The 2019 Superbet Rapid and Blitz concluded in a dramatic fashion. At the end of an exciting day of blitz, Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin were tied for first place. While the tour points and prize money were split, there was a playoff to crown the champion of the inaugural event. The tiebreak consisted of two 10-minute games. After drawing the first game, Levon Aronian won the second game in a 27-move tactical battle. This marked the second tour win of the year for the Armenian superstar and puts him in an optimal spot to qualify for the London finals. The newly crowned champion was greeted by the Armenian Ambassador to Romania Sergey Minasian and a member of the Romanian Parliament Varujan Pambuccian. The next and final stop of the tour is the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz beginning November 22.
The longtime leader of the tournament wildcard Anton Korobov completely collapsed today, losing his first five games. Former World Blitz Champion Le Quang Liem, who made waves yesterday with his phenomenal performance of 7/9, also showed a lackluster performance in day 2 of blitz by scoring only 4 points. The struggles of these players allowed for two new leaders to emerge. Levon Aronian climbed to the top by defeating both Korobov and Liem in the first two games, giving him a comfortable two-point lead over the field. The rest of his day, however, was tumultuous, to say the least. He lost three out of his next four games against Sergey Karjakin, Vladislav Artemiev, and Wesley So while drawing the rest.
While Aronian was having a topsy-turvy day, Karjakin slowly crept up to the top with wins over Aronian himself, Le Quang Liem and Caruana. Going into the last round, both players were tied for first. Aronian drew his game, leaving the fate of the tournament in Karjakin’s hands. The fateful game between Karjakin and Korobov was a rollercoaster ride that could have sealed the deal for either Aronian or Karjakin. The Russian was winning for most of the game, but allowed a lot of counterplay and even blundered a checkmate closer to the end of the game. Luckily for him, Korobov failed to capitalize on his opportunities, and the game was eventually drawn. The first encounter of the Aronian-Karjakin playoff was a quiet Spanish which ended in a 20-move draw. The second game was a much sharper fight, but Armenian eventually triumphed after Karjakin failed to respond accurately in the tactical skirmish.
Viswanathan Anand had the second-best score of the day along with Karjakin and Wesley So. After defeating Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Anton Korobov in the first three games, the former World Champion went on to draw the rest of his games, most of them without a fight. It felt as though his strategy was to preserve energy and earn as many GCT points as possible to improve his qualifying chances to London. He finished in third place, earning 8 tour points and $20,000.
The two wildcards were on top of the leaderboard throughout day one of blitz, but ultimately finished in the middle of the pack. Both Korobov and Liem struggled throughout the day and ended up scoring totals of 2 and 4 points respectively. Even so, the two players delighted the fans with their ferocious play and tenacity against the very best in the world. The third wildcard, Vladislav Artemiev, had the best result of the day. He scored an impressive 7/9, including an upset over Aronian. Unfortunately for him, his poor start prevented his impressive result on the final day from having a large impact on his final position in the standings.
Anish Giri had dreams of qualifying to the London finals, but they ended with his 6th place finish. Wesley So had a strong performance with 6/9, while his countryman Fabiano Caruana never found his form, scoring only 2 points.