Aronian Leads WR Masters at Halfway Mark

American GM Levon Aronian leads with 4/5 just after the halfway point of the WR Masters in Dusseldorf, Germany. Compatriot GM Wesley So and Indian GM Gukesh both trail Aronian by two games with 3/5.




This strong event boasts four of the world’s current top ten among the ten-player Round Robin, including World Championship challenger and current world number two GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. So and Dutch GM Anish Giri are sixth and fifth, respectively, but who is the fourth member of the world top ten?


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This is Aronian's serious face (courtesy WR Chess)


Yes, with his third win of the event (over Giri, no less), Aronian has reentered the top ten after a brief drop-off towards the end of last year.


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GM Wesley So's "serious face" is a bit more traditional (courtesy WR Chess)


The Americans both got off to a fast start in the first round. Aronian took a modern approach to the opening, eschewing the center in favor of an early g-pawn push against Indian prodigy GM Praggnanandhaa. Experience trumped youth in the resulting rook endgame.



So’s win over Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda took a slightly more historical approach.



From there, Duda did not stand much of a chance in an already hard-to-navigate Pseudo-Catalan.



One potential highlight of the tournament took place when Uzbek GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov busted out a Benko Gambit against Nepomniachtchi. Unfortunately, this game quickly veered into forced draw territory.



The second round saw one of the most instructive attacking games played in a recent top-level tournament. Russian GM Andrey Esipenko walked into a notorious “Greek Gift” sacrifice, which Abdusattorov pounced on. The resulting position, though, required precise calculation.




Could this be the Abdusattorov Show, pt. 2? The Uzbek upstart again showed serious chutzpah in his opening choice with Black, meeting Aronian’s king’s pawn with a Sicilian Dragon. This time, however, his experienced opponent did not back down from the fight. Quickly, it became apparent that Aronian had a better understanding of the resulting queenless middlegame.



Headed into the rest day, Aronian enjoyed a one-game lead over So. But Esipenko was just warming up, winning the organized table tennis tournament ahead of some legendary guests.


Esipenko ping pong
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Esipenko (center) takes his rest days very seriously (courtesy WR Chess)


ping pong
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GM Boris Gelfand (L) could not be bothered to play the event, but never misses a chance to play table tennis (courtesy WR Chess)


Back to the chess, the key game of the fifth round came with Aronian defeating Giri from a truly rich rook endgame.


Aronian Giri


The two players were seen walking through variations for some time after the game, and you can see why for yourself here.


Play continues today and can be followed live on Lichess. The tournament concludes Saturday, February 26.

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