By Johannes Fischer
When Levon Aronian and Nakamura sat down to play the final of the Chess960 World Rapid Chess Championship it was difficult to name a clear favorite. In the preliminaries Aronian had dominated the first day, Nakamura the second. Both are known as extremely strong blitz and rapid players, and both had shown their Chess960 skills on more than one occasion.
Taking this into account, the match was surprisingly one-sided. Nakamura simply won the first three games to become new World Champion – in a very convincing manner.
In the first game Aronian opted with Black for an elastic, dynamic set-up. But when White managed to create weaknesses in Black’s camp, which he soon occupied with his pieces, Black seemed to be in trouble. In a bid for counterplay Aronian decided to give material but Nakamura defended coolly and sent his king from the queenside to the kingside, where it finally was safe. With his last swindling chances gone Aronian resigned.
The first game in the fight for third place between Bologan and Movsesian took a different course. Here it was Bologan who pressed with White and advanced his pawns early on. However, this gave Black good counterchances. He forced an exchange of queens and attacked the weak white pawns afterwards. Bologan found no good way to defend them and soon had a lost position, which Movsesian converted into a full point.
Inspired by this win Movsesian played a little brilliancy in the second game. Sacrificing an exchange, he pushed on the kingside, in the center and finally on the queenside, where he mated Black’s king.
While Movsesian was brimming with confidence Aronian appeared shaken after his loss in the first game. At any rate, it hard to find another explanation for the blunder he committed in the second game against Nakamura: After to a relatively simple oversight Aronian lost knight and game. “Probably I had a bad day”, he commented wryly in the press conference.
With Nakamura and Movsesian both leading 2-0 the final seemed to come to a swift end. The match Aronian vs. Nakamura in fact ended quickly. To get back into the match Aronian used lots of time in the third game – time which he later lacked. He got lost in the middlegame complications and fell victim to a surprising attack by White.
A convincing victory, which made Nakamura new Chess960 Rapid World Champion.
Now the fourth game between Aronian and Nakamura was just a formal affair, and maybe it was the lack of tension which made Aronian spoil an advantageous position into a draw which led to a final result of 3,5:0,5 for Nakamura.
Things went less smoothly for Movsesian. In the third round he was not able to cope with Bologan’s aggressive play and lost, which made the fourth game crucial. But Movsesian quickly recovered from the loss and played the fourth game in a very professional manner. Despite Bologan’s efforts to stir up trouble Movsesian managed to keep everything under control and steered the game into a completely drawn rook ending. After a couple of moves Bologan accepted the inevitable and agreed to a draw. Movsesian thus won the match 2,5:1,5 and became third in the Chess960 Rapid World Championship.
With only 2 draws from 20 games it was an altogether exciting World Championship, which may help to give Chess960 the popularity it deserves. As Levon Aronian remarked at the press conference: “Chess960 is healthy and good for your chess. If you get into it and not just move the pieces to achieve the known position it really improves your chess vision.”
Tomorrow, in the GRENKE LEASING Rapid World Championship, where he will meet Vishy Anand, Arkadij Naiditsch and Ian Nepomniachtchi Aronian has a chance to show how Chess960 improved his classical chess vision.