Aronian Proves Uncatchable at the STL Rapid & Blitz

"There are not enough wins to give as a present to the person I love." -STL Rapid & Blitz Champion Levon Aronian, who is looking forward to his upcoming marriage. Photo: Lennart Ootes
Levon Aronian clinched clear 1st in the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz with a dominating 24.5 score, 3 points ahead of his closest competitors. Aronian was able to maintain his 1st place lead from the rapid segment throughout the entire event, gradually increasing the distance between him and the rest of the field. He sealed victory with 2 rounds to spare.
Sergey Karjakin played brilliantly during the blitz segment, but it wasn't enough to catch Aronian's consistently strong play throughout the event. Photo: Lennart Ootes
Along with Aronian’s overall victory, another key story of the blitz segment was Sergey Karjakin’s impressive comeback. He began the blitz tied for 6th-7th place overall because of a lackluster rapid performance. During the blitz day 1, the reigning World Blitz Champion obtained a monster score of 8 points out 9 games. He finished with the highest blitz score and a tie for 2nd overall with Hikaru Nakamura. In addition, he gained 81.6 FIDE blitz rating points from the event, pulling him from 7th to the clear #2 in the world, behind only Carlsen.
The World Blitz Rankings after the STL Rapid & Blitz. Source: 2700chess.com

Here are a few of the tactical highlights from the action-packed blitz segment of the STL Rapid & Blitz.

Tactic #1

Le Quang Liem vs. Levon Aronian

How did Aronian start a deadly kingside attack in this seemingly calm and blocked position?

Black to move.
Level: Intermediate
Show Solution
[pgn]

[Event "St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (Blitz)"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2017.08.17"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Le Quang Liem"]
[Black "Levon Aronian"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A56"]
[WhiteElo "2739"]
[BlackElo "2799"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3b3k/3b4/r2p1qp1/pNpPp1np/PrP1Pp2/5P1P/1R2B1PN/1R1Q2K1 b - - 0 33"]
[PlyCount "9"]
[EventDate "2017.08.13"]

33... Bxh3 34. gxh3 Nxh3+ 35. Kg2 (35. Kf1 Qg5 36. Ke1 Qg3+ 37. Kd2 Qxh2) 35...
Qg5+ 36. Ng4 {White has to return the piece.} (36. Kh1 Nf2#) (36. Kf1 Qg1#)
36... hxg4 37. fxg4 Qh4 {and Aronian went on to win. See the finish of the
game in the solution to tactic #4.} *[/pgn]
Garry Kasparov on the final day of the STL Blitz & Rapid: "I was reminded in my game against Leinier that it could be my last Najdorf." Photo: Eric Rosen

Tactic #2

Fabiano Caruana vs. Garry Kasparov

Although Kasparov had a difficult start in the blitz tournament, he made a comeback in the second half, going undefeated for the last 8 rounds and achieving victories against Caruana, Nakamura, and Dominquez Perez. How did Kasparov finish off this game?
Black to move.
Level: Intermediate
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (Blitz)"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2017.08.18"]
[Round "12"]
[White "Fabiano Caruana"]
[Black "Garry Kasparov"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A07"]
[WhiteElo "2807"]
[BlackElo "2812"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "5k2/R7/5P2/1pN2p2/pP5p/6bP/2P3K1/4rn2 b - - 0 61"]
[PlyCount "13"]
[EventDate "2017.08.13"]61... Ne3+ 62. Kf3 Nc4 63. Ra6 Nd2+ 64. Kg2 Re2+ 65. Kh1 Rh2+ {and White
resigned. After} 66. Kg1 Nf3+ 67. Kf1 Rf2# 0-1[/pgn]
https://twitter.com/USChess/status/898626831049302016
Hikaru Nakamura ultimately tied for 2nd place. Photo: Austin Fuller

