Superbet: Aronian scores, shares the lead with So

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/11/2022 – Levon Aronian grabbed a 25-move win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to catch Wesley So in the lead of the Superbet Chess Classic. Aronian and So have a full-point lead over a 4-player chasing pack with three rounds to go at the inaugural event of this year’s Grand Chess Tour. In the other decisive game of round 6, Leinier Dominguez defeated local rising star Bogdan-Daniel Deac. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A full point ahead of the field

About two weeks ago, it was announced that, starting next year, the Grand Chess Tour will become part of the World Championship cycle, with the two top finishers of the next two series getting spots in the respective Candidates Tournament. Six editions of the tour have taken place since 2015, with almost every elite player participating in at least one of them. First-class organization both online and at the playing venues certainly justify FIDE’s decision.

This year, the tour kicked off in Bucharest, with one of two classical tournaments taking place at the Sheraton Hotel in Romania’s capital. 

Wesley So grabbed the sole lead in round 4 and kept it until Levon Aronian caught up with him in Wednesday’s sixth round. Aronian defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the black pieces out of a theoretical line in the Ragozin Defence.

 

Only here did MVL deviate from theory, as he played 16.Rc7 instead of 16.Rhd1, a move seen in a correspondence game back in 2018. White is a pawn down, but Black has not developed his light-squared bishop and has a fragmented pawn structure on the kingside.

There followed 16...Rd8 17.Ke3 Nb6 18.Nb3 f5 19.Bd3 Rb8 20.f4

 

MVL had spent over 20 minutes on his 18th move, and over 10 minutes on his f2-f4 pawn push. As Aronian’s response proved, there was plenty of reason to mull over those decisions — the US grandmaster found the critical 20...e5 to make the most of the white king’s vulnerability in the centre of the board.

It turned out that MVL’s move was overly ambitious, as the more cautious 20.f3 was called for in the position. After 21.fxe5 Black has 21...f4+

 

White has nothing better than 22.Kd2, leaving his bishop pinned on d3 (22.Ke2 Bg4+ 23.Kd2 is a worse alternative).

The Frenchman was in trouble, but by no means lost. Three moves later, however, he blundered decisively — after 22...Be6 23.Kc3 Rbc8 24.Rxc8 Rxc8+, MVL faltered with 25.Kd4, when the retreating 25.Kd2 was necessary.

 

25...Na4 is a good-looking final move. The threat is ...Rd8, as the king’s escape squares are covered by the knight, the bishop and the pawn on f4! Vachier-Lagrave resigned.

 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian

It was a somewhat short day at the office for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In the other decisive game of round 6, Leinier Dominguez got his first full point of the event as he got the better of former co-leader Bogdan-Daniel Deac with the white pieces.

The ever-ambitious Deac did not shy away from entering a sharp variation of the Najdorf Defence against one of the most principled players in the circuit. A double-edged struggle ensued, with both players getting in deep time trouble.

Chances were missed by both sides, but it was Dominguez who had the upper hand in the final stage of the game.

 

White has two bishops for a rook and a pawn, and Deac’s 59...Qc6 allowed his experienced opponent to all but force a queen swap which left him in a superior ending: 60.Kb3 Rc8 61.Qe6

 

White’s three-piece army is now fully coordinated. Black cannot continue giving checks indefinitely — e.g. 61...Qf3+ 62.Qe3 Qd1+ 63.Kxb4 Qd6+ 64.Bc5 and White wins.

Deac found nothing better than 61...Qxe6, but after 62.Bxe6 Rd8 63.Kxb4 the youngster’s defensive chances have fully dissipated. Resignation came soon after, leaving both players with a fifty-percent score going into the last three rounds of the event.

 

Leinier Dominguez

Leinier Dominguez | Photo: Bryan Adams

Round 6 results

 

Standings after round 6

 

All games

 

Links


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.
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