CBM #206 Special: Levon Aronian

by ChessBase
3/4/2022 – Levon Aronian, is the "hero" of ChessBase Magazine #206. In the new issue, our authors - David Navara, Adhiban Baskaran and Romain Edouard among others - comment on their favourite games of the top player. This has resulted in a collection of 19 special encounters from 1994 (U12 World Championship!) to 2021. In addition, Mihail Marin's contribution is entitled "Levon Aronian's strategic universe" and Karsten Mueller presents a selection of the Armenian's best endgames. You can watch the video from Mueller's endgame contribution as well as Adrien Demuth's analysis of the game Aronian-Ponomariov (Lausanne 2001) here - enjoy!

ChessBase Magazine 206 ChessBase Magazine 206

Tata Steel 2022: Duda, Giri, Erigaisi, Grandelius, Mamedyarov, Nielsen, Pragg and Shankland comment + videos by Rogozenco. "Special" on Levon Aronian. Opening videos by Werle, King and Marin. Plus 11 opening articles with new ideas for your repertoire!


CBM #206 Special: Levon Aronian

"Endgames of Levon Aronian" – video introduction to the article by Karsten Mueller

Hamburg endgame expert Dr Karsten Mueller provides comprehensive training material with numerous analyses, training exercises and videos in CBM #206. In addition to the article on Aronian, you'll also find an article on the "Endgame highlights from the 2021 World Championship match" in the current issue. 

"My favourite Aronian game"

Adrien Demuth comments on Levon Aronian - Ruslan Ponomariov (Lausanne YM 3rd, 27.05.2001)

Aronian is the underdog in that game. When facing the young talent Ponomariov (which was 18 at the time, and will be FIDE World Champion the next year), Aronian has a huge challenge. He is one year older, and less strong, he needs to show his potential!

1.Nf3 g6 Both players are already showing their intention to win the game, playing less usual openings.

2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 Nf6 4.g3 Finally, they transpose into something more usual, the Fianchetto Variation against the King's Indian.

4...0–0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0–0 Nc6

The Panno Variation. While several plans are playable with this move, Black is going to choose the usual one.

6...Nbd7 7.Nc3 e5 This is somehow more usual for Black, but I would also say that's less active.

7.Nc3 a6 Black is intending to continue with moves like ...Rb8, possibly ....Bd7, and ...b5 in the end to counter-attack on the queenside.

7...e5 Recently this move as been getting some adepts. 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 Be6 10.Qa4 I feel White should keep the upper-hand in this line. He has an obvious play on the d-file, and can easily use the d5–square.

8.d5 This has always been the main line. White chases the knight and takes some space in the center.

8.h3 Rb8 9.e4 b5 10.e5 Nd7 11.e6 fxe6 12.d5 Na5 13.Nd4 Ne5 This type of concrete lines used to be played in the past. But it seems that direct play works out fine for Black in the end.

8...Na5 The right square for the knight. It attacks the c4–pawn, and one of the challenges in the middlegame is to keep it out of play with White.

9.Nd2 Playing 9.b3 was hardly possible due to the weakening of the long dark-squared diagonal, but now that b4 is a threat, Black needs to do something. And the reaction is quite obvious.

9...c5! Now that ...c5 has been played, positions look more like a Benoni or a Benko sometimes, if Black manages to play ...b5.


That's a mandatory preparatory move before playing b3.

10.b3? Nxd5 11.cxd5 Bxc3 and Black is slightly better.

10...Rb8 11.b3 11.a4 Trying to prevent ...b4 will prove to be uneffective. 11...Bd7 12.Qc2 b5 13.cxb5 axb5 14.axb5 Bxb5 15.Nxb5 Rxb5 The bishop pair is irrelevant in this position. Black's play on the queenside is way too strong, and the position still is quite closed.

11...b5 12.Bb2 Taking on b5 would only help Black. The best for White is to wait and try to prevent any invasion of the knight on c4.

12...bxc4 13.bxc4 Now, Black sometimes gets the idea of sacrificing the exchange on b2. But of course there is nothing concrete now, and he can't do it immediately

13...Bh6! All this is still well known, and we are still in the main line of the theory. Black threatens to take on d2 and then c4 with the knight, gaining a pawn.

14.Ba1 14.e3? could seem like a natural move, preventing ...Bxd2 and claiming that the bishop is pointless on h6 while there is a bishop on b2. 14...Bf5! But this ressource is too powerful. There is not enough to sacrifice the exchange, and any piece coming to e4 will have trouble 15.e4 Bg4! 16.f3 Be3+ 17.Kh1 Bxd2 18.Qxd2 Nxc4 A nasty intermediate move. 19.Qe2 Nxb2 20.Rxb2 Bd7 Black remains with a clear pawn up, and he solved the problem of his knight on a5.

14...Bf5 Still the main move.

14...Rb4 Engines recently tend to prefer this move, threatening the pawn on c4 15.a3 Rxb1 Having forced the move a2–a3 will give more options to the knight on a5, that's why Black didn't take on b1 immediately. 16.Ncxb1 Necessary to take back on d2 with the knight, to keep the protection over the c4–pawn.

15.Rxb8! 15.e4? Bg4 16.Rxb8 Qxb8 17.f3 Be3+ If Black doesn't include this move, the bishop will be left out of play. (17...Bd7? 18.f4) 18.Kh1 Bd7 The threat of taking on d2 remains unpleasant for White.

