Levon Aronian ended Magnus Carlsen’s bid to win his third straight Champions Chess Tour event on Friday when he came from behind to beat the World Champion in their Goldmoney Asian Rapid semifinal match.
Carlsen took the lead on Thursday by winning the first set 2.5-1.5, meaning he needed just a tie in the second set to advance.
Aronian takes advantage of ‘day off’ from Carlsen
But Aronian jumped on Carlsen from the start in the second set, winning the first game with Black. After two draws, Carlsen needed a win in the final game to close out the match. Instead, Aronian won again to earn a 3-1 victory and force blitz tiebreakers.
The Armenian grandmaster continued his good form by winning the first blitz game with White. That left Carlsen needing a win on demand. Carlsen achieved a decent position out of an Italian Game, but threw away any advantage as he weakened his king while attempting to launch an attack. The World Champion’s position quickly deteriorated, and he resigned after just 39 moves.
“Yesterday I was very upset with my play,” Aronian said afterward. “Today I was playing terrible blunders, but at least I was fighting until the very end.”
Aronian also acknowledged that Carlsen wasn’t at his best.
“I think Magnus had a day off today,” he said.
The other Goldmoney Asian Rapid semifinal produced a similar result. Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren dominated Day 1, beating Vladislav Artemiev 2.5-0.5. But Artemiev turned the tables in the second set. After the two drew Game 1, Artemiev broke through with White in Game 2. Ding responded with his own win, but Artemiev was able to win with his back against the wall to take the second set 2.5-1.5 and force blitz tiebreakers.
Aronian favored in Goldmoney Asian Rapid final
Ding had to settle for a draw with White in the first tiebreak game. But Artemiev scored a win with his White game, putting himself through to the Goldmoney Asian Rapid final.
“It was a very difficult match,” Artemiev said of his win. “Yesterday I lost with zero chances and I was disappointed. Today I wanted to give a fight to my opponent.”
Artemiev will now make his first appearance in a Champions Chess Tour final. The 23-year-old Russian becomes the youngest player to reach a Tour final. Aronian previously reached the last stage of the Airthings Masters, but lost to Teimour Radjabov.
Aronian enters the final as the favorite. Bwin rates him as a -155 pick to win the Goldmoney Asian Rapid over Artemiev (+115).
Given the participants, many fans will be paying just as much attention to the third-place match between Carlsen and Ding. Carlsen comes in as a solid -275 favorite over Ding (+200), in a match that will award 10 additional points to the winner – a haul that could prove critical for the Chinese grandmaster’s hopes of qualifying for the Tour Final and the end of the season.