Levon Aronian has raced ahead in the Goldmoney Asian Rapid final leaving Vladislav Artemiev with a mountain to climb tomorrow.
The 38-year-old Armenian declined to celebrate at the half-way point as he clinched up a comfortable 2.5-1.5 first match win over the Russian.
Artemiev now needs a comeback to take the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event final to a blitz play-off. The odds are heavily stacked against him.
“I am sure Vladislav is going to bring everything he has,” Aronian said before tomorrow’s second half. “Because he is a great player. I have to be ready.”
Artemiev is renowned for his prowess in speed chess but seemed out-of-sorts as he found himself struggling on the clock.
After a draw in game 1, the 2019 European Champ had a golden opportunity to hit Aronian with an early win.
Artemiev was streets ahead but let the advantage slip. Aronian used all his wily experience to pull off what he later described as a “miracle” save.
With momentum behind him, Aronian then crashed through in game 3 to take the lead with just one game to go.
Artemiev needed a win, but it was Aronian who attacked in game 4. The Russian tried hard, but couldn’t lay a glove on Aronian and the final game ended in a draw
Artemiev afterwards said it had been a “difficult day” but that he hoped to bounce back.
He said: “Ok, I’m not very good today, but I have a chance to fight tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the two losing semi-finalists, World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren of China, were battling it out in the third-place play-off match.
At the half-way stage, Carlsen is ahead after a 2.5-1.5 win. The champ looked back to himself after a bad day at the office when he lost against Aronian.
Carlsen, who is playing from Oslo, revealed after that he has been in quarantine over the course of the tournament and barely left his room.
On having to play in the third-place match, Carlsen said: “Everyone knows it’s not where I want to be, but sometimes you’ve got to play the cards you’ve dealt, or dealt yourself.”
The Goldmoney Asian Rapid is broadcast live on Norwegian TV station TV 2 and streamed with commentary in several languages on chess24’s YouTube and Twitch channels.
Highlights will also be available in 60 countries on the Eurosport app.
Play begins tomorrow at 13:00 CEST. All games will be played on the chess24.com playzone.