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Levon Aronian grabs the sole lead at WR Chess Masters

With a strategic masterpiece Levon Aronian has taken the lead in the WR Chess Masters. Aronian gave Nodirbek Abdusattorov’s Sicilian Dragon no opportunity to breathe fire. Already at the end of the opening the US-Armenian with the white pieces had transferred the game into an endgame without prospects for Black.

In the live stream Levon Aronian revealed the secret of his joy in playing: he is currently watching a “depressing” TV series from 1979, “Berlin Alexanderplatz”. The plot in 1920s Berlin is so sad, he said, “that it makes me happy as soon as I can sit at the board again. Everything is quite wonderful then.” And that obviously had an effect on his games, he said.

With 2.5 points from 3 games, the US grandmaster is now alone in front. The other end of the table is graced by the only player who was able to take half a point from Aronian so far. Vincent Keymer has only that half point to his name after his third-round loss to Praggnanandhaa.

WR Chess Masters

“Pragg,” on the other hand, stopped the streak of two losses with a full point – and what a point it was. After Keymer missed a good opportunity to raise counterplay with a central break and fully equalize the game after a Ruy Lopez opening, he gradually got caught up in a king attack that soon became unstoppable. “To be on the scoreboard with a point is a good thing, of course,” the Indian rejoiced.

The other duel of players with 1.5 points from two games besides Aronian-Abdusattorov, Wesley So vs. Gukesh, found no winner. Against Gukesh’s assumed Queen’s Gambit, the super-technician So seemed to get a position to his liking – a bit more space, a bit more activity – but it turned out that nothing tangible was up for grabs. After just 33 moves, a symmetrical endgame with 3 vs. 3 pawns on the kingside was on the board, and the opponents agreed on a draw. So and Gukesh now share second place in the ranking with 2 points from 3 games each.

WR Chess Masters 2023
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The nominal tournament favorite Ian Nepomniachtchi doesn’t quite get going, at least in the first third of the tournament. In an English game against Wijk winner Anish Giri – number two against number five in the world – the upcoming World Championship finalist with the white pieces even had to be careful not to fall into a substantial disadvantage. Here, too, the matter was resolved around move 30 into a rook ending with nothing to gain for either side.

WR Chess Masters 2023
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Jan-Krzysztof Duda was confronted with a Catalan opening for the second time in the tournament with Black against Andrey Esipenko. He avoided the mishap of the first round, when he fell into a familiar trap against Wesley So. Nevertheless, things looked critical for a while. While Duda’s queen on the sidelines was doing no discernible work, a storm seemed to be brewing over his kingside. But all the worries of the Polish observers about their number one were unfounded. Esipenko managed no more than an endgame with a token advantage at best. After 44 moves the opponents made peace.

Black is okay: Gukesh left nothing to chance against Wesley So. | Foto: Lennart Ootes
Photo by Lennart Ootes

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