By Tatev Abrahamyan
After a seven hour day, the standings didn’t change and all ended in a draw. Wesley So is still leading with only two rounds to go, trailed closely by Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov, who are both half a point behind. Unlike yesterday, which saw several tumultuous games, today’s round was rather uneventful, except for Caruana vs. Ding which lasted 7 hours! Since the first games ended fairly quickly, the players were happy to spend some time in the studio analyzing the games and chatting with the commentators. In order to prove their physical prowess, Anish Giri and Maurice Ashley did a minute and a half plank challenge in their suits, making it the most stylish plank-off in chess history.
It seems as though chess is booming both inside and outside of the chess capital of the U.S. Hikaru Nakamura received a hat and a shirt as a gift from the U.S. Speedskating team after choosing speed skating as his sport of choice in the Olympics during the opening ceremony, which he happily wore to the game today. Singer and former Destiny’s Child member, Michelle Williams, stopped by the World Chess Hall of Fame, snapping a photo in front of the largest chess piece and sharing it on social media. Even with the Olympics going on in Rio right now, the Sinquefield Cup is the place to be in the U.S.!
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Hikaru Nakamura ½- ½
This was the first Berlin Defense of the tournament. The