The semi-finals of 2019 Grand Chess Tour Finals kicked off in Hammersmith London. Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren are competing against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian respectively in a series of classical, rapid and blitz matches to determine the two finalists. Whilst both classical games ended in a draw, there was no lack of action on the board. Tomorrow, the two pairs will meet again with the opposite colors before moving on to the rapid and blitz portion.
The Grand Chess Tour Finals bracket
Magnus Carlsen vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½ - ½
The fascinating Sicilian Najdorf ended in a hard-fought draw in 32 moves. Carlsen deviated in the opening with an unusual combination of ideas, taking the game into unknown territory from move 7. With the kings castled on the opposite sides, Carlsen was attempting to build an attack on the kingside, while Vachier-Lagrave was mobilizing on the queenside. During his interview with Maurice Ashley, Levon Aronian predicted that “feathers would fly” and they did when the center opened up and Vachier-Lagrave sacrificed a piece for an attack. But as is the case with all perfectly played games, this battle ended in a draw after Carlsen realized that avoiding a repetition would result in a disaster. After the game, the Frenchman promised another fighting game tomorrow.
A young chess enthusiast makes the ceremonial first move in Carlsen vs Vachier-Lagrave
Levon Aronian vs Ding Liren ½ - ½
Levon Aronian explained that he had a poor night of sleep due to jet lag following the Tata Steel Rapid and Blitz and simply wanted a quiet game. He essayed a sideline with 6.g3 in the Semi Tarrasch variation, which his opponent was well prepared for. Once Aronian spotted a tactical sequence where he sacrificed his rook for a perpetual, the game ended in a draw. Ding was satisfied with the draw with the black pieces, while Aronian was not disappointed wasting his white pieces, reasoning that as in the World Cup, he will get his chances.
The postmortem between Ding Liren and Levon Aronian