Tata Steel Chess: Aronian dominates opening day with three wins

Levon Aronian won all his three games on Wednesday to take the lead at the end of the opening day of the third edition of India’s most prestigious chess tournament.

Levon Aronian in action against Vidit Gujrathi at the Tata Steel Chess at Kolkata on Wednesday.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Levon Aronian lived a nightmare at the National Library two years ago. He could score just one point as he finished at the bottom of the blitz section of the second edition of the Tata Steel Chess.

It was the Armenian’s worst performance in such a tournament. That setback had made him determined to work harder on the shorter formats of chess.

His efforts seem to have paid off. He won all his three games on Wednesday to take the lead at the end of the opening day of the third edition of India’s most prestigious chess tournament.

READ: Big-time chess returns to India with Tata Steel tourney

The World No. 4, who is the top seed here, was on three points, one ahead of the Indian trio of R. Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi and Vidit Gujrathi. Six rounds remain.

Gujrathi falters

Aronian had, in fact, defeated Gujrathi in the third round. The Indian should really be ruing the mistakes he made against the top seed.

Gujrathi had done really well to post victories against compatriot B. Adhiban and Le Quang Liem of Vietnam in the first two rounds, both with black pieces.

And he was placed comfortably, from the white side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined game before he erred, giving advantage to Aronian. The top seed had the upper hand in the rook-and-pawn ending, which he converted into a full point.

Earlier, he opened his campaign with a victory against American Sam Shankland and then beat Adhiban, who ended the day with three losses.

After his game against Gujrathi, Aronian said it was a mistake early on from the Indian that made things easier for him.

“The turning point came when Vidit went for b4 (on the 20th move),” he said. “He could have played f5 instead, which would have been unpleasant for me. Then I thought I was going to lose this game as I was getting a lot of counter-play.”

He said he was happy that he could make his supporters in India happy, after the disappointment of 2019. “I am very happy with my games today and hope to carry this momentum to tomorrow.”

The results (Indians unless specified)

Third round: R. Vaishali lost to Le Quang Leim (Vie); Arjun Erigaisi bt Karthikeyan Murali; Sam Shankland (USA) drew with R. Praggnanandhaa; B. Adhiban lost to Parham Maghsoodloo; Vidit Gujrathi lost to Levon Aronian (Arm).

Second round: Liem lost to Gujrathi; Aronian bt Adhiban; Maghsoodloo lost to Shankland; Praggnanandhaa bt Arjun; Karthikeyan bt Vaishali.

First round: Karthikeyan drew with Liem; Vaishali drew with Praggnanadhaa; Arjun bt Maghsoodloo; Shankland lost to Aronian; Adhiban lost to Gujrathi.

The standings: 1. Aronian 3; 2-4. Praggnanandhaa, Arjun and Gujrathi 2; 5-7. Shankland, Liem and Karthikeyan 1.5; 8. Maghsoodloo 1; 9. Vaishali 0.5; 10. Adhiban 0.

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