In my last blog post, I wrote about the FIDE Grand Prix cycle, laying out the regulations and the schedule. Not surprisingly, here at Bryght Labs, we are rooting for our ambassador super GM Levon Aronian. Well, the first leg wrapped up in Berlin yesterday, and we are thrilled to share the news that after a grueling two weeks of chess, Levon finished in second place. He earned 10 GP points, putting him in an excellent position to qualify for the Candidates Tournament.
Levon won Pool C convincingly with a round to spare. He scored 4.5 points out of 6 games, winning 3 and drawing 3. With this victory, he advanced to the semifinals to face the winner of Pool D, the American Grandmaster Leinier Dominguez. Dominguez’s path to the semifinals was more tumultuous, but he ultimately secured his spot with a clutch victory in the last round followed by a win over fellow American GM, Wesley So, in the tiebreaks.
Backed with some great preparation, Levon has been playing inspiring, dynamic chess throughout the entire event. He bested Dominguez in the first of their two-game match, then drew comfortably in the next game, thus advancing to the finals. His opponent was another American superstar, GM Hikaru Nakamura, who defeated the super-talented and creative 25-year-old Hungarian GM, Richard Rapport.
Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian in the finals of Berlin Grand Prix Photo courtesy of FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Press Kit
Nakamura has always been known for being a tricky player and very strong at blitz. In the past several years, his career has taken a different turn as he became the most popular chess streamer on Twitch. Watching his streams is truly something spectacular, as he casually obliterates one strong GM after another while chatting and bopping his head to music.
Nakamura has not played a classical over-the-board tournament in over two years, as he declined his invitation to play in the Grand Swiss due to concerns regarding the high numbers of COVID infections in Latvia.
Nakamura’s long absence from classical chess makes his victory in Berlin even more impressive. After drawing the two classical games, Nakamura bested Levon in a rook endgame in the first rapid game. Levon was in a must win situation in the second game, but was not able to squeeze out a win, instead he pushed too hard and lost. Nakamura collected 13 GP points and is now leading the series.
Hikaru Nakamura at the closing ceremony of Berlin Grand Prix Photo courtesy of FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Press KitThe next stop will take place from February 28 until March 14 in Belgrade in the same format. Levon will play in the final leg in Berlin beginning March 21st. In the meantime, he will be playing in the Airthings Masters, the first stop of the Champions Chess Tour. As usual, we will be rooting for Levon!