Levon Aronian overcame a stuttering start on the final day to cruise to victory in the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz. He was home and dry with two rounds to spare, but won both those games anyway to finish three points clear of Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura in second place. The best news on the final day, though, was that Garry Kasparov finally got to have some fun, winning with a whirlwind attack against Fabiano Caruana, outplaying Hikaru Nakamura and then getting what it crossed his mind might be a last win in the Najdorf against Leinier Dominguez.
Levon went into the final day of the tournament two points ahead of Hikaru Nakamura, and as fate would have it his first opponent was Hikaru. He had the white pieces, so would he go for a knockout punch? Not exactly! The players managed the impressive task of repeating the position three times for a draw by move 15.
If that was a disappointment, though, the post-game interview with Christian Chirila was wonderful. Levon, for once, wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to say. Or perhaps he was sure, but he wasn’t sure if he should say it. Or perhaps he really just hadn’t slept so well, even though he had.
Perhaps the unease (if not fear!) Levon felt explaining what he’d done followed into his next game, where he suffered only his second loss of the blitz, in a rook ending against David Navara. Sergey Karjakin was on fire and closed the gap to one point, and then in Round 3 Levon found himself a pawn down against Le Quang Liem. That was when it all changed for him, though, as the Vietnamese player lost on time while Navara took down Karjakin. Levon later commented: “That gave me the boost that even though I played terribly I’m still coming back”.
He’s always played best when the pressure’s off, though, and Aronian ended with wins over Caruana and Dominguez to finish with 9 wins, 2 losses and 7 draws in the blitz for an overall score of 24.5/36, half a point more than Carlsen and MVL in Paris and one point less than Magnus in Leuven:
You can watch that interview, and the whole of the day’s show, below: