The players returned to the board after spending their day off at the Pro Biz Cup raising money for the UK charity Chess in Schools and Communities. After the opening phase, the commentators expected to see two victories. While Carlsen was able to put away his opponent, Vachier-Lagrave escaped by the skin of his teeth thanks to his resilient and resourceful defense. Aronian will have the white pieces tomorrow to try to overcome the 6 point deficit. The games will resume tomorrow 2 hours earlier, at 2 PM GMT/8 AM CST.
Results after first classical games
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Ding Liren: ½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave miraculously weathered the storm in what looked like a completely lost position. Ding repeated the same line against the Ruy Lopez that he had played against Carlsen in 2017. The Frenchman misplayed the middlegame and found himself in an unpleasant position, with a bad knight against a superior bishop in a queen endgame. Vachier-Lagrave decided to give up a pawn in order to trade the minor pieces, but inadvertently entered a lost endgame where his opponent’s passed c-pawn was unstoppable. Ding’s king ran across the board in order to hide from his opponent’s checks and to support his passed pawn. The situation looked hopeless for the Frenchman, but at the critical moment on move 66, the Chinese star made the grave error of allowing his opponent to promote to a queen as well, thinking that he had a forced win. The unusual endgame with four queens on the board went on for 32 moves until Ding had to accept that the victory had slipped out of his hands, eventually settling for a perpetual. Vachier-Lagrave was very critical of his performace, calling it unworthy of a final match. Ding was disappointed but found some solace in his high-quality middlegame play.
Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian: 1-0
Carlsen returned to the board eager to recover from his loss against Vachier-Lagrave. The main culprit of Aronian’s downfall was his poor time management throughout the game. The World Champion maintained a small edge after getting the bishop pair but Aronian was in the game. The position blew up on move 32 when the Armenian sacrificed a pawn in order to activate his pieces. Unfortunately, he was already low on time and missed a key resource to fully equalize. After a few more inaccuracies by both sides, the players ended up in an opposite-colored bishop endgame where Aronian was down a pawn and already relying heavily on increment, making it practically impossible to hold. He conceded defeat after it became clear that another one of his pawns would inevitably fall.
Photo: Grand Chess Tour