A new name was etched on the Grand Chess Tour trophy as Ding Liren was crowned the 2019 champion after defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final. The Chinese player earned $150,000 for his efforts, bringing his winnings to a total of almost $300,000 for the entirety of the tour. Vachier-Lagrave consequently finished in second place and collected $100,000. Magnus Carlsen won his match against Levon Aronian, claiming the third qualifying spot to the 2020 tour and $60,000, while Aronian took home the remaining $40,000. The 2020 season will kick off in Bucharest, Romania in May.
Ding Liren vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
The six-point lead going into the day gave Ding Liren a huge advantage, allowing him to clinch the title in the first two games. Vachier-Lagrave must have felt an enormous amount of pressure to score in the rapid games, choosing the risky Benoni with the black pieces in game one. Perhaps the lack of experience of playing those structures was the main culprit, but the Frenchman’s position went down in flames shortly after the opening stage. The eventual champion was under a bit of pressure in the second game with the black pieces but managed to hold without many difficulties. There was some consolation for Vachier-Lagrave, who scored 3.5/4 in the remaining blitz games. The win was a big confidence boost for Ding, who now believes that in his best shape he can compete with anyone. His next big event will be the Candidates Tournament, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where he is one of the favorites to win and earn the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen’s crown. Vachier-Lagrave conceded graciously, telling Maurice that Ding played “amazing” in the second classical game and “struck when it counted and struck very hard.”
Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian
Just as Ding, Magnus Carlsen also entered the day with a six-point advantage. He, too, was close to putting away his opponent when the unthinkable happened and he blundered a checkmate in a completely winning position. The World Champion couldn’t help but chuckle at the ludicrousness that had transpired at the board after resigning. The win in the second rapid game practically meant the end of the match, as Aronian would need to win the rest of the blitz games to tie the score while Carlsen only needed a draw. The World Champion achieved the desired result in the first blitz game, thus bringing the match to a conclusion. The final score in the blitz was 2-2. Carlsen has had a phenomenal year, specifically in the Grand Chess Tour, but felt that he was already in poor shape in London and felt that “the right two people played in the final.”
Photo: Lennart Ootes (Grand Chess Tour)