Aronian brings his A-game as youngsters scramble for places in the KO

Armenian star dominates but it was one of India’s hottest young talents who sprung the biggest surprise
Levon Aronian

A nail-biting end to the Goldmoney Asian Rapid’s prelim stage saw old-hand Levon Aronian dominate as an almighty scramble for places unfolded below him.

The 38-year-old rolled back the years as he dominated his younger opponents to finish on 10.5/15.

It meant Aronian had won a prelim stage on the $1.6 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour for the first time.

Below Aronian, however, it was musical chairs in the final moments as the top eight qualifying places were decided.

First, 17-year-old Arjun Erigaisi – by far the lowest-rated player in the field – sprung an incredible surprise by making the knockouts on his Tour debut.

Erigaisi drew a round 15 match with birthday boy Anish Giri that meant both sailed through.

Then, in a blockbuster match with Indian wonderkid Gukesh D, the Pole Jan-Krzyszstof Duda put in a late surge to secure his seat with a dramatic win.

That result had big implications for the leaderboard and meant heartbreak for both Gukesh and 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja, who was looking on. Both crashed out by the narrowest of margins.

Gukesh, the youngest in the field, had fought tooth and nail to win a place in the last eight but it was not to be.

Asked how the tournament has gone for him, Erigaisi said: “It has panned out quite well!”

Giri, who turned 27, said after: “I managed to qualify and I helped a friend in need, so it’s all good!”

While Erigaisi and Giri sneaked in, Aronian posted his best performance in the prelims of a Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event.

Playing from Paris, Aronian said afterwards: “I was basically trying to stay safe and take my chances, and it worked.

“I feel good and I feel I can even score more. But I was very relaxed.”

In another surprise, the Russian Vladislav Artemiev continued his stunning form to finish clear second with 10/15 and set up a quarter-final clash with Giri.

China’s Ding Liren also marked his return to form with a place in the quarters and will face Duda.

One of the games of the day saw Gukesh pose serious questions for Carlsen in their Round 13 clash.

The 15-year-old looked to have a decisive advantage but allowed allowed the champ back into the game.

Gukesh, seen as potential future challenger for Carlsen’s crown, was left fighting to save a draw.

He managed it, but looked bitterly disappointed and aware he faced an uphill task. Gukesh did, however, show he belongs at this level.

The QF draw

Carlsen, meanwhile, ended the day with a win that took him to fourth – but he was far from happy with his performance and the fact his position sets up a quarter-final against Wesley So.

Asked why he seemed unhappy, Carlsen said: “Well, have you seen the pairings?”

Carlsen added: “It’s not ideal, but that’s the way it is… In general I’m extremely unhappy with the way I played today.”

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 playzone.