Aronian Clinches Knockout: Rapid Chess Championship Week 10

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GM Levon Aronian won week 10 of the 2022 Rapid Chess Championship presented by Coinbase, besting GM Alexander Grischuk in the knockout final. 

GM Hikaru Nakamura won the Swiss tournament and made it to the semifinals along with GM Fabiano Caruana. GMs Jeffery Xiong, Vidit Gujrathi, Dmitry Andreikin, and Jose Martinez made it to the quarterfinals. 

Participating in the event were 38 elite players from the FIDE top-100 list, top-10 women, and top-10 juniors in the world, alongside 10 wildcards. The event will continue next weekend, April 23-24, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific / 18:00 Central Europe.


The Rapid Chess Championship is a weekly tournament held by Chess.com. It is a nine-round Swiss event with a 10+0 time control held every Saturday, followed by a knockout event on Sunday between the top-eight finishers and a 10+2 time control. If players draw, they play another 3+2 game; if drawn, they play a 1+1 game; and if that is drawn, a single armageddon game is played.


Swiss

Nakamura sailed to first place, finishing undefeated and a clear point ahead of the field. He won a pivotal victory over Aronian in round five in an instructive IQP battle.

Andreikin finished second, starting the tournament with a three-game winning streak. He capped off the streak with a win over GM Wesley So, demonstrating a sense of clarity in a tactical position by utilizing a slow maneuver to win material. 

Caruana finished third with a solid undefeated performance, including a victory over Grischuk in round five. The game featured a Nimzo-Indian with a mix of an unusual kingside position and a queenside where everything went right to win White’s doubled c4-pawn.

Aronian advanced into qualification with the top tiebreaks of those with a 5.5 score. In round eight, he accidentally repeated the position three times in a winning queen ending. 

After this mishap, Aronian faced a must-win last round against GM David Paravyan and managed to come through in a two bishops vs. knight and bishop ending with an extra pawn. 

The hilarious commentary duo of Naroditsky and Rensch breathed life into the well-trodden Berlin draw with this piece of commentary gold:

Saturday Swiss | Final Standings (Top 20)

Swiss standings

(Full final standings here.)

Knockout

In the Nakamura vs. Xiong quarterfinal, Xiong looked to be playing for a kingside attack with 9…h5 but then abandoned this idea and switched his attention to the center. Nakamura capitalized on Xiong’s inconsistency, gaining a significant space advantage and soon squeezing Black off the board with his advancing center pawns. 

The Grischuk vs. Vidit quarterfinal was very closely matched. In their rapid game, Grischuk attempted to press in a pawn-up ending, but his opponent activated his pieces and won the pawn back, even gaining winning chances himself. The two repeated to draw in the time scramble. 

In the blitz playoff, Vidit pressed for a win for most of the game. As Naroditsky put it: “Vidit has shown his intentions here. He wants to play this out to bare kings.” However, Grischuk was able to hold on in the end. 

Vidit has shown his intentions here. He wants to play this out to bare kings.
—GM Daniel Naroditsky

In the bullet playoff, it was Grischuk pressing for victory in a winning ending. The game again reached time scramble madness, leading to another draw. 

In the armaggeddon playoff, Grischuk was finally able to overcome Vidit who was unable to gain enough play with the must-win white pieces.

In the Andreikin vs. Aronian quarterfinal, Aronian gained an ideal Nimzo-Indian position with pressure against White’s weakened queenside pawns while his opponent’s attempt at a kingside attack proved fruitless. Aronian sealed his victory with a cute queen sacrifice forcing either a trade of queens into a winning ending or an unexpected checkmate.

The Caruana vs. Martinez quarterfinal saw a complete opposite Nimzo-Indian. Caruana’s attack broke through on the kingside while his opponent failed to gain enough pressure on the queenside. To seal the win, the American maneuvered his queen into the Peruvian’s position with a Qh1-h6-b6 attack to gain overwhelming pressure.

In the Nakamura vs. Grischuk semifinal, Grischuk outplayed his opponent in a d3 Ruy Lopez, gaining a pawn. Nakamura put up a tough resistance, doing everything he could to limit Black’s pieces. However, Grischuk was able to gradually untangle his position and convert his advantage. 

In the Caruana vs. Aronian semifinal rapid game, Caruana gained an advantage with the simple yet effective 14.b3, leading to an active rook on the seventh rank. His opponent responded with the clever 23…Bb6, locking White’s rook on the b7-square and making it very hard to press for the win without access to his strongest remaining piece. Caruana decided to sacrifice a pawn to get his rook out and attempted to press the resulting even endgame, but Aronian held the position without much trouble. 

Their blitz playoff was very even for most of the game when Aronian squeezed an advantage out of thin air in the rook ending. Suddenly under newfound pressure, Caruana’s mouse slipped, blundering his rook. 

The Grischuk vs. Aronian final was surprisingly one-sided after a blunder by Grischuk, who tried for every chance to generate counterplay, but his opponent wouldn’t let him back into the game. 

Despite struggling in the Swiss, Aronian found excellent form in the knockout, cleanly defeating three powerhouse players, Nakamura, Caruana, and Grischuk. In his winner’s interview, Aronian discussed his state of mind during the games today: “Since yesterday was so terrible, I was thinking that things cannot get worse, so I was very relaxed.”

Since yesterday was so terrible, I was thinking that things cannot get worse, so I was very relaxed.
—GM Levon Aronian

Aronian also commented about his friendship and rivalry with fellow St. Louis grandmaster, Caruana:

Standings, Results, Prizes

The winner of the Swiss tournament is Nakmaura, and the winner of the knockout tournament is Aronian. Below are the full standings and prizes of the knockout:

Sunday Knockout | Final Standings












# Fed Player Place Prize
1 Levon Aronian  Winner $7,500
2 Alexander Grischuk Finalist $3,500
3-4 Hikaru Nakamura  Semifinalist $2,500
3-4 Fabiano Caruana Semifinalist $2,500
5-8 Jeffrey Xiong Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Dmitry Andreikin Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Jose Martinez Quarterfinalist $1,000
5-8 Vidit Gujrathi Quarterfinalist $1,000

The Rapid Chess Championship is brought to you by Coinbase. Whether you’re looking to make your first crypto purchase or you’re an experienced trader, Coinbase has you covered. Earn crypto by learning about crypto with Coinbase Earn, explore DeFi and web3 with Coinbase Wallet, get exclusive rewards when you spend with Coinbase Card, and much more. Learn more at coinbase.com/chess and get $10 in bitcoin when you sign up and verify your account.


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