So and Vidit Gujrathi, is on with commentary on and Don't miss it!

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.

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