World number 5 Levon Aronian has been showing good form during the summer, finishing in shared second place at the Superbet Classic, winning the Goldmoney Asian Rapid tournament and reaching the semifinals of the Chessable Masters. The 38-year-old, who announced in February that he will switch federations to represent the United States, had a strong start at the Aimchess US Rapid, scoring 4 out of 5 points on Saturday to grab the sole lead.
Magnus Carlsen and Vladislav Artemiev make up the chasing pack standing a half point behind. While Artemiev kicked off the day with two wins and drew his remaining games, Carlsen was defeated once on the first day of action, by Alireza Firouzja in round 4.
The world champion seemed to have things under control earlier in the game, but by this point he was already in serious trouble with his king lacking protection on the queenside. 31…Ne4 was a blunder, since it allowed 32.Qh2, and after 32…Kc8 (32…Nd6 was better) 33.Bd7+, with a double check, 33…Kxd7 34.Rc7+ the world champion played 34…Ke6, allowing mate in one to appear on the board.
35.Qe5#. This was Firouzja’s only win of the day. The youngster drew his remaining games.
The world champion was not the only player who got caught in a mating on Saturday. In round 2, Leinier Dominguez misplaced his king on move 28 against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
28.Kh5 left the white king short of escape squares. Mamedyarov quickly found 28…Rxe5 29.fxe5 Kg7
Having extra material means nothing when one’s king is about to get mated. Dominguez played 30.e6 only to delay the inevitable — 30…Be4 and there is no way to prevent …Bg6#.
The top 8 players in the 15-round preliminary round robin advance to the knockout stage. The likes of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vidit Gujrathi and Jan-Krzysztof Duda are currently in the bottom half of the standings table, which means we can expect to get plenty of exciting chess in the remaining ten rounds of the prelims, as the aforementioned players are not the kind to lose without a fight.
Standings after round 5