Aronian Grabs Early Lead As Levitov Chess Week Returns To Amsterdam

Aronian Grabs Early Lead As Levitov Chess Week Returns To Amsterdam


GM Levon Aronian leads the Levitov Chess Week after the first day of play, scoring three wins and two draws. The tournament runs until September 26 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

After a first edition in 2019, the Levitov Chess Week has returned to the Dutch capital. The event is now bigger, with 10 players instead of eight, and stronger, as only top grandmasters are participating this time. The setting is the same: an elite tournament in a friendly atmosphere, held at the chic five-star Waldorf Astoria hotel, bringing back memories of the Melody Amber tournaments.

Besides Aronian, the tournament has the former world champions GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Vladimir Kramnik, and also GMs Daniil Dubov, Boris Gelfand, Alexander Grischuk, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Wesley So, and Peter Svidler. Four years ago, Nepomniachtchi edged out Grischuk on tiebreaks to win the first edition.

Peter Svidler suit
Svidler bought himself a nice new suit in Amsterdam’s biggest department store as his luggage hadn’t made it to Amsterdam yet. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Levitov Chess Week.

The event is open to the public this year, but on the first day, only a handful of fans came to pay a visit. It’s a good thing that most events are so easy to follow online these days because the playing hall is, though beautiful, not big enough to host more than, say, twelve spectators comfortably. The many cameras, including tiny ones on the table corners for close-ups of players’ faces, are creating a pretty high-quality broadcast though, which even features instant replays.

Meanwhile, the private area was brimming with special guests, including many famous grandmasters from earlier days. Among them were Simen Agdestein, Erwin l’Ami, Evgeny Bareev, Vladimir Chuchelov, Jan Gustafsson, Joel Lautier, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Jeroen Piket, Jan Smeets, and Genna Sosonko. The latter turned eighty earlier this year and is still looking as energetic as ever.

Genna Sosonko 2023
80-year-old Genna Sosonko looking at the game Svidler-Grischuk. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Levitov Chess Week.

The tournament is a double round-robin, meaning that the players face each other twice, with both colors. Five rounds were played on the first day out of a total of eighteen. Aronian had the best start, with an undefeated 4/5. In the second round, he played a risky line in the Sicilian Taimanov but was eventually rewarded as he trapped Nepomniachtchi’s queen:

This result came after Aronian’s win in the first round against So, who started the tournament with a disastrous 0/4 before beating Nepomniachtchi. Jetlag is not the reason, but a busy schedule might be. So was playing in a tournament in Berlin last week and faced none other than GM Magnus Carlsen a few days later in the Speed Chess Championship.

So’s third loss is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao because of Vishy Anand’s pretty attack. India’s five-time world champion is the only player trailing Aronian by half a point after the first day of play.

Anand also defeated Nepomniachtchi, who, after getting his queen trapped earlier, was in danger of “self-trapping” his king as he moved it to e5 on move 47. Anand’s devilish 47…Nf4! threatened checkmate in one, which forced Nepo to sacrifice a piece, still not enough to save the game.

Viswanathan Anand 2023
Viswanathan Anand had a good first day, scoring two wins and three draws. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Levitov Chess Week.

Interestingly, Aronian scored another win with the black pieces in another, but different Sicilian. Having played 1…e5 for almost his entire career, Aronian followed his Taimanov up with a Najdorf against Grischuk, playing an important line that was also recommended in the Najdorf Chessable repertoire by GM Anish Giri, who recently became a father for the third time.

Levon Aronian Levitov Chess Week
1…e5 champ Levon Aronian knows his Najdorf too. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Levitov Chess Week.

All Games Day 1

The 2023 Levitov Chess Week takes place September 22-26, 2023, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It is a 10-player, double round-robin. The time control is 10 minutes for the whole game plus a five-second increment. The prize fund is 130,000 euros, with a first prize of 40,000 euros.


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