Levon Aronian and Vladislav Artemiev played the final of the Goldmoney Asian Rapid, but if they’re going to get to the final of the Chessable Masters they first need to win their matches on demand on Friday to force playoffs. Wesley So was in supreme form as he overcame huge resistance from Artemiev, while Liem Quang Le said it was his “best result ever against Levon” as he took full advantage of some blunders to take the lead.
You can replay all the Chessable Masters knockout games using the selector below.
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Kaja Snare, Jovanka Houska and David Howell.
And from Tania Sachdev and Danny King.
Both matches had a winner on Day 1 of the semi-finals.
Wesley So 2.5:1.5 Vladislav Artemiev
For one game, Vladislav Artemiev had the initiative on Day 1 of this match. He equalised easily with the black pieces, and despite being a pawn down it seems he could have played on at the end.
The trick was to play 32…Kd6! 33.Nf3 Nb3!, to gain the c5-square for the king, and then 34.Rd1+ Kc5 and pick up the b6-pawn next move. The computer thinks Black is much better, but it was understandable that Vladislav was happy with an easy draw with the black pieces in the first game of the match and repeated with 32…Nb3.
After that, however, Wesley was pressing in every game, and it was only heroic resistance that saw Artemiev ultimately escape in a pawn ending two pawns down after having been totally lost in Game 2. Wesley later commented:
Overall I think Vladislav is a very tricky and very strong opponent and he’s very resourceful, so as you can see from Game 2 I have to be very careful to the end.
It seems Wesley took that as a sign that he had to play even better, and he did, with Wesley pointing to a move his opponent may have missed.
27.Qc4! is indeed an easy to miss resource, exploiting Black’s weak back rank, since 27…dxc4?? is of course met by 28.Rxd8+ with checkmate to follow. Eventually Wesley traded down into an opposite-coloured bishop ending he hoped was winning, and it turned out it was.
Vladislav was impressed:
I’m unhappy now, but I think that it was logical result because Wesley played very strong I think. For example, the game which I lost he played fantastic, I think, because I watched a little bit and the computer says that I think every move of Wesley was strong, maybe the first line or second line.
That meant Artemiev had to win the last game of the day on demand to level the match, but instead he was in trouble with White in under 10 moves. He ultimately held a draw, but it means he now has to hit back on demand on Friday.
Liem Quang Le 3:1 Levon Aronian
The way Levon began this match it seemed he was inspired by Magnus Carlsen’s games with Vladimir Fedoseev, with 19.Rf5! a fine exchange sacrifice.
Things didn’t flow from there, however — Liem decided not to take, Levon delayed capturing on h5 too long, and Black was better for a while, though eventually we got a position where Levon was able to play on with a draw by perpetual check in his pocket, though at times it felt more like he was balancing on the edge of the abyss.
The game ended in a draw, and then it was Liem Quang Le who took the lead in Game 2, though somewhat against the run of play.
Levon commented, “definitely single-move blunders should be avoided — the second game of course was very painful, to blunder like that”, referring to the action around here.
You might say it was a two-move blunder, since 35…e5! would chase the knight and allow Black to take the dangerous c6-pawn. Instead 35…Kg7? allowed 36.Rb7! and now 36…Kf8? (36…Rc8! and Black is fighting) 37.Rxc7 Bxc7 38.Nb5 left Levon needing to give up a piece for the c-pawn. There was no way back.
It didn’t get better for Levon in the next game, as he was on the ropes and had to fight 101 moves to survive, but it set up a spectacular final must-win game of the day for the Armenian star. Initially it all went Liem’s way, who later commented:
And this last game was too crazy. I shouldn’t allow this, I was much better after 10-15 moves, and then I was winning and I’m sure there were so many ways to win, but I was a little bit nervous and it was a crucial game and then I blundered a lot, so I think even at the end, just one move before the end there was a twist there, he could have won, right?
We’ll get to that, but some moments need to be highlighted first. One was a spectacular last-ditch try by Levon. Le was playing on the pin along the d-file, but two can play at that game, and Levon came up with 26…Nd4!?
The computer coolly announces 27.exd4! is just winning for White, but with his bishop now under attack Le withdrew it all the way to h1, and it was game on! In fact Levon was soon level until 31…e4 allowed an amazing shot that just seemed a computer curiosity… until the 2013 Blitz World Champion played 32.b5!!
The d3-rook was unable to move without allowing the queen to capture on e2, but now the rook can move. 32…Qxb5? would run into 33.Rb3. Play instead continued 32…Qa5 33.Rxd4 and there were more twists until just before the end Le made a move he instantly regretted, 43.Nd4? (king almost anywhere was winning).
Now Levon could have played 43…Rxd8! 44.Qxd8 Rf8! and Black has great winning chances after 45.Be8! c2! Instead, however, we got a sudden end, 43…Bd7?? 44.Qg8+!, with checkmate next move.
Levon admitted “definitely my opponent played better than me… so it’s all fair and square”, while Liem Quang Le was thrilled:
I’m extremely happy, this is my best result ever against Levon and he has been always a very unpleasant opponent for me because he’s always very creative, you don’t know what to expect from him.
Of course we can expect Levon to try everything to hit back in the second match and force tiebreaks, especially as he’s been getting some high-level tips.
Don’t miss the live commentary from 17:00 CEST.