Levon Aronian wins the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz 2017
Levon Aronian is on a roll! After winning the Norway Chess 2017 in a convincing manner, he now dominated the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz and won it with a three-point margin. Garry Kasparov played some scintillating chess on the final day as he scored 6.0/9 and showing the world that he might have retired, but he still could beat the best. Vishy Anand, however, could not make a comeback. He won only one blitz game out of 18 rounds. We have the full report from Saint Louis.
Just behind the entrance hall to the Chess Club and Scholastic Centre of Saint Louis there’s a cool drink bar arena with a huge Television and speakers, where the spectators can sit on the row of chairs and enjoy the Live english commentary by Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley and Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade. Throughout the Blitz part of the event the tournament hall in the first floor got completely packed, and even if you can endure the standing all through and watch the games, it became difficult to get a glimpse of the games.
So, it became natural that the rows of seats near the cool drink bar were completely occupied, as spectators sometimes preferred sitting and watching the commentary and action on television rather than the tournament hall.
Obviously, able to express their reactions openly in such an easy setting, the commentary was enjoyed with laughters, cheers and groans all through as action provided by the Blitz event was unmatchable in terms of twists and turns for spectators. But throughout the last day, there were loud cheers and claps reserved only for two of the participants. And it should not be difficult to guess that, the ultimate winner of the event Levon Aronian got a loud cheer and claps when he entered the arena after the final round got over
And the rest of the claps - atleast twice, as much as I counted - went to Garry Kasparov. The 13th World Champion finally hit form on the last day of the event, as scored 6 points from 9 rounds and tied with Aronian for most points scored on the last day of the event.
And his best effort came in the penultimate round against Dominguez Perez:
Dominguez Perez - Kasparov, position after 8.Bg2:
8...g5!? Watching the game from this point on, observe how Kasparov’s pieces keep on marching forward with purpose, as his position keeps on improving till the advantage becomes overwhelming.
Dominguez Perez - Kasparov, position after 27.Be3:
Dominguez Perez - Kasparov, position after 31.Nce2:
And finally the breakthrough happened here: 31...d5 32.exd5 Bxd5 33.Bg2 Nxg4! and Black went on to win.
And his other best win came against his former ward:
Kasparov - Nakamura, position after 31...Bxd7:
Holding an edge throughout the game, Kasparov won the opposite colour bishop ending by taking a walk across his king through Kd2-e3-d4-c5-b6 and creating a passer on the queenside to score an impressive victory.
In fact, the very first game of the day which he lost to Karjakin, he missed a moment of opportunity:
Karjakin - Kasparov, position after 31.Rf1:
Now, Kasparov erred with 31...Ke7?, whereas 31...e4 might even have won him the game.
But this game looked like a regular course of events for Karjakin, as he had led the tournament at the end of the previous day, and had briskly started the day with 2 wins in the second leg, thus taking his string of victories to 7 in a row!
Dominguez Perez - Karjakin, position after 16.Nc4:
Karjakin uncorked 16...Bxh3! here, and went on to score an impressive win after 17. Bg5 Qe6 18. gxh3 Qxh3 19. Qe2 h6! -+
But it turned out to be a day when no one could maintain consistency, as Karjakin’s loss to Nakamura showed:
Nakamura - Karjakin, position after 44.e5:
Instead of 44...Rxe5 45.Nxe5 Qxe5 46.Qd3 Re7 after which it would be White who should be defending with, Karjakin went astray with 44...Nf7??45. d6 Rd7 46.Rf5 and White went on to win
Nakamura had his best against Caruana, which can be probably be considered as one of the best creations of the entire blitz tournament, as his handling of a particular piece on the board reminded everyone of the great Tigran Petrosian:
Nakamura - Caruana, position after 18...Qxa6:
19.Bxf6! Bxf6 20.e5 and White starts pressing here
Nakamura - Caruana, position after 39...Kh7:
Looking for a plan here, Nakamura continued 40.Kf3!, and took his king all the way upto c2 to protect his pawn, and to start probing his opponent on the kingside.
Nakamura - Caruana, position after 75...Be7:
Once again looking for a plan, he again took his king back to g3 with 76.Kd1 here…
Nakamura - Caruana, position after 79...Kg7:
...and had a change of heart, and took it back to c3 with 80.Kf3 here!
Nakamura - Caruana, position after 90...Kh7:
And finally he found the breakthrough here with 91.Qe8 and White won instantly.
Once again, being a Blitz event, the games had so many tragedies and points of interests:
Anand - Dominguez Perez, position after 45...Qd8:
Anand was probably fatigued by the end of the Sinquefield Cup itself, and didn’t have a good run in the Blitz. In this position where he should be looking at ways to nurse his extra pawn, he blundered with 46.f4?? Qb6 and White is losing.
Nepomniachtchi - Aronian, position after 37...Rb2:
White should be looking at saving the position by fixing Black’s kingside pawns and keeping the black king engaged to defending them. So, 37.g5 intending to exchange a pair of pawns and a further push g5-g6. Here, instead, Nepo went wrong with 38. Kg3 b3 39. g5 hxg5 40. hxg5 Rb1 41. Kf4 Kd7 42. Rb7+ Kc6 and Black went on to win this endgame.
Navara - Aronian, position after 34.Kg3:
Instead of simply waiting for White to show his hand, Black continued 34...h5 35. Kf4 Kf6 36. h4 Ke6 37. Kg5! and White went on to win again.
Standings after day two of blitz:
About the Author:
Saravanan Venkatachalam is an International Master and has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, and has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s. He turned complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second and a trainer to a handful of Indian players. He reports on chess tournaments, occasionally being a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels. Apart from chess, he is also interested in Tamil and English literature, music and photography.
Coverage on Firstpost
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Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz will be extensively covered by Venkatachalam Saravanan who is in USA.