FIDE Grand Prix Berlin SF2 2022: Aronian and Nakamura in the final

GM Levon Aronian and GM Hikaru Nakamura comfortably neutralized challenges from GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Richard Rapport respectively in the second match of the semi-finals to set up an all-American clash in the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix first leg final in Berlin.

Playing with the black pieces, Aronian surprisingly made use of the relatively calm Hungarian defence, while Nakamura repeated one of his favorite plans against the Indian attack of the Rapport Kings. Neither game significantly threatened the one-point lead Aronian and Nakamura secured in the opener of their respective matches.

The final two-game match will take place on February 15 and 16, with tiebreakers on February 17 if necessary.

After losing the first game with black pieces, Dominguez and Rapport desperately needed to win the second game of the semi-finals at all costs, to force their matches into a tiebreaker. Although Aronian and Nakamura were the favorites today due to the way they won their first games, as well as the perceived fatigue of their opponents, chess fans expected more intense fights during of the second part of the semi-final. This did not happen, however, as Aronian and Nakamura were never in danger in their respective games, which ended in draws after reaching the mandatory minimum number of moves needed to sign the peace treaty. .

Dominguez Aronian

This is how Aronian clarified the logic behind adopting his opening for Sunday: “I analyzed the position a bit… it’s a little worse because Black – White keeps a slight advantage and presses But it’s a very solid type of a position. If White doesn’t play the most accurate moves, then [the game] moves very quickly into null positions. I thought it might be a good idea for a game where I needed a draw, to play solid.”

If one analyzes Aronian’s logic behind the choice of the Hungarian defense – described by himself as ‘slightly worse’ – it might even be confusing to understand why he chose the opener in such a crucial game. But analyzing Aronian’s games with black pieces against 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 from a database, another reason for choosing the opening system becomes apparent: to make the preparation of his opponent more difficult. In a hundred games available in a database, Aronian has almost always adopted the Guico Piano (3…Bc5).

During this time, he only adopted the Hungarian defense (3…Be7) of different move orders a handful of times, especially against GM. Ian Nepomniashchi at the Tal Memorial, Moscow 2016.

A smart opening choice from Aronian. Photo: World Chess.

And we must not forget that apart from 1…e5, Aronian can also play the Pirc/Modern and the Sicilian for the surprise!

Dominguez was indeed taken aback by Aronian’s opening designs: “I was slightly surprised by the opening choice – I think Levon usually plays 3…Bc5. After the position we have obtained, I was hoping that maybe I could get some light pressure as usual. in these positions, after I played 13.b4 which looks very natural, it becomes very very concrete, after 14.. .d5 and 15…b5, I’m not even better at complications [afterwards].”

Another factor that went against Dominguez was his time management. Towards the end of the match, he was an hour behind Aronian on the clock, only increasing the pressure on himself. Looking at the game, one might get the idea that it wasn’t the position on the board that warranted so much thinking time on Dominguez’s part, but the pursuit of the complexities necessary to defeat Aronian. Such complexities were not present in the post, however.

Asked after the match about his focus on the Grand Prix and a likely entry into the next Candidates Tournament, Aronian had a surprising view of his ambitions: “No, I usually want to improve as a player, work on my failures and continue to do what I love. It is not directed to any particular goal, but I think, of course, that some [the] the work I have done is paying off. But it’s [an] ongoing process – I need to keep working. »

…I generally want to improve as a player, work on my failures and keep doing what I love.

—GM Levon Aronian

For his part, Dominguez curiously stressed the need to “work on my physical form – towards the end of the tournament, the level drops a bit, I get tired a bit. Especially when you have tense matches, which is almost always the case in these events.”


The match between Rapport and Nakamura took a different course compared to the other match. Unlike Dominguez, Rapport had concrete knowledge of his position, as he played the very first part of a Bundlesliga match, albeit against a weaker opponent. Report said, “I was pretty happy with the opening, the way it turned out…I tried to do something smarter, but it ended up with something dumb!”

Rapport-Nakamura was a well-contested fight. Photo: World Chess.

In the middle of the match, the position looked quite tense and Nakamura even seemed to be in a better position. However, even when they had only played 17 moves, the two players already had less than half an hour. But unlike the other match in the semi-final, it was Nakamura – the leading player – who seemed to have the upper hand in the match: Game of the Day

Asked about his progress towards the tournament final, Nakamura was candid: “It’s fine I guess. Probably not planned, but I felt I played well. I don’t think I did anything super special. , but when you are strong and take advantage of whatever opportunities are available to you, then good things seem to happen.”

Good things seem to be happening for Hikaru Nakamura. Photo: World Chess.


2022 FIDE Grand Prix Semi-Finals

All games Semi-final Game 2

The Berlin FIDE Grand Prix is ​​the first of three stages of the event. The Berlin tournament takes place from February 4 to 17. Tune in every day at 6:00 a.m. Pacific / 3:00 p.m. CET for our show.

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