Speed Chess Championship, Quarterfinals: 'MVL' wins against Levon Aronian

by Johannes Fischer
12/3/2020 – In the second match of the quarterfinals of the Speed Chess Championship 2020 on chess.com, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave narrowly won 14.5-12.5 against Levon Aronian. Despite some errors, the level of the match was high and the match itself was close until the very end.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Levon Aronian, 14.5-12.5

The Speed Chess Championship 2020 consists of matches with three differenz time controls in blitz. The players play 90 minutes with a time-limit 5+1, 60 minutes with a time-limit of 3+1, and 30 minutes bullet chess with a time-limit of 1+1. For each win – no matter whether it is 5+1 blitz or bullet – the players get 1 point, a draw gives half a point.

With an Elo-rating of 2784 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is currently number 5 the world, three points ahead of Levon Aronian, who is currently the world's number 6 with a rating of 2781.

The blitz match between the two was also balanced. In the 5+1 games, Vachier-Lagrave secured a slight lead with 4.5-3.5, which Aronian was able to make up for with a 5.5:4.5 victory in the 3+1 mini-match.

But in the bullet games "MVL" had more luck. He won the first two games of the mini-match and defended this lead until the end of the match.

In the semi-finals Vachier-Lagrave meets the winner of the match between Magnus Carlsen and Vladislav Artemiev.

All in all, the level of the match was high, though the time-control led to some curious mistakes and blunders, e.g. in the very first game of the match.


In this position Aronian played 29...Ne8, and now Vachier-Lagrave, who had only seconds remaining on the clock, did not hesitate and played 30.Rc7?? to attack Black's weak pawn on c6. But Aronian, who also had only a few seconds left, did not take White's rook on c7 but played 30...Nf8??, which led to an endgame in which he had to fight for a while until the players agreed to a draw.

But all in all both players were tactically alert in most of the games and surprised again and again with interesting ideas.

The following position occurred in game six:


White is winning but Vachier-Lagrave tried a last trick and played 44...Rxf3!?. White cannot take the rook but Aronian kept his calm and won after 45.b5 axb5 46.cxb5 Be8 47.Qd5+ Rf7 48.Re4 1–0

Vachier-Lagrave also showed tactical ingenuity and cool nerves, particularly in the bullet games.


The decisive bullet game also showed that it is often better in games with shortened time-control to risk a dubious attack than to try to find the objectively "best" moves.


White had failed to get any advantage in the opening and gradually got under pressure. To get counterplay, Vachier-Lagrave had decided to sacrifice a pawn. A successful strategy.

In this position Black played 34...Rd8? After 34...Qf7 White still has to prove that he has enough compensation for the pawn. But after the text-move White immediately won with 35.Nxf6+. Aronian played 35...Kf7 (after 35...Kh8 White mates with 36.Qh7#), but resigned after 36.Nxd5. 1-0

This was the 25th game of the match, and after this win "MVL" led with 13.5-11.5 and practically decided the match in his favour.



Live transmission with commentary at chess.com

Commentary: IM Daniel Rensch and GM Robert Hess



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".


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register