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
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 Chess.com 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
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
Carlsen-Artemiev will be played at 14:00 CET,
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