Aronian Dances Out of Sharp Grunfeld; Draw Keeps Showdown Knotted

Armenian super GM Levon Aronian dodged Hikaru Nakamura's attack in Sunday's third round of the Showdown in Saint Louis, leaving the match tied with one Classical game remaining. Tuesday's final round will feature 16 games of Blitz.

We’ve passed the point of backing down in the Showdown in Saint Louis.

Super Grandmaster Levon Aronian came out in an admittedly playful mood in the third round of the Showdown in Saint Louis, the Armenian fleet with his moves and looking to dance through a lesser-known line of the Grunfeld on Sunday afternoon. But American No. 1 Hikaru Nakamura wasn’t looking for grace, shaking off any initial surprise from Aronian’s opening choice and charging forward with an aggressive 10. e5 and 11. h4 to spin the game into a sharp tactical fight.

But Aronian deftly parried all of Nakamura’s intentions, carefully handling the American’s initiative and dissolving the game into a lifeless rook-and-pawn endgame before the game’s 40-move time control.

The draw keeps the Showdown in Saint Louis knotted after three rounds, with one victory claimed by each heavyweight before Sunday’s draw. For scoring purposes, each classical game counts as four points, leaving the match tied at 6-6 with Monday’s fourth round bringing the final classical time control. Tuesday’s final round will feature 16 games of Blitz, each scoring one match point apiece.

Nakamura vs. Aronian Round 3 Analysis by GM Maurice Ashley

In the Showdown’s surrounding GM/IM norm invitational events at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, GM-elect Sam Sevian -- who just crested FIDE 2500 on Saturday night as his final title requirement -- will apparently not be relinquishing headlines of the GM section. After winning his first four games, Sevian added 1.5/2 on Sunday -- including a win over GM Ben Finegold, Sevian’s third point collected from GMs in the event -- to take lethal control of the standings.

In the IM norm section, FIDE Master M. William Brown also turned in a 1.5/2 Sunday to distance himself in clear first and move closer to achieving an International Master norm.