Only yesterday did the World Cup of chess finally come to an end, concluding the 26-day-long event and crowning Levon Aronian as the winner over runner-up Ding Liren in tiebreaks. The much-anticipated tiebreak section for the final match was perhaps cut shorter than what many had wished for, but it still offered enough fireworks to go around. Last week, we examined how the shorter time controls in the tiebreaks could affect matches for both the higher rated and lower rated players, so we will also investigate how that could have played a role in what went down.
Let’s take a look at both tiebreak games from yesterday.
In this game, we saw Aronian try for a kingside attack that just ended up working. From the get-go, there was no guarantee that anything substantial would have been done and it wasn’t even clear if the attack was the right way to go for White. However, with a few inaccuracies (such as 17. … g5) along the way, Aronian was able to force his way through with 19. Ng6 and a rook joining in at the end. Overall, it was a very forcing game that truly proved that Aronian was a player deserving to win the World Cup. Only one more game stood in his way.
After opting for a relatively unexplored piece setup with 6. Bf4, Ding was able to build up a respectable advantage with the White pieces. White’s real chance came on move 23, when a move like Qd2 or even Qc1 would have left White with a sizeable advantage and the long-lasting initiative. Instead, Ding missed the move and soon dug himself into a hole to the point where he was no longer able to create winning chances from his position and eventually lost.
In what was a fairly short tiebreak for the World Cup final match, Aronian showed incredible resilience and an ability to pounce when the position called for it. A few perfectly-timed attacks and counterattacks were all it took for Aronian to turn the tide of the games in his favor. In addition, the faster time controls seemed to not faze Aronian at all, but it may have made Ding uncomfortable, especially in the moments when it mattered. Aronian’s win at the World Cup marks his third classical supertournament victory of 2017, the previous two being the Grenke Chess Classic in April and Norway Chess in June. He also won the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz in August. In general, this year has been very eventful for Aronian fans, who have seen their star player cross the 2800 rating threshold and become the 2nd highest rated player on the planet as of now. And still, it is only September!
In other news, the Isle of Man International open tournament is currently taking place, and it started on the 23rd of September. A simple crosscheck of dates would reveal that this tournament started before the final match of the World Cup would have ended. Thus, neither Aronian nor Ding are playing in the IoM International. Ironically, however, I doubt that any of the top players there, including Carlsen, Caruana, Nakamura, and Anand, are glad that they are there since they would probably have wanted to still be in the World Cup circuit…but who knows?! After 5 rounds, Carlsen is unsurprisingly in the lead with 4.5/5 alongside Pavel Eljanov, who has played very well so far. Those two will play in round 6. Right behind them are the many players at 4/5, including American GMs Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Alexander Lenderman, who I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with on numerous occasions in local tournaments that I have played in.
A few upcoming tournaments to take note of are a few European-specific events, including the European Club Cup and the European Team Championship, both of which will take place in October. The FIDE Grand Prix series concludes with the 4th and final event in November, which will also punch a ticket for another participant in the Candidates Tournament taking place in March of 2018.
Next time, I plan on showing an instructive game I played recently that may be of interest to players who get frustrated by robot-like opening systems. Good luck in your future games, and, as always, thanks for reading!