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On Chess: Levon Aronian Wins In Romania, Grand Chess Tour Heads To India For Last Leg

Grandmaster Levon Aronian of Armenia won the 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Tournament in November.
Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess Tour
Grandmaster Levon Aronian of Armenia won the 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Tournament.

The 2019 Grand Chess Tour is nearing its end, with the conclusion of its seventh leg, the Superbet Rapid & Blitz, held Nov. 6-10 in Bucharest, Romania.

After five days of electrifying rapid and blitz chess followed by a playoff, grandmaster Levon Aronian emerged as the winner, collecting 11 tour points and $31,250. 

With one more event to go, the Armenian star is in fourth place in the overall tour standings, putting himself in an optimal position to qualify for the London finals. This marks his second win of the 2019 tour.

The inaugural event took place at the luxurious Stejarii Country Club in Bucharest, featuring seven of the tour players and three wild cards.

The tournament was a contentious affair and had several leaders throughout the event. The most interesting part of the event was the performance of the wild cards, who definitely showed their mettle.

At the conclusion of the rapid portion, Anton Korobov of Ukraine was leading the tournament. Although he is not well known among the chess elite, he is the third-highest-rated rapid player in the world. During the first day of blitz, another wild card and former world blitz champion Liem Li of Vietnam shone with a performance of seven points out of nine games. On the final day, the third wild card and the youngest participant of the event, Vladislav Artemiev of Russia, made waves with his performance of  seven-and-a-half out of nine. While all three finished in the middle of the pack, they made the tournament rich and intriguing with their energetic play.

As the wild cards started to have more uneven results, they made room for Aronian and Sergey Karjakin of Russia to climb to the top of the leaderboard. The two were neck and neck until the very end, when they finished the tournament tied for first. The winner was decided in a two-game tiebreak.

GM Sergey Karjakin and GM Levon Aronian prepare to play in the Grand Chess Tour 2019. (November)
Credit Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess Tour
GM Sergey Karjakin and GM Levon Aronian prepare to play in the Grand Chess Tour 2019.

After drawing the first game, Aronian clinched the title with a 29-move win in the second game. While the players split the prize money and the GCT points, Aronian took home the trophy and the title. The third-place finisher was former world champion and Indian phenom Vishy Anand.

Next, the tour will move on to its final leg in Kolkata, India, for the GCT Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz. It will feature star players such as:

  • Current world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway
  • Former world champion and hero of India, Viswanathan Anand
  • The reigning GCT champion Hikaru Nakamura of the U.S.
  • Third-highest-rated player in the world Ding Liren of China
  • Aronian, fresh off his Bucharest win

The tournament will include tour regulars:

  • Anish Giri of the Netherlands
  • Wesley So of the Philippines
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia

The two wild cards are local stars Pentala Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi.
The tournament promises to be a nailbiter, as the final two spots for the London finals — and its $325,000 in prizes — are on the line. Carlsen and Ding are in first and second place, respectively, in the overall standings, guaranteeing their spots to the final. Barring a catastrophe, Aronian has his spot in London locked up as well, while Anand, Nepomniachtchi and So are in a must-win situation.

Due to overwhelming local interest, a new venue has been secured that will accommodate 500 spectators. The GCT Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz event will take place Nov. 22-26 at the National Library in Kolkata.

Rounds begin each day at 2:30 a.m. CST. In addition to the online English commentary team of Jennifer Shahade, Peter Svidler, Maurice Ashley and Tania Sachdev reporting from the site, the online Russian commentary will be provided by Evgenij Miroshnichenko and Almira Skripchenko.

All commentary will be viewable at grandchesstour.org and on the St. Louis Chess Club’s YouTube channel. You can watch the show live at the St. Louis Chess Club, which will be open for 24 hours during the Membership Appreciation Marathon in conjunction with the tournament.

Tatev Abrahamyan is a woman grandmaster. She started playing chess when she was 8 years old and has played in four Olympiads and two World Team Championships. She is considered one of the top players in U.S. Women’s Chess. She is also a member of the St. Louis Chess Club, a partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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