Tactic #3

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Sergey Karjakin

Going into the 16th round, Karjakin was the only player who could still possibly catch Aronian. Thus, Nakamura's victory against Karjakin sealed Aronian's 1st place victory with 2 rounds to go. It also tied Nakamura for 2nd, which he maintained until the finish. How did Nakamura win this pivotal game?
White to move.
Level: Intermediate
Show Solution
[pgn]

[Event "St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (Blitz)"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2017.08.18"]
[Round "16"]
[White "Hikaru Nakamura"]
[Black "Sergey Karjakin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2792"]
[BlackElo "2773"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4r2k/p2r1np1/1p1P1p1p/2p1P2q/P4R2/3NP1PP/2Q4K/5R2 w - - 0 46"]
[PlyCount "15"]
[EventDate "2017.08.13"]46. Rf5 Ng5 ({If} 46... Qg6 47. Nf4 Qh7 48. e6) 47. h4 {, winning the
knight. The game finished with:} Qg4 48. hxg5 hxg5 49. Nf2 Qh5+ 50. Kg2 Kg8 51.
Qc4+ Qf7 52. Qxf7+ Kxf7 53. Ng4 1-0[/pgn]
Aronian missed out on his chances to win the Sinquefield Cup in the last round, but the STL Rapid & Blitz event gave him a second chance in St. Louis. Photo: Eric Rosen

Tactic #4

Le Quang Liem vs. Levon Aronian

Although Aronian went on to win a nice game, he missed an opportunity to finish his opponent off with an attack. Can you find it?
Black to move.
Level: Advanced
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (Blitz)"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2017.08.17"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Le Quang Liem"]
[Black "Levon Aronian"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A56"]
[WhiteElo "2739"]
[BlackElo "2799"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3b3k/8/r2p2p1/pNpPp3/PrP1PpPq/3Q3n/1R2B1K1/1R6 b - - 0 38"]
[PlyCount "17"]
[EventDate "2017.08.13"]38... Rxb2 $1 {Clearing away a defender of White's 1st rank.} ({In the game,
Aronian continued wtih} 38... f3+ 39. Qxf3 Nf4+ {and gradually converted his
superior position into a win:} 40. Kg1 Kg7 41. Bf1 Bg5 42. Nc7 Ra7 43. Ne6+
Nxe6 44. dxe6 Bf4 45. Qh3 Qxh3 46. Bxh3 Re7 47. g5 Bxg5 48. Kf2 Bd2 49. Ke2 Bc3
50. Rxb4 cxb4 51. Kd3 Bd4 52. Kc2 Re8 53. Rf1 Rf8 54. Rxf8 Kxf8 55. Kb3 Bb6 56.
Kc2 Bd8 57. Kb3 Ke7 58. Bg4 Kf6 59. Bh3 Kg5 60. c5 dxc5 61. Kc4 Kf4 62. Bg2 g5
63. Kxc5 b3 64. Bf1 Ke3 65. Bc4 b2 66. Ba2 g4 67. Kd6 g3 68. Kd7 Bf6) 39. Rxb2
Nf2 $1 40. Qb1 {White must guard the 1st rank} ({If} 40. Qc3 {, Black's idea is} Qh1+ 41. Kxf2 Bh4+) 40... Qg3+
41. Kf1 Bh4 {with a crushing attack. For example,} 42. Bd1 ({If} 42. g5 Nh3 43.
Bg4 Qxg4) 42... Nh3 43. Na3 (43. Bb3 f3 44. g5 Qg1#) (43. Qc2 Qg1+ 44. Ke2 Qe1+
45. Kf3 Qf1+ 46. Qf2 Ng1#) 43... Qe1+ 44. Kg2 Qg1+ 45. Kf3 (45. Kxh3 Qg3#)
45... Qf1+ 46. Rf2 Qxf2# 0-1[/pgn]
For more information on the STL Rapid & Blitz and the Grand Chess Tour, visit the Official Website. Also, check out the US Chess Twitter page for highlights from IM Eric Rosen's Twitter Takeover during the final day.

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] Next up for Levon is his wedding to WIM Arriane Caoili, recalling Levon’s romantic words during the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz, which he also won. […]

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