Speed Chess Championship, last 16: Aronian wins against Nepomniachtchi

by Johannes Fischer
11/12/2020 – The second wave of the Corona pandemic prevents top players again from playing live tournaments, but they still play online. For example, in the Speed Chess Championship 2020, a knock-out blitz tournament in which 16 of the world's best players in the world fight on chess.com for a $100,000 prize fund. In the fifth match of the first round, Levon Aronian won 14-11 against Ian Nepomniachtchi. The match was not without mistakes, but exciting and entertaining. | Picture: chess.com

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The Speed Chess Championship 2020

The 2020 Speed Chess Championship is a knockout blitz tournament that runs from November 1 to December 13, 2020 on Chess.com. Each individual match will feature 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz, and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess. The player who has the most points in the end wins the match. In the event of a tie, a tiebreak with four additional bullet games will follow.

The match between Levon Aronian and Ian Nepomniachtchi was the fifth of the series. In the four previous matches Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won against Nihal Sarin, Magnus Carlsen defeated Parham Maghsoodloo, Wesley So against Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Vladimir Fedoseev came to a narrow and somewhat surprising win against Alireza Firouzja.

In his classical games Nepomniachtchi again and again surprises with the speed of his play, and it is hardly a surprise that he is considered to be one of the world's best blitz- and rapid players. And though Aronian is also known as a phantastic blitz- and rapid player, Nepomnichachtchi was seen as a slight favourite before the match.

But Aronian surprised the sceptics: he started with a draw and a loss, but then scored 3½/4 and took a two-point lead. For the remainder of the match Nepomniachtchi tried hard to equalize the score but Aronian always managed to defend his lead. However, the match remained exciting until the very last game.

Ten minutes before the end of the match Aronian was leading by three points but then started to falter. He lost the next two bullet games and suddenly Nepomniachtchi had chances to tie the match and to reach a tiebreak. But then Aronian recovered and won the last game of the match to secure a 14-11 victory.

Levon Aronian | Photo: Lennart Ootes (Archive)

These blitz matches are first of all about excitement and entertainment – after all, the time limit is just too short to play precise and accurate chess.

This match was no exception. Aronian and Nepomniachtchi both played a number of fine and entertaining games but also made a number of almost unbelievable blunders.

In game two, at the beginning of the match, Nepomniachtchi came up with an interesting novelty in the Najdorf that resulted in a fine attacking win.


Aronian also impressed with a number of fine tactics, e.g. in game 12:


Critics of such matches like to point out the low quality of games with a shortened time control. The following game will confirm their doubts.


All games of the match


But errors or not – a lot of chess fans simply like to watch top players playing blitz. They can do so live until December 13 on chess.com or enjoy the recorded matches on YouTube.

Speed Chess Championship, last 16, Levon Aronian vs Ian Nepomniachtchi

The previous matches

Magnus Carlsen vs Parham Maghsoodloo

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Nihal Sarin

Alireza Firouzja vs Vladimir Fedoseev

Wesley So vs Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Official site

Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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