At St Louis, world champion Magnus Carlsen met with unexpected setbacks in both the rapid and blitz sections. In both cases his play was unusually lacklustre and his self-assurance seemed to crumble. I can’t imagine Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik or Kasparov ever uttered such words about their own play as Carlsen did when he said: ‘Everything’s going wrong. My confidence is long gone and now I just don’t really care anymore. My number one wish now is for the tournament to be over, it cannot come soon enough.’ Lev Aronian was the overall winner.
Yu Yangyi-Carlsen: St Louis Blitz 2019 (see diagram 1)
19 Nxf6+ Bxf6 20 gxh5 c3 21 Qg2 Kh7 This defensive measure proves too slow. The best chance was counterattack with 21 … Bxd4 22 Bxd4 Qa5 23 hxg6 cxb2 24 Rg1 (24 gxf7+ Kf7 and the king can escape via e8) 24 … f6 with unclear play. 22 hxg6+ fxg6 23 b3 Qa5 24 f4 Rc4 25 e5 This central breakthrough is decisive. 25 … dxe5 26 fxe5 Bxe5 27 Qg5 Rc7 28 Rg1 Rf6 29 Nf3 Bf5 30 Qh6+ Black resigns
Mamedyarov-Aronian: St Louis Rapid 2019 (see diagram 2)
In this complex situation Aronian proved that his queenside majority was worth more than White’s passed pawn and central pressure. 26 … b5 27 Ne3 Nb7 28 h4 h5 29 g4 A typically optimistic Mamedyarov thrust, but Aronian is not perturbed. 29 … Nd6 30 Qf3 Rf8 31 Qg2 Rce8 32 gxh5 Qxg2+ 33 Kxg2 Re5 34 a4 a6 35 axb5 axb5 36 Ra1 Rxh5 37 Ra6 Nf5 38 Nxf5 Rhxf5 39 Ra2 c3 40 d6 Rc5 41 Rc2 Rd8 42 f4 Kf7 43 Kf3 Ke6 44 Re2+ Kd7 45 Rd1 Kc6 White resigns
Dominguez Perez-Carlsen: St Louis Blitz 2019 (see diagram 3)
Here Black should retreat his bishop to b7 with a reasonable game. Carlsen’s next move is careless and permits the white queen to enter his position. 18 … Be6 19 Qf3 a5 Carlsen may have intended 19 … Nd5 but 20 Nxd5 Bxd5 21 Bf5+ Be6 22 Bxe6+ Qxe6 23 Qa8+ is strong. 20 Qa8+ Kc7 21 Na6+ Kd6 22 Be4+ Nd5 23 Rxd5+ Ke7 24 Rxd8 Rxd8 25 Qb7+ Qxb7 26 Bxb7 and, with an extra piece, White won easily.