Vachier-Lagrave Beats Aronian In Close Speed Chess Match

Vachier-Lagrave Beats Aronian In Close Speed Chess Match

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (@Lyonbeast) defeated GM Levon Aronian (@LevonAronian) 14.5-12.5 in Wednesday's quarterfinal of the Speed Chess Championship. The next match is Magnus Carlsen vs. Vladislav Artemiev on December 3 at 5 a.m. Pacific / 14:00 CET.

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Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave had played many times before but never in a Speed Chess Championship. In faster time controls, the Frenchman had a 20-9 plus score with 21 draws in over-the-board chess. He was the slight favorite and lived up to the expectations, but the match was really close.

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The match started with a draw, but not without one big moment that must have woken up both players if they weren't fully awake just yet. Somewhere in the endgame, Vachier-Lagrave dropped his rook on a forbidden square, but both players noticed it too late.

Aronian, after the match: "The first game was, of course, a highlight. Maxime played a move that I would play, 30.Rc7, and then I didn't take it through!"

It was the French GM who took the early lead in game two after Aronian had surprisingly started the game with 1.b3. "It was not a good idea, but I thought it was good to mix it up in blitz," Aronian would later say.

While he was piling up his pieces towards the black king, MVL defended everything and let his c-pawn become the hero of the game.

After three draws, Aronian leveled the score with a fine, positional game against MVL's Sicilian. GM Anatoly Karpov made a career out of squeezing opponents with 1.e4 like this.

MVL did win the five-minute segment as he won the last game in that time control as Black:


Vachier-Lagrave increased his lead to three points early in the three-minute portion. His 29.Nxe5+ in the third game (game 11 of the match) was impressive.

However, before the bullet, the score was equal again as Aronian had a great comeback. He won his last three white games at the 3+1 time control.

In the first of those, the Armenian GM played a lot of Ruy Lopez moves against his opponent's Sicilian (apparently that's possible!), and by move 21 Vachier-Lagrave's position was so hopeless that he simply resigned!

Vachier-Lagrave gained a two-point lead early in the bullet session, and Aronian never managed to tie again. He was even helped a bit by his opponent in game 21:

MVL found another crushing knight move in game 25, akin to the aforementioned three-minute game:

In the penultimate game, Aronian missed a huge chance to decrease the margin to just one point, thereby keeping hopes for a playoff. Instead, he lost the game and the match as the match clock allowed for just one more game.


Aronian won $1,388.89 based on win percentage; Vachier-Lagrave won $3,000 for the victory plus $1,611.11 on percentage, totaling $4,611.11. He moves on to the quarterfinals, where he will play the winner of GM Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) vs. Vladislav Artemiev (@Sibelephant).

Aronian said afterward: "Generally I thought that I was playing slowly out of the gates, and that proved to be a decisive factor in the bullet. But I thought it was a close match; it was fun."

"I thought I should be the favorite in bullet, clearly, but at the same time, I saw that Levon played extremely well in the bullet portion against Ian [Nepomniachtchi]," said Vachier-Lagrave.

Aronian agreed he was not the favorite in the fastest segment. He explained: "I don't spend my time doing non-sensical things like playing bullet!"

All Games

The 2020 Speed Chess Championship Main Event is a knockout tournament among 16 of the best grandmasters in the world who will play for a $100,000 prize fund, double the amount of last year. The tournament will run November 1-December 13, 2020 on Each individual match will feature 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.

2020 Speed Chess Championship Fantasy
The current leaderboard for SCC Fantasy.

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