Hikaru Nakamura won his first Grand Chess Tour with a clutch victory in the last round over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The newly crowned champion earned an additional $120,000 for his efforts, bringing his winnings to a total of $225,000. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finished second for the second year in the row, picking up a total of $160,000. Fabiano Caruana defeated Levon Aronian earning the last automatic qualification spot to the 2019 Grand Chess Tour, along with Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave. In addition, the Grand Chess Tour made the announcement of the plans of expanding the tour, adding a new classical event in Croatia and two more rapid and blitz events in India and Ivory Coast. The prize fund will be increased to at least $1.5 million, a significant raise from this year’s prize pool of $1,050,000.
Final overall Grand Chess Tour standings
Hikaru Nakamura vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
“My strength this season has been rapid and blitz” - Hikaru Nakamura explained to commentator Alejandro Ramirez after his game. The showdown between the two superstars was a nailbiter that came down to the final blitz game. After drawing the first two rapid games, neither player was able to claim a victory in the next three blitz games. Nakamura was able to find an idea before the last blitz game and delivered the final blow, finishing his opponent off in 29 moves with a beautiful tactical sequence. With this win, Nakamura also crossed the 2900 mark on the live blitz rating list.
Nakamura was crowned the 2018 Grand Chess Tour champion
Fabiano Caruana vs Levon Aronian
The battle for third place was heated with seven decisive games and only one draw. After drawing the first game, Caruana won the next rapid game, giving himself a four point lead. Aronian evened the score by winning the next two blitz games, leaving his opponent demoralized. The American made a quick recovery winning the next two games and thus the match. Caruana did not feel proud of his third place finish but expressed that winning against Aronian is always an accomplishment and offered his congratulations to the deserved winner.
Third place finisher Fabiano Caruana