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.

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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.

Games

 

Live transmission with commentary at chess.com

Commentary: IM Daniel Rensch and GM Robert Hess

Links

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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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