Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren will meet in the finals after defeating Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian respectively. While Ding was dominant in his match, Vachier-Lagrave had to go all the way to tiebreaks to secure his spot. Ding and Vachier-Lagrave will be competing for the $150,000 first-place prize and the title of Grand Chess Tour Champion, while Carlsen and Aronian will battle it out for the third-place qualifying spot to the 2020 GCT in addition to a $60,000 prize. Tomorrow the players will take a break from the action to partake in the corporate day, where they will be paired with entrepreneurs in friendly games to raise money for the UK charity Chess in Schools and Communities. Action will resume on December 6.
Ding Liren vs Levon Aronian
The Chinese player was completely dominant in his match, advancing to the finals with three blitz games to spare. Aronian was unable to deal with the complications arising from his opponent’s piece sacrifices in both rapid games, collapsing at the crucial moments. The two wins in the rapid gave Ding a 6 point lead, and he only needed 1 draw in the remaining 4 blitz games. He secured his spot in the finals by locking up the position in the first blitz game, forcing a draw and reaching 15 points. Aronian suffered two more losses but did manage to end the day with a win. The Armenian star felt “ashamed” about his play today, whereas Ding felt lucky to win the first game.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Magnus Carlsen
Unlike the smooth sailing by Ding, the match between Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave was a complete roller coaster ride and was decided on the tiebreak. Carlsen later explained to Maurice that he felt sluggish and “not good enough in the critical moments.” After two tame rapid games, the World Champion escaped unscathed in the first blitz game only to go on to lose the next one. In his typical fashion, he bounced back immediately in the very next game with a win in a rook endgame. After a draw in the final blitz game, the match moved on to tiebreaks. The first tiebreak game was a wild affair with the evaluation of the position changing drastically several times. Carlsen had a crushing attack, but let the advantage slip with inaccurate play. After another blunder, he found himself in a difficult position, then ultimately in a lost knight endgame, which Vachier-Lagrave converted masterfully with seconds on his clock. The Frenchman sealed the deal with a draw in the second game. This marks the World Champion’s second tiebreak loss this year, a blemish on his otherwise flawless tiebreak record.
Photo: Grand Chess Tour