The topical image of two chess players almost immobile for hours is the antithesis of what is seen today in fast internet tournaments, such as Lindores Abbey. The American Hikaru Nakamura has won the Armenian Levón Aronián, after a fast jump-off, his first duel (best of three is played) in the quarterfinals. Chinese Yangyi Yu has imposed on his compatriot Liren Ding in another dramatic sudden death.The remaining two qualifiers, Carlsen-So and Kariakin-Dúbov, begin this Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

A match between Aronián, 37 years old and Nakamura, 32, has a special appeal, added to the fact that they are both stars of the board, because neither of them has ever reached the final of the World Championship despite the fact that, probably, the enormous talent of both credits for it. The Armenian, winner of multiple medals in Europe and World Cups as a child, was until a couple of years ago the most fearsome rival for the champion, Magnus Carlsen, but his results in the Candidates Tournaments were bad because he excessively accused the pressure of his country (where chess is as popular or more than soccer) and its surroundings (his family traveled with him to the Candidates). The American, who emigrated from Japan when he was two years old, was trained, at the beginning of this decade, by Gari Kaspárov, who threw in the towel because Nakamura was not ready for military discipline and preferred to invest part of his time in games of one minute or poker.

Nakamura is currently number one in the world in lightning mode, 4th in fast and 18th in slow. It is, therefore, the most fearsome rival for Carlsen in fast tournaments like this. Aronián’s mood (26th, 8th and 7th, respectively) is quite different: he probably plays to forget the death of his wife, Arianne Caoili, 33, on March 31 after a terrible traffic accident.

And there are strong indications that the Armenian has resumed his training in earnest. For example, in today’s first and third rounds, White has entered into a theoretical duel over a fashion variant against the Orthodox Defense, where it is essential to have thoroughly analyzed the numerous games played recently with it. And the fruit of that work is that Aronián won the first game and put great pressure on Nakamura in the third (after a hard draw in the second) until the American started another tie.

But Nakamura is a samurai, and managed to break with white in the fourth the iron defense of the Caucasian, thus forcing the sudden death, which in chess is called Armageddon: a single game with five minutes for white (forced to win) and four for black ones. And the American led Black. Aronián came out ahead of the opening, but it escaped from his fingers under the pressure of the clock, and he ended up losing to the very fast American, who was modest a minute later: “I don’t know if I deserve to win this duel, but the Armageddon are like that , and someone has to win ”, said in Chess24, the virtual club that organizes the tournament.

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 Yangyi Yu, during the 2019 John Saunders / Gibraltar Chess Gibraltar Festival

The fratricidal duel between the two Chinese was more interesting than the marker indicates: four draws and Yu’s victory at Armageddon. Actually, the normal four rounds were technically interesting, and the fifth ended in tragedy: Ding lost on time in a fully won position.

All the results of the first phase: here

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