Aronian, Radjabov clash for crown

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2021 - 12:00am

Levon Aronian powered his way into the finals of the Airthings Masters online tournament by defeating world No. 5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France in Friday’s semifinal matchup.

The world No. 6 Armenian did not lose a game and looked in complete control as he dismissed MVL, 3-1, 2-1, in two sets. He now takes on the seventh seed Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan for the championship.

Radjabov, a candidates qualifier and ranked 10th in the world, crushed a smouldering Daniil Dubov of Russia, 3-1, 2-0,  in the other semifinals.

The 24-year-old Dubov, who knocked out world champion Magnus Carlsen in the quarterfinals, wilted with a final berth at stake.

The $200,000 online tournament is the second leg of the $1.5 million online champions chess tour. The third leg will be held Feb. 6-14, 2021.

Finals match up starts today, at 1400 UTC, and can be viewed live with commentaries at various chess websites.

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This game is a fine example of Aronian’s virtuosity in the endgame. In addition, the early part of the struggle is captivating.

2020 Champions Chess Tour

Airthings Masters Knockout

W) L. Aronian (ARM)

B) H. Nakamura (USA)

London System

1. d4       Nf6; 2. Nf3       d5; 3. Bf4       ....

The London System with colors reversed, is a respectable and popular method of opening the game, and recently has become popular among leading GMs.

3....        e6; 4. e3       Bd6; 5. Nbd2     ....

In Aronian vs Nakamura, set one, game two, play went 5. Bb5ch Nbd7 6. c3 0-0 7. Nbd2 Qe7 8. Ne5, with a slight edge foir White, (1-0=38).

5....        c5; 6. Bb5ch    Nc6; 7. Bxc6ch   bxc6; 8. Bxd6     Qxd6; 9. Nb3      cxd4; 10. exd4     Nd7; 11. Qd2     O-O; 12. Qc3     f6; 13. O-O-O    ....

The snag in this kind of opening set up is Black’s dificulty activating his light squared Bishop which is blocked by its own Pawns, hence limiting its scope .The same problem crop up in Queen’s Gambit Decline and French Defense openings.

13....       Ba6

Black attempts to find active squares for his Bishop, but in general, it is difficult to obtain equality with a bad Bishop.

14. Rhe1     Rfe8; 15. Re3      Rac8; 16. Rde1     Kf7?

The start of Black’s trouble. 16....Bc4, preventing White’s next move was necessary.

17. Nc5!      ....

Now White will swap Queens, transitioning into a Knight vs. bad Bishop ending.

17....        Nxc5; 18. Qxc5     Qxc5; 19. dxc5     Ra8

Anticipating White’s 20. Ra3.

20. Nd4      e5; 21. Nf5!      ....

The Knight is heading for d6, making life miserable for Black’s army.

21....        Red8; 22. f4!       ....

A sharp Pawn advance which fixes Black’s center Pawns.

22....        Bc8?

With Black’s passive pieces cut in half and White moving in fast, Nakamura decides its time to quit struggling.

23. Nd6ch    Rxd6

Seems the only way to stay in the game, though Black has a chronic game anyhow.

24. cxd6     e4; 25. c4!       ....

Another fine move which ends Black’s chances for counterplay.

25....        Ke6; 26. c5       Ba6; 27. Ra3      Bb5; 28. b4       Kf5

After 28. f5 29. Rd1, White should win in the long run.

29. Ra5     Bc4; 30. a4       a6

30....d4 may hold for the time being, though White is still winning. Now Aronian’s technique becomes manifest.

31. g4ch     Kxf4; 32. b5      cxb5; 33. c6      Ke5; 34. c7      Ke6; 35. Rxa6    1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to move and win.

White=Kb1, Qf3, Rb3, Rh1, Be3, Pa2, Pb2, Pe5, Pf2

Black=Kg7, Qc4, Rd8, Rf8, Be7, Pa7, Pb7, Pc6, Pe6, Pf7, Pg5

1. Bxg5!    Bxg5; 2. Qf6ch!    Bxf6; 3. Rg3ch    Bg5; 4. Rxg5 mate.

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