What a day of chess!
The final stage of the 1st FIDE Grand Prix 2022 has proven to be exciting and entertaining.
It took the winner two rapid games to clinch the victory.
Aronian and Nakamura, after two draws in the classical mini-match, faced each other to play a rapid mini-match, with time control 15+10.
Watch GM Burke's video and enjoy his comments and analysis!
What a comeback to over-the-board chess!
In an all-American final, Hikaru Nakamura defeated Levon Aronian to win the 1st leg of the FIDE Grand Prix 2022.
ICC's Twitter followers had it right!
The first of the two Rapid games, with time control 15+10, was again a Ruy Lopez, closed.
Aronian played a couple of inaccuracies in the middlegame, giving Nakamura a fair advantage.
In the following position, the engine wanted Qd2 for Naka, with an evaluation of +1.50. That is a sizeable advantage at this level.
Hikaru played Bh2, losing most of his advantage.
While the players were leading to the endgame, the game seemed to be drifting into a draw, although Nakamura kept a slight advantage.
At move 30, Levon played a wrong move, giving away a pawn and entering a rook+pawns ending. Hikaru didn't find the best continuation, and the game went back to being drawish in a few moves. At mover 37, the engine evaluation was 0.00 - totally drawn. The players went on for a while in a drawish position, but Levon got in time trouble and blundered badly. Aronian lost on time, but the situation on the board was winning for Nakamura.
At this point, Levon was in a must-win situation, but he was going to play with the white pieces, and during this event, he's been super-strong when conducting the white army.
The player went with a Giuoco Piano (C50), and Levon played well during the opening, always with a slightly better position. But Hikaru maneuvered skillfully, and by move 23, the game was essentially equal. The players focused on the battle for column B, but at move 36, the position looked completely drawn:
The game continued for several moves without any bumps. At move 48, Aronian blundered, falling into a mating net.
Rh4 is fatal to white. Levon missed the relatively easy continuation: 48...Rh6+ 49.Ke7 Rb7+ and the White king is dead.
Congratulations to the winner: GM Hikaru Nakamura!
The second leg of the FIDE Grand Prix starts February the 28th in Belgrade, Serbia.