Aronian Wins GCT Superbet Rapid & Blitz on Tiebreaks

Levon Aronian is the winner of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour Superbet Rapid and Blitz (Bucharest, Romania; November 6-10), taking the title after a playoff victory over Sergey Karjakin. Aronian and Karjakin shared first place with just 20 out of a possible 36 points, evidence of a competitive and hard-fought event.

courtesy STLCC

Wild card entrant Anton Korobov led the tournament with 12/18 after the three days of rapid play, followed by Aronian, Anish Giri, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, all at 10/18. But Korobov faltered in the blitz component, scoring just 6/18 in the blitz to prop up the table alongside Fabiano Caruana.

courtesy STLCC

Two of the three  World Blitz Champions in the field – Karjakin (2016) and Le Quang Liem (2013) – were top scorers in the blitz at 11/18. (Aronian also won the title in 2010.) As is typical for such fast time controls, there were blunders and oversights aplenty, with perhaps the most striking being Fabiano Caruana’s in his Round 12 loss to Wesley So. If only he had heeded the sage advice of Ben Finegold:

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[pgn] [Event "Superbet Blitz 2019"] [Site "Bucharest ROU"] [Date "2019.11.10"] [Round "12.1"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2760"] [BlackElo "2822"] [PlyCount "35"] [EventDate "2019.11.09"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 c5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb1 Nc6 9. h4 b6 10. Bb5 Qc7 11. h5 h6 12. Rh3 Bd7 13. Rg3 f6 14. Rxg7+ Kxg7 15. Qg6+ Kh8 16. Qxh6+ Kg8 17. Qg6+ Kh8 18. Bd3 1-0 [/pgn]

Faster time controls do not play to Caruana’s strengths, and he finished in last place in Bucharest with 14 points. Just above him was So, who tied for eighth place with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, each scoring 16.5 points overall.

Blitz need not devolve to “who makes the last mistake,” however. Some of the blitz games in Bucharest were played sublimely, such as this matchup between Aronian and Le, also from Round 12. Aronian’s technique is impeccable, and his conversion of the full point in the rook ending deserves study.

[pgn] [Event "Superbet Blitz 2019"] [Site "Bucharest ROU"] [Date "2019.11.10"] [Round "12.3"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Le, Quang Liem"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A36"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2713"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "2019.11.09"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 e6 6. h4 h6 7. h5 g5 8. f4 d6 9. Bxc6+ bxc6 10. Nf3 g4 11. Nd2 f5 12. Qa4 Ne7 13. Nb3 O-O 14. Bd2 Bd7 15. Qa5 Qb8 16. O-O-O Kh7 17. e4 e5 18. Rhf1 fxe4 19. Nxe4 Nf5 20. fxe5 Bxe5 21. Bf4 Qe8 22. Rde1 Bxf4+ 23. Rxf4 Qd8 24. Qc3 Rf7 25. d4 cxd4 26. Nxd4 Qh8 27. Nxf5 Qxc3+ 28. bxc3 Rxf5 29. Nf6+ Kg7 30. Nxd7 Rxf4 31. gxf4 Kf7 32. c5 Rd8 33. Rg1 Rxd7 34. Rxg4 dxc5 35. Rg6 Rd3 36. Kb2 Rd2+ 37. Ka3 Rd3 38. Kb3 Rf3 39. Rxh6 c4+ 40. Kxc4 Rxf4+ 41. Kc5 Ra4 42. Rxc6 Rxa2 43. c4 a5 44. Ra6 Ke7 45. h6 Rh2 46. h7 Rh5+ 47. Kb6 Kd6 48. c5+ Kd5 49. c6 Kd6 50. Rxa5 Rxh7 51. Ra1 Rh2 52. Rd1+ Ke7 53. c7 Rb2+ 54. Kc6 Rc2+ 55. Kb7 Rb2+ 56. Kc8 Rb4 57. Re1+ Kf7 58. Kd7 Rd4+ 59. Kc6 Rc4+ 60. Kd6 Rc2 61. Re5 Rd2+ 62. Rd5 1-0 [/pgn]
photo Lennart Ootes

Aronian’s key win over Karjakin in the second tiebreak game is also worth attention, both for its importance in the standings and for the moves themselves.

[pgn] [Event "Superbet TB 2019"] [Site "Bucharest ROU"] [Date "2019.11.10"] [Round "2"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C53"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2754"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2019.11.10"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d5 7. Bb5 Ne4 8. cxd4 Bb6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Be3 Bg4 11. h3 Bh5 12. Qc2 Nxc3 13. bxc3 f6 14. exf6 Qxf6 15. Be2 Rae8 16. O-O h6 17. Rae1 Qd6 18. Bc1 Ba5 19. Qd2 Re4 20. Bd1 Bxf3 21. Bxf3 Rxd4 22. Qc2 Rc4 23. Ba3 Bb4 24. Qd3 Rxf3 25. Qxf3 Bxa3 26. Re8+ Kh7 27. Qf5+ 1-0 [/pgn]
The final “regular season” stop on the Grand Chess Tour is at Kolkata, India, later this month. Ten players – Carlsen, Nakamura, Ding Liren, Aronian, So, Nepomniachtchi, Giri, Anand, Vidit, and Harikrishna – will compete in both rapid and blitz from November 22-26. The four top overall point winners on the 2019 Tour will then meet in early December at the London Chess Classic to determine an overall tour winner. Current standings (with one event to be played) are as follows:
courtesy STLCC