Sinquefield Cup Recap - Round 2

Just as in round one, the second round of the Sinquefield Cup saw three decisive results however the road to these results was significantly different. The first result came from Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So; the Russian misplayed the opening and saw his position fall apart quickly after. Peter Svidler versus Viswanathan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura versus Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were quite uneventful draws. The game that had everyone’s attention was the battle between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. The World Champion came out on top after outplaying his opponent in true Carlsen-esque fashion. Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian played a 110 move marathon game, with the American finally converting the winning advantage.

Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin 1-0

All eyes were on this match as the two giants have developed quite the rivalry since their World Championship match in 2016. Since then, they met only once in a classical tournament in the Altibox Norway Chess in 2017, where the World Champion won in a one-sided game. True to his style, Carlsen slowly started building up his position and putting pressure on his opponent. Karjakin made one crucial mistake when he did not fight for the only open file in the game and allowed his opponent to penetrate with his rook and eventually build up an attack on his king. On move 42, Karjakin admitted defeat.

Levon Aronian vs Fabiano Caruana 0-1

This was an epic battle that lasted almost seven hours. Aronian made a careless blunder and found himself down a piece in an endgame. The only reason this was complicated was because Caruana had a pawn on the h-file and a dark squared bishop. Without any material on the board, this position is a theoretical draw. However, each side had a rook and Aronian also had two pawns. Caruana missed a tactical win on move 40, before making time control and the game went on for another 70 moves. The former U.S. champion missed several other wins in the marathon game, but his technique was still good enough as he forced the game into a winning rook and bishop versus a rook endgame. These endgames are usually drawn with correct play, with the exception for some specific theoretical positions, one of which appeared on the board.

Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Wesley So 0-1

After a tough first round loss, the Russian grandmaster played very unambitiously in the opening, opting out for an obscure line. Black was able to obtain the two bishop advantage and get a grip on the dark squares. Nepomniachtchi blundered with 17.f4, when he overlooked that his opponent could capture his knight right away instead of trading pawns first. Quickly, White found himself in an endgame with too many pawn weaknesses, none of which he could defend. So went on to convert without any trouble.

Peter Svilder vs Viswanathan Anand ½

The game was pretty equal throughout. Black accepted a position with an isolated pawn, which offers the opponent a long term advantage. However, Anand had enough counter play to never find himself in a worse position. He played precisely by exchanging a knight for his opponent’s bishop then putting his passed pawn on a dark square to limit White’s remaining dark square bishop. After enough pieces were traded off, the opponents agreed to a draw as the position did not offer anything to play for.

Hikaru Nakamura vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½

The Frenchman once again played his pet line, the Najdorf, and got a comfortable position out of the opening. In the confessional booth during the game, he recalled the game he played on the white side of it against Topalov a few years ago. He called his opponent’s play inaccurate as he had an improvement based on his game. At some point, it was Nakamura who had to play precisely not to find himself in an uncomfortable position. After all the pieces were traded off, a draw was agreed in an opposite color bishop ending.