The Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz started off with fireworks. The players came ready to fight as indicated by the high number of decisive games. After three rounds, Levon Aronian is in the sole lead with a perfect score. He is closely followed by Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren, both of whom have 4 points. Aronian and Carlsen will face off tomorrow in round 5.
Standings after round 3. In the rapid a win is worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point and a loss is 0
The day started off with an upset, as Magnus Carlsen lost his game to Ding Liren. The World Champion has an overall dominant score against Ding in rapid and blitz, but the Chinese player finished his opponent off with a beautiful queen sacrifice. Levon Aronian started his streak with a win with the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, in what looked like a bad position for the Armenian. Aronian managed to maneuver his pieces in an unusual manner, trapping his opponent’s menacing bishop and thus forcing him to give up a few pawns. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s game against Leinier Dominguez was a one-sided affair. Mamedyarov’s rooks penetrated along the c-file while Dominguez didn’t manage to finish his piece development, eventually losing a piece and consequently the game. In the game between the two wildcards, Richard Rapport got the upper hand in a rook endgame against Yu Yangyi. The only draw was between two former World Championship Challengers, Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana.
Aronain continued his winning streak by converting his extra pawn against Karjakin in a 56-move game. Both players were very low on time, but the Armenian’s flawless technique brought him home the full point. Carlsen bounced back immediately with a win over Rapport, ending the game with a beautiful queen sacrifice. The rest of the games ended in a draw. Caruana achieved a positional edge against Mamedyarov, but the Azeri star found direct counterplay which forced his opponent to end the game with a threefold repetition. The game between Dominguez and Ding had some unusual queen maneuvers and pawn structures, but eventually petered out into a draw in a rook endgame. Vachier-Lagrave held his pawn down rook endgame against Yu Yangyi without many difficulties.
Aronian kept his lead with a win over Mamedyarov. In the double rook endgame, his connected passed pawns proved to be unstoppable compared to his opponent’s scattered pawns. Carlsen continued his recovery with yet another one, this time over Dominguez. The World Champion started his attack on move 10, developing his queen early, which put his opponent into a 10 minute think. The combination of little time and a difficult position were too much for Dominguez to handle and he resigned in 30 moves. The most remarkable game of the round was between Vachier-Lagrave and Rapport. The Frenchman sacrificed his queen for two minor pieces and created a pawn chain of three passed pawns in the center. Rapport had to resign once one of his opponent’s pawns reached the seventh rank with both bishops aiming at his king. Caruana had to find a remarkable queen sacrifice himself, but in order to force a draw after suffering for most of the game. Karjakin was pressing for most of the game but allowed Yu Yangyi to create counterplay on the kingside. With little time on his clock, Yu Yangyi decided to force a perpetual instead of looking for ways to punish Karjakin’s weak king.
Levon Aronian being interviewed by Maurice Ashley