Aronian all caught up in Gibraltar

by Macauley Peterson
2/1/2018 – Or, what Wijk-watchers have been missing. We take a look at the tournament of Levon Aronian who executed a "Swiss-gambit" of sorts, but finally is back in contention for first place. After lurking on the lower boards, Aronian is ready to pounce, and fans are treated to the hotly anticipated last round pairing Aronian vs. Nakamura, which could well decided the tournament. | Photo: Sophie Triay

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The top player on the Rock

Gibraltar has unfortunately been in the shadow of Tata Steel Chess the past few years since their schedules have clashed heavily, but for those coming late to the tournament, there's a wealth of content and highlights available on the official site, and we've brought some highlights of the action so far below, while the last round is underway, focusing on the path of top seed Levon Aronian.

James Humphreys makes the first move for Gara-Aronian

James Humphreys makes the first move for Gara-Aronian | Photo: Sophie Triay

Surprises at the start

For Aronian the tournament has been anything but smooth. His first round draw with Anita Gara was one of the surprises in the early going.


An elated Anita Gara after her mini-upset in round 1 | Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival YouTube

Aronian spent round two on a non-electronic board for the first time in quite a while, which he observed took the pressure off a little, knowing that no one was watching live. In the third round, however, he was back on a live board and out-calculated a fearless WGM Sarah Hoolt, but in rounds four and five he managed only half a point against Sergey Grigoriants and Alexander Huzman. A victory against Shardul Gagare got Aronian up to 4½ points and in 17th place. Replay all four games below


Click or tap a game in the list to switch games

Aronian talks about his first few rounds and how he decided to play Gibraltar this year

After this slow start, Aronian has been in form, beating Nigel Short in round seven, and S.P. Sethuraman in round nine. With that last crucial win he finally pulled equal to the leaders, and faces Hikaru Nakamura with white on board one, in a highly anticipated final round pairing.


The Catalan: A complete repertoire for White!

The Catalan is one of the most solid openings for White. It forms part of the large and strong fianchetto family in which White builds his strategy mainly around the bishop on g2. Grandmaster Victor Bologan covers all of Black’s replies to the Catalan, some of which can even transpose to other openings such as the Tarrasch System and the Queen’s Indian. Suffice it to say that the Catalan rules!

Aronian: "I had the squares and I had the bishops...I was not worried."

Five players are tied on 7 points, there's a good chance for a blitz playoff, and if the top three boards end drawn it could be a real mess, as there are a dozen players with 6½ who could catch up creating a massive tie.

Watch round 10 live


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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