By Tatev Abrahamyan
It appears that even chess players are not fans of Mondays, as round 4 of the 2016 Sinquefield Cup saw five quiet draws. Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana drew very quickly, as the former was ill and did not feel up to the task. The game between Hikaru Nakamura and Veselin Topalov was the only one with any fireworks with an early queen sacrifice, but it was unfortunately mishandled later on. The rest of the games were quite balanced, with the players trading off most of the pieces and heading into drawn endgames. Aronian, Anand, So and Topalov are tied for the lead with 2.5/4.
Levon Aronian – Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½
Levon Aronian was feeling ill before the game and was actually considering asking the organizers to postpone the game, but felt that would be unfair. He was eager to end the game and recover but said he’s ready to fight once he regains his health. Fabiano Caruana can’t complain about an easy draw with the black pieces. In the postgame interview, he jokingly explained that he keeps getting bad positions in the solid Queen’s Gambit Declined, so he decided to try the sharper and less popular Benoni. Caruana learned that Aronian was not feeling well 10 minutes before the game, but it didn’t change his attitude. The game was over in half an hour.
Ding Liren – Viswanathan Anand ½ - ½
Ding Liren had a slight edge as he was playing against Vishy Anand’s isolated queen’s pawn. Both sides spent some time improving their pieces, with white putting pressure on the d5 pawn and black defending the pawn. At some point, white went for simplifications, exchanging the minor pieces and keeping the major pieces on the board, which favored the side playing against the isolated pawn. Anand found a clever way to exchange the pieces and gave white a weakness, which resulted in a drawn endgame.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Svidler ½ - ½
After a rough start of losing the first two games and having the black pieces three times in the first four games, Peter Svidler seems to be recovering with his second draw in a row. The players followed one of the main lines of the Ruy Lopez, which resulted in a pawn structure that resembled the Sicilian Najdorf. The position was quite balanced throughout and the players decided not to get adventurous and agreed to a draw.
Hikaru Nakamura – Veselin Topalov ½ - ½
Black played a novelty on move 9, sacrificing his queen for a rook and a minor piece. White played a few inaccurate moves and was behind in development with his king stuck in the center. Unfortunately, Veselin Topalov wasn’t able to find the key critical move which would have given him the edge. White was unable to untangle and get his king to safety. After a lot of exchanges, white was left with his queen against a rook and a bishop, but with all the pawns on one side of the board, there was no way for the queen to show her superiority.
Wesley So – Anish Giri ½ - ½
Anish Giri’s Catalan preparation was better than Wesley So’s and the position transformed into a stonewall structure, which favored black. Wesley wasted too much time trying to trade off the dark squared bishops and suddenly found himself under a lot of pressure on the queen side. Giri missed the opportunity to put his opponent under even more pressure, allowing his opponent to trade off most of the pieces. The resulting knight endgame was unpleasant for white, but he did not have a lot of trouble defending it.