Dubai: The Global Chess League, a joint venture between Tech Mahindra and FIDE, ended on an exciting note in one of the most unexpected events. From being almost out of the league, Triveni Continental Kings became the first team to qualify for the final of the inaugural season and eventually ended up winning the league in a thrilling sudden-death Blitz encounter thanks to the team’s youngest member Grandmaster (GM) Jonas Buhl Bjerre.
While GM Bjerre stole the show in the epic tie-break after losing his first two boards against GM Javokhir Sindarov from the upGrad Mumba Masters, it was the Icon player of the team GM Levon Aronian who played a crucial role in steering the team to the final.
GM Aronian, a former World Rapid and Blitz Champion who joined the Triveni Continental Kings just a week before the league, proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Kings. In a candid conversation, Aronian opened up about the format of the league, his experience and his top moments from the tournament.
Aronian started by speaking about the experience and the comeback by his team and said, “It´s been magical. Our comeback is something historical and we are all proud of it as a team. At some point, before the finals, our coach Loek Van Wely remembered the last NBA playoff series between Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. First Miami was leading 3 to 0 and then Celtics made a comeback to take it to 3-3, only to lose the 7th game without much fight. We told ourselves that even if we don´t manage to win the finals it was ok as long as we put up a big fight, and so we did.”
Aronian also stated that at one point in time, the team had left hope and they were just thinking about going out all guns blazing. “I think the moment after the match that we lost against Anand´s team we realized that we have maybe one percent chance to qualify. I told the folks that realistically we can´t qualify, even if we win all the matches, so now it´s all about saving face. We relaxed and somehow the lady luck started smiling at us,” he added.
Looking back at the tournament Levon also talked about how despite another pull-out from the team during the tournament, the International Master and Women’s GM Sara Khadem brought composure to the team and changed many things. While praising Sara who took up the challenge instantly, he said, “Sara is very easy-going, confident and a strong player. It´s very difficult to replace an elite-level player like Nana Dzagnidze, and honestly, I did expect such a level of composure and determination from Sara. It felt almost like she was an integral part of our team immediately after she joined.”
While many can only dream of doing something like this in a single tournament, Triveni Continental Kings’ Icon not only defeated World No. 2 Ian Nepomniachtchi but also came out victorious against the World Rapid Chess Champion and current World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen. Analyzing his games, he said, “Well, both games with Magnus and Ian were not particularly good; I was making mistakes, fighting, and then they made mistakes that were not typical for them. I am happier with my wins against Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, whom he faced during the all-important final encounter.”
Finally, Aronian spoke about the format of the league and how it can be the next stage for chess. “I loved the format. At first, I thought that white has an unfair advantage, but now in hindsight, I am not so sure anymore! Great idea to have six games with one colour at the same time,” he concluded.