Reports Dec 3, 2020 | 11:24 AMby Colin McGourty

MVL beats Aronian to reach Carlsen or Artemiev semi-final

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Levon Aronian in bullet chess to set up a Speed Chess semi-final against the winner of today’s Magnus Carlsen vs. Vladislav Artemiev match (live from 14:00 CET with Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler commentating). Levon had the chance to score many more points in the 5-minute section especially, but went into bullet level at 9:9. MVL eased to to a 14.5:12.5 victory, ith Levon commenting, “I don’t spend my time doing nonsensical things like online bullet… and I paid for it!”

You can replay all the games from the MVL vs. Aronian quarterfinal using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler.

The pattern for the quarterfinal between the French and Armenian no. 1s was set early, when in a winning position in the first game Maxime spent 15 seconds on playing the disastrous 30.Rc7??

Levon rejected the gift and responded 30…Nf8??, though at least he eventually made a draw. He later told Danny Rensch and Robert Hess on the official broadcast:

Well first of all, the first game was of course a highlight! Maxime played a move that I would play, Rc7, and I didn’t take his rook.

You could count as many as five missed wins in the first seven games for Levon, with another example coming in Game 3.

Levon could have won here with 40…Qg7+ 41.Ke7 Qf8+ 42.Kf6 (or 42.Kd7 Be6+ wins the queen and game) 42…Qd8+ 43.Ke5 Qe7+ 44.Qe6 Qxe6# Instead he went for 40…Qh4+, allowing queens to be traded off with 41.Qg5+. “Giving mate is slightly preferable to this endgame!” said Peter and, after another miscalculation by Levon, the game did indeed end in a draw.

MVL struck in Game 2, but Aronian made no mistake in Game 6 to level the scores. It was still Maxime who ended a session in which he’d struggled in the lead after winning the final game.

There’s no good defence against the threat of h4 next move.

At first it seemed Maxime would then run away with the match, since he won games 3 and 4 of the 3-minute section to take a 3-point lead. Levon’s 1.b3 had led to a spectacular opening disaster.

11…Ne4! was the most picturesque, if far from the only, winning move, and after 12.Qg2 (12.fxe4 is relatively best, but still painful for White) 12…Qg5 it was already essentially game over, even if Levon stretched the game out beyond move 40.

Levon got to have the fun in Game 6, however, winning a 21-move miniature. Our commentators didn’t think the resignation was premature.

That turned out to be the start of a comeback, as the Armenian no. 1 won the next two games with White as well to level the scores at 9:9 before the bullet section.

Maxime felt, as did most observers, that he would have the advantage in the 1+1 games, and so it proved. He commented afterwards:  

I thought I should be the favourite in bullet, but at the same time I saw that Levon played extremely well in the bullet portion against Ian [Nepomniachtchi in the Last 16], so my thought process was I shouldn’t be behind in the bullet portion because then I might get frustrated. Well, I did get frustrated in the course of the match, but that was mostly because of my internet connection, that was generally very buggy.   

Maxime won the first two games to re-establish a lead, before a minor mishap in the 3rd bullet game!

Here he assumed Levon would capture back with 28…hxg4 and therefore pre-moved Nf1, only to see 28…Qd1+ 29.Nf1?? Qxd3 appear on the board.

Maxime won the next game, but could never establish clear water between himself and Levon, and we could have gone into the final 3-minute game with Levon having a chance to level the scores and force a playoff.

45.Kg4!, trapping the rook, was a fleeting chance to win the penultimate game (45…e5+ fails to 46.Rxd7+) that Maxime had spotted. After 45.Bb7? e5+, however, the French no. 1 eased to a victory that made the final game academic. Levon picked up a consolation win to make the final score 14.5:12.5.

Levon summed up:

Generally I thought that I was playing slowly out of the gates, and that proved to be a decisive factor in the bullet. But I thought it was a close match, it was fun to play.

But his best comment was reserved for bullet chess:

I generally think Maxime is a favourite when it comes to bullet. I don’t spend my time doing nonsensical things like online bullet… and I paid for it!

Maxime is taking a new approach to online chess:

I’ve been trying to take my internet chess maybe a bit more seriously with these times where we’re not getting over-the-board play anytime soon.

He’ll get a chance to test that out when he faces either Vladislav Artemiev or a certain Magnus Carlsen in the semi-final. Here’s the tournament bracket:

Carlsen-Artemiev will be played at 14:00 CET, with Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler again commentating here on chess24. That’s not all, as the fourth and final quarterfinal between Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Fedoseev will follow shortly afterwards at 18:00 CET.

See also:

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