Levitov Chess Week: Aronian takes the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/23/2023 – An exciting first day of action saw Levon Aronian grabbing the lead at the Levitov Chess Week rapid tournament in Amsterdam. Aronian collected three wins and two draws to end the day as the only player with a 4/5 score. Vishy Anand, who obtained a good-looking victory over an out-of-form Wesley So, stands in sole second place, a half point behind the leader. | Photo: Levitov Chess webcast

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A beautiful setup

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Amsterdam consists of six 17th century canal palaces. With elegant, bright and uniquely decorated guest rooms, lofts and suites, the hotel offers views of the canal and the courtyard garden. And this is where the second edition of the Levitov Chess Week tournament is taking place.

Ilya Levitov, the man behind this event, organized the first edition on his 40th birthday, four years ago. A former Managing Director of the Russian Chess Federation, he endorsed the importance of creating more rapid and blitz tournaments while in office. By organizing an event with a 10-minute time control in such an elegant venue, he combines the glamour associated with 20th-century classical chess and the excitement of quick-paced chess action.

In an interview conducted by Yury Vasiliev in 2011, and translated by Colin McGourty for his excellent Chess in Translation webpage, Levitov had this to say about the need to promote more rapid-chess events:

I agree that given the contemporary rhythm of life you need to think quicker. No matter how much of a genius a director is, it’s impossible to film a thriller that the spectator will watch with interest for seven hours in a row.

No-one’s planning to get rid of or replace classical chess. For me, classical chess is opera. It’s not something I love, but there are connoisseurs who really do like it. Men turn up in suits, and women in evening dresses. But let’s not forget about rock concerts when people arrive in ripped jeans, but fill up entire stadiums!

Now that he decided to organize a tournament privately, he did not do without the suits and evening dresses, but also opted for a “quick rapid” (or slow blitz?) time control. A welcome change from the at times dizzying string of online events.

Levitov Chess Week 2023

The playing hall | Photo: Levitov Chess webcast

Aronian’s creativity, Anand’s brilliancy

After five rounds, Levon Aronian is the sole leader of the event, with 4 points to his name. Standing in sole second place is Vishy Anand, with 3½ points. Daniil Dubov and Peter Svidler are the two remaining players with plus-scores, as they share third place with 3 points each.

Aronian beat an out-of-form Wesley So in the first round and also scored victories over Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Grischuk, both with black. His creative style worked wonders on the first day of action, as he outplayed his opponents from imbalanced positions to end the day atop the standings.

In round 2, for example, he got to trap Nepo’s queen on the kingside.

30.f4 was a blunder in a double-edged yet close-to-equal position. Aronian quickly replied 30...Rg8 31.Qh7 Rh8 32.Qf5 Be6 33.Qg6 Rbg8

A nice find — there is no escape for the queen!

Levitov Chess Week 2023

Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian | Photo: Levitov Chess webcast

The most attractive game of the day, however, was Anand’s 24-move victory over So in the third round. Anand’s kingside attack featured a great-looking queen sacrifice.

23.Qxd6+ does not blunder 23...Rxd6, since 24.gxh7+ is a killer double-check (e.g. 24...Kh8 25.Rg8#). So played 23...Kf8 and resigned after 24.gxh7. Beautiful!

IM Robert Ris analysed the remarkable game on his growing YouTube channel.

Standings after round 5

All games


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.