At the end of a tumultuous day, Levon Aronian was crowned the winner of the 2019 Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz. He will collect $37,500 and 13 tour points for his efforts. This is the second win for Aronian since the inception of the tournament in 2017. It is also his first rapid and blitz event of the tour, which puts him in an excellent position to qualify for the London finals. With this win, Aronian ended the World Champion’s streak of winning every tournament this year. There was a three way tie for second place between Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and wildcard Yu Yangyi, with each claiming $20,000 and 8.33 tour points each. There will be a single rest day for the players and then the Sinquefield Cup Round 1 will begin on Saturday, August 17th at 1:00pm.
The battle for first place centered upon Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi. Not only did Aronian enter the day half a point behind Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, he also lost the first game to Sergey Karjakin. He quickly recovered with two wins over Mamedyarov and Ding Liren, thus joining Vachier-Lagrave in the lead. The Frenchman was not having the best day and fell behind in the standings towards the end of the day. The tournament heated up in the penultimate round: Aronian was 1.5 points ahead of Yu Yangyi and two points ahead of Vachier-Lagrave. A win would clinch the title for the Armenian with a round to spare but he horrendously misplayed his winning position against Carlsen and drew. With a win, Yu Yangyi was only a point behind Aronian entering the last round. This time Aronian only needed a draw but ultimately lost to Vachier-Lagrave, just as he did in the last round yesterday. Yu Yangyi in turn was outplaying Mamedyarov in what looked like a drawn bishop endgame, but was not able to find the win. Aronian was all smiles once he received the exciting news from his second, GM Manuel Petrosyan.
Levon Aronian after learning that he’s the winner
The three players who tied for second place had different journeys. Ding Liren was only a point behind the leader at the beginning of the day, but was quickly out of contention after scoring only half a point in the first four games. He redeemed himself in the second half with a score of 4.5/5, including a crucial win over his rival Vachier-Lagrave and a nice miniature in the last round against Caruana.
Yu Yangyi had the best result of the day, scoring 6/9. Unfortunately, he had started the day in fourth place and couldn’t overcome the wide gap. He had a three game winning streak, defeating Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave and Karjakin in a row, but ultimately the last round stumble cost him the potential title. Besides Magnus Carlsen who has won Paris and Leuven Rapid and Blitz events as a wildcard, Yu Yangyi has had the best result as a wildcard by far and has certainly earned many new fans.
Yu Yangyi and Ding Liren between the rounds
Vachier-Lagrave had a mediocre day, scoring only 4 points, half a point less than yesterday. He had similar results in Paris GCT, which was enough to win the tournament but not quite so in Saint Louis. Where Yu Yangyi had a three game winning streak, Vachier-Lagrave had a losing streak, suffering defeats by Ding Liren, Fabiano Caruana and Yu Yangyi. His strong finish at the end with wins over Dominguez and Aronian allowed him to once again rise in the standings. This marks Vachier-Lagrave’s final rapid and blitz event on the tour as he has already played in all three required. His final event will be the Sinquefield Cup, where he will try to secure his ticket to the London finals.
Sergey Karjakin started and ended the day in 5th place. He had all decisive games, winning 5 and losing 4.
The first half of the tournament was the return of Magnus Carlsen, who scored 3.5/4. It seemed as though the old Magnus was back, but he also had a three game losing streak, ending the day only one spot higher than where he started.
Fabiano Caruana, on the other hand, recovered from his dreadful day yesterday, scoring a total of 5.5 points, the second highest of the day.
Wildcards Richard Rapport and Leinier Dominguez had a less than ideal day scoring 2.5 and 3 points respectively. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov recovered from his own disastrous day with a 50% score, but had to settle for the last place.
Final standings with prize money and GCT points distribution