15...Qxb8 16.h3 With this move, Aronian probably wants to avoid ...Ng4, but he can actually act quicker . I think he was out of theory now.

16.f4! It's probably the strongest move. 16...Ng4 Active, but it will backfire. (16...Qb4!? 17.e4 Bg4 18.Qa4 Bd7 19.Qxb4 cxb4 Here, in the two games that reached this position, White failed to spot the only move that keeps an edge. 20.Rb1! A beautiful resource. (20.Ne2 That's at least not enough for an advantage. 20...Rc8 21.Rc1 Bg7 22.h3 Ba4 23.Rb1 Nxc4 ½–½ (59) Ornstein,A (2405)-Ernst,T (2445) Malmo 1986) 20...bxc3 21.Bxc3 The knight is trapped and has to sacrifice itself. 21...Nxc4 22.Nxc4 Rc8 Logical but wrong. 23.Bxf6 exf6 24.Nxd6+- And White is winning.) 17.e4! Bd7 (17...Ne3 18.Qa4! That's the point! 18...Nxf1 19.Bxf1+- Black remains with two hanging pieces, and he doesn't have enough.) 18.Qe1 Bg7 19.e5 dxe5 20.h3 Nh6 21.Nce4 Perfect play by White, who attacks the c5–pawn, and we can see that the queen is perfect on e1, looking at the knight on a5:1–0 (37) Kursova,M (2338)-De Seroux,C (2101) Istanbul 2012.

16...Qb4 Black activates the queen and the pawn on c4 is about to fall. Still, White can keep great play.

16...Bxd2!? It's possible to take the pawn immediately, but dangerous as well. 17.Qxd2 Nxc4 18.Qh6 The threat is actually g4–g5 to chase the pieces and open the long diagonal for the bishop. 18...Qb4! 19.g4 Bc2! 20.Rc1 Na3 21.Bf3 Rb8 22.Kg2 The computer's plan is amazing. Black's lacks any move. 22...Rb7 23.Kg3 The king comes to protect the pawn on g4, so that White can continue with h4–h5 and Rh1, while not fearing ...Nxg4. 23...Ne8 24.h4 f6! 25.Qd2 Ba4 26.Be4 White's pressure is great.

17.e4 Bd7 18.Qe2 The threat is Rb1, so White loses a tempo but it forces matters.

18.Ncb1 Bxd2 (18...Nxc4?? 19.Bc3 Qb5 20.a4+- The knight is lost on c4.) 19.a3! Very smart intermediate move. If Black wants to grab the pawn on c4, he needs to do it with the queen, and leave the knight on a5. That's probably the idea Aronian missed. 19...Qxc4 20.Nxd2 Qd3 21.Re1 Nc4 Slow, but also the only way to get rid of the knight. 22.Nxc4 Qxc4 23.e5

18...Bxd2 19.Qxd2 Nxc4 20.Qe2 Rb8 20...Bb5 21.Rb1 Qa5 22.Rb3 Rb8 23.f4


An ambitious move. Now that the king is safe, Rb1 comes as a winning threat.

21.Rb1 was allowed by Black, but both players considered Black was going to hold here, even if he needs to sacrifice the queen. 21...Qxb1+ 22.Nxb1 Rxb1+ 23.Kh2 Rxa1 24.Qxc4 Bb5 25.Qc2 Nd7 Objectively, White has to remain slightly better, and he probably should organize a pawn break on the centre, but it's true that's not obvious he will get real winning chances. The c-pawn might become strong soon.

21...Nb2?? That's a losing move by Black. Hard to say if he missed something in the following line, or if he failed to spot the 21...Bb5 possibility. Aronian will refute this move with high precision.

21...Bb5 The only move to hold, and Black missed it. 22.Rb1 Qa5 23.Qe1 Getting away from any discovery attack on the queen. 23...Nd7 24.f4 f6 25.h4! Position remains highly complicated, with a long-term attack against the king, but there is nothing concrete here for White yet.

22.Bxb2! Qxb2 23.Rb1! Of course, now sacrificing the queen clearly looks lost for Black.

23...Qxc3 23...Qxb1 24.Nxb1 Rxb1 25.e5! Even stronger that to take on a6, which is also fine of course. 25...dxe5 26.Qxe5+- There are too many weaknesses for Black.

24.Rxb8+ Kg7 25.Qb2

If Black can manage to activate his pieces with ...Bb5 and ...Nd7–c5, it would be less clear, but he won't.

25...Qe1 Of course trading queens isn't really an option as the rook would be too strong, and the a-pawn is probably condemn.

26.Rb7 Kh6 The only way to unpin the knight and protect the bishop. But it's clear that the king isn't really safe here.

27.Qc2 g5 28.Rb1 Qa5 29.f4

White has chased the intruding queen, and he follows up with an attack.

29...gxf4 30.gxf4 Nh5 31.Qf2 Bb5 32.Rg1

The rest is too easy for White, he is totally stable, and the black king is defenceless.

32...f6 33.Bf3 Qc3 34.Bxh5 Kxh5 35.Rg4 Mate follows on the next move. Quite an impressive game for young Levon, who felt the potential of the long-term sacrifice of his c4–pawn! 1–0

You can find Adrien Demuth's analysis as well as 18 other brilliant games by Levon Aronian, commented by various CBM authors, in the current ChessBase Magazine!

ChessBase Magazine #206


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