Levon Aronian started with a perfect 3/3 on the first day of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour in St. Louis. The Armenian grandmaster leads by a full point.
After Cote d’Ivoire, Zagreb and Paris, the 2019 Grand Chess Tour resumed for a month of chess in what has been nicknamed the “capital of chess.” We once again have two tournaments back-to-back in St. Louis: this rapid and blitz event, and then the seventh edition of the Sinquefield Cup.
Because all fixed GCT players play only three of the five rapid and blitz events, we had to do without Magnus Carlsen in Paris, but he’s back at the board in St. Louis as the GCT leader.
Carlsen has shown tremendously strong chess so far in 2019—he lost in just five blitz games so far: three to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (two in Cote d’Ivoire and one in Norway), one to Aronian (also in Norway) and one Armageddon game to Fabiano Caruana in Norway.
The world champion lost his first rapid game in 2019 straight away in the first round in St. Louis. He played black against Ding Liren of China; the opening was a (rather sharp) Ragozin.
Ding felt he was slightly worse after 18…Nd7, but after he got his queen and a rook to the kingside, Black was under pressure. He then created a passed pawn and got it to c7—that was too much to handle for Carlsen with less time on the clock.
It was Ding’s first win with the white pieces in any time control against Carlsen; he had won just two black games in their speed chess match in St. Louis in 2017.
Aronian started with a win against Vachier-Lagrave and then also beat Sergey Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
Karjakin might have regretted the anti-positional taking back on g6 with the f-pawn, and after that Aronian gave a great demonstration of activity in the endgame.
Carlsen recovered well from his opening-round loss as he defeated both Richard Rapport and Leinier Dominguez. The latter faced the Norwegian’s latest addition to his already impressive arsenal of weapons: world-class opening preparation.
In a Semi-Tarrasch, Carlsen combined the subtle, modern approach 7.Rb1 with the AlphaZero-esque 8.h4, a novelty. Dominguez’s 10…f5 probably wasn’t the best reply, and he later lost his way in the tactics.
Vachier-Lagrave, the winner in Paris, started with 1.5/3. His win against Rapport in round three was spectacular.
The St. Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour takes place August 10-14 at the St. Louis Chess Club. After three days of rapid (nine rounds), two days of blitz follow with nine rounds on each day. Chess.com provides daily coverage on Twitch.tv/Chess and Chess.com/TV.
Day 1 coverage:
All games of rapid rounds 1-3 for replay/download: