By Johannes Fischer
Tactics rule. As Viktor Bologan explained in yesterday’s press conference, in Chess960 the random position of the pieces simply forces you to think of everything. In interviews Levon Aronian also stressed how important tactics are in Chess960. The first three rounds of the Chess960 Rapid World Championship confirmed this view. The games featured quite a number of unusual tactical situations – and it was Levon Aronian who handled them best.
Right from the start he showed how good he coped with them. In his first round game against Nakamura he gave his queen for two rooks after just a couple of moves and afterwards he simply brought his pieces to strong squares. Nakamura came under pressure and had to give an exchange but then Aronian used his material plus to mate the enemy king with rook and two knights.
The game between Sergei Movsesian and Viktor Bologan was also characterized by tactics. Tactical tricks gave Bologan an advantage, and a tactical trick allowed Movsesian to extricate himself from a difficult position. However, he could not solve all of his problems and Black still had some pressure. This in turn provoked an inaccuracy from Movsesian which Bologan used to secure a winning position and soon after the point.
However, after this promising start followed a sobering second round, in which Bologan miscalculated and fell victim to a violent mating attack from Aronian. With 2 out of 2 Aronian showed why he was considered to be the favorite to win this tournament.
The secret favorite Hikaru Nakamura fared much worse. After his first round loss against Aronian things also went wrong against Movsesian. The American played with White, built up pressure in the opening, avoided a repetition and a draw – only to lose his way and the game soon after. “After ten moves I was almost winning, but then I got careless”, he remarked during the press conference after the game.
However, he managed to pull himself together in the third round and won with Black against Bologan. Both players were fond of the enemy pawns, but Nakamura managed to snatch one more pawn than his opponent, which gave him a clear endgame advantage that he finally converted to a full point.
The game between Movsesian and Aronian quickly developed into a sharp encounter. Both players wanted to gain the initiative and did not shy away from material sacrifices. At first it seemed as if Movsesian, who played with White, set the pace, but the tide turned after a strong counter by Aronian. Suddenly White’s position was critical and Movsesian’s search for counterplay only accelerated his end.
This led to an amusing situation: three players with 1 out of 3 share places 2 to 4 and will fight hard to qualify for the final tomorrow. At the same time Aronian scored 3 out of 3 and is the sole and dominant leader and more than ever favorite to successfully defend his title of Chess960 World Champion. “All games were hard and tough fights”, Aronian said during the press conference. Maybe – but he still seemed to play all of them with effortless and playful ease. Often a sign of real great skill.