With all five games drawn today American Grandmaster Wesley So clinched 1st place in the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. After today's round, he secured himself a minimum of 7 GCT points from the Sinquefield Cup and can no longer be mathematically caught in the overall tour standings. For his efforts, So earns the $100,000 first place bonus prize.
The projected winner of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour, GM Wesley So
The slew of peaceful results also leaves Vachier-Lagrave leading the Sinquefield Cup with 5.5/8, half a point ahead of Caruana, So, and Dominguez heading into tomorrow’s final round.
Standings after Round 8
Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes, with a 30-second increment added from move one.
Vachier-Lagrave - So | ½-½, 50 moves
A sharp piece of preparation put So under pressure in the 5.Re1 Berlin, but he managed to defend precisely and slowly equalize by forcing trades along the e-file. Having a half-point lead in the event, MVL decided not to risk too much, and acquiesced to a draw after all the exchanges.
After 14.Qf3 Black was under a bit of strain, but So continued with 14...Be6 and 15...Be7, slowly untangling his position.
Caruana - Svidler | ½-½, 42 moves
Caruana essayed an interesting line (6.e5) in the Giuoco Piano, and was able to achieve a small strategic plus, having the better side of a middlegame with opposite colored bishops. However Svidler defended accurately, not letting White get any initiative, and once the queens were exchanged neither side was left with any real winning chances.
Fabi had some nagging pressure against Svidler, but couldn’t find a way to increase his edge. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
Xiong - Mamedyarov | ½-½, 34 moves
The players discussed the topical 3...a6 variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, as Mamedyarov gave himself an isolated queen pawn in exchange for long-term piece activity. While the game stayed equal for some time, it was due to open up once the players approached the first time control. As the players entered mutual time-trouble the fireworks started, with Mamedyarov sacrificing an exchange in order to start a direct attack against White’s king. Xiong then missed the best chance to squash Black’s initiative, and instead played a move that was winning in all lines but allowed a fantastic saving resource that Mamedyarov soon found. Black was then able to force a draw by perpetual check.
28...Nd3! saved the game for Mamedyarov, as after 29.Qxd2 Qh2+ 30.Kf2 Qg3+ White is forced to allow a perpetual, since the king cannot step on e2/f1 in view of Bc4, winning the queen.
Mamedyarov was on the verge of losing but managed to find a miraculous saving trick. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
Dominguez - Shankland | ½-½, 32 moves
This game featured a quiet line of the English Attack (6.Be3) in the Najdorf, with Dominguez looking to outplay Shankland in strategic fashion. But Shankland handled the middlegame just fine, and even managed to reach a slightly better endgame according to the engines. During mutual time-trouble, the players started to repeat moves in a position that appeared equal, but as it turned out both players missed a winning resource for Shankland, overlooking a key tactical detail. Instead, the game was soon drawn by repetition.
After 29.Be6, the players repeated with 29...Nd4 30.Bd5 Nf5 31.Be6 etc., but Black could have won with 29...Rxe4! 30.Bxf5 Rf4, where 31.Rgxg7 is met with R8xf5! (the move that both players missed) and Black is left with an extra piece. If White doesn’t play 31.Rgxg7, then Black has a clear extra pawn and much better position, with excellent winning chances.
Sam Shankland after finding out he missed a win. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Swiercz - Rapport | ½-½, 50 moves
A balanced London middlegame quickly turned sharp when Rapport decided to recapture a piece with gxf6, doubling his pawns on the f-file in exchange for an open g-file. Black’s enterprising play wasn’t really enough to pose serious problems for White, as Swiercz remained better throughout the game, but he wasn’t able to increase his advantage substantially, and the players eventually simplified into a drawn rook endgame. With the draw, So’s GCT victory was secured, as Rapport will no longer be able to pass him in the tournament standings.
Rapport took some strategic risks but was never able to rattle his opponent. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
Pairings for Round 9
Round 9 of the 2021 Sinquefield Cup will take place Thursday, August 26, starting at 2:50 PM CDT with all of the action covered live by commentators GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Alejandro Ramirez, and GM Maurice Ashley. Watch live on grandchesstour.org as well as twitch.tv/kasparovchess.