GM Ding Liren defeated GM Levon Aronian by a score of 15-11 in the second quarterfinal of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event. In the semifinals, he will face the winner of GM Hikaru Nakamura vs. GM Anish Giri.
The final quarterfinal match between GM’s Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana is scheduled for Thursday 9 Dec. at 10:00 am Pacific / 7:00 pm Central European Time.
The games of the 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event are played on Chess.com’s live server. They are also available on our live game viewing platform at Chess.com/events and in our apps under “Watch”. Expert commentary can be found at Chess.com/tv.
The live broadcast of the match.
This match was Aronian’s first official appearance under the American flag. Ding triumphed in a great fight that saw only two draws in 26 games. While the winner generally showed excellent math skills and a strong technical play, it was largely poor time management by Aronian that resulted in a rather one-sided affair, despite initial odds favoring him as a 59-41 percent favorite (according to the predictions). from SmarterChess).
Ding took the initiative early in the game and won the first three games convincingly. In the first game, he might have set a new SCC record for the most time spent on a move with three minutes thinking about move 15! Despite this, he triumphed in a tense time battle between them.
The Chinese grandmaster was also on his way to win game four after Aronian blundered his central pawn and then sacrificed a queen for a few pieces. However, instead of smoothly converting his material advantage, Ding blundered first a knight’s fork and later a queen in a tie for a 180-degree turnaround best described by GM Daniel Naroditsky’s witty comment: “The eval bar is doing a workout here. .”
The eval bar does a workout here.
– GM Daniel Naroditsky
A curious and fairly common pattern in this match was that both players came to their last seconds and then lost in time in all sorts of positions for no apparent reason, except maybe they weren’t fast enough with their mouse. This happened to Aronian much more often than his opponent, and game six was particularly shocking in this regard as he flagged out in a completely winning endgame.
After that game, the scoreboard was 5-1 for Ding and the new American super-GM decided it was time for drastic action. With the black pieces, he moved from the typically solid Queen’s Gambit Accepted, in which he suffered three consecutive losses, to a riskier Czech Benoni. It worked, as he scored two important wins with black pieces to extend Ding’s lead and make it a 6-3 score at the end of the 5+1 segment.
The shorter time control (3+1) in the second part of the game made the flag even clearer. At one point, co-commentator GM Benjamin Bok wondered “when was the last game where a player failed to mark?” In game 14, Aronian trailed a manageable three points, but just as he had the chance to get closer come, he lost again in time.
“Is Ding really throwing this?” —@benjamin_bok.
— ChesscomLive (@ChesscomLive) December 6, 2021
In the next match, Ding finally found an antidote to the Czech Benoni, who kept Aronian afloat in the 3+1 segment. After this loss, it became very difficult for Aronian to get back into the game. Ding held on to a five-point lead and entered the final phase of the match with a score of 11-6. It would have taken one of the biggest comebacks in SCC history for Aronian to overcome this shortfall, but it wasn’t to be.
Ding successfully fended off Aronian’s blitzkrieg attempts in the first few games of the bullet segment and maintained a comfortable lead. In game 21, he again showed a masterclass in positional play against the Czech Benoni, extending his lead to 13.5-7.5 which basically decided the outcome of the match.
With the tension out of the way, the Chinese grandmaster played the remaining games visibly more relaxed, leading to a number of blunders, such as the next one in game 24.
The last game of the match ended peacefully, which was in stark contrast to the rest. Ding rightly claims his spot in the semi-finals as he was more consistent and at times simply better than Aronian, who, despite serious time management issues, also had his good moments in the match.
In the interview after the game, Ding did not hide his excitement: “I am very happy with my performance in blitz. In general, my game was good. I spent a lot of time in the opening phase to come up with the right plan and the best moves and it turned out to be a good strategy.”
Aronian admitted that the match didn’t go the way he wanted from the start, but he also praised his opponent: “I was generally frustrated that I lost in time and it didn’t matter which opening I played. So I thought I might as well have some fun. I was just randomly trying to confuse Ding with some openings, but he’s not the guy to be confused. He played really well.”
Players were also asked about their preparation for the match, to which both gave interesting answers. “Besides preparing for the opening, I went to the supermarket to buy some milk and fruit because I knew it was going to be a very long and tough race,” said Ding. Aronian, on the other hand, enlisted the help of a friend: “My preparation was to spend a nice evening with Varuzhan Akobian, play some blitz with him. But it obviously didn’t turn out so well.”
Finally, he solved the mystery of the constant marking of timelines: “The main problem is that I forgot my mouse at home and since I visit my friends I had to use their mouse, which was problematic because I’m not used to it. ” It’s something to keep in mind for next time.
Aronian made $1,269.23 based on his scoring percentage, while Ding takes $3,000 for the win plus $1,730.77 on percentage ($4,730.77 total). He advances to the semifinals where he takes the winner of Nakamura vs. Giri will play.
The 2021 Speed Chess Championship Main Event is a knockout tournament between 16 of the best grandmasters in the world who will play for a prize pool of $100,000. The tournament will take place from November 8 to December 19, 2021 on Chess.com. Each individual match contains 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz, 60 minutes of 3+1 blitz and 30 minutes of 1+1 bullet chess.
Find all the information about the Speed Chess Championship here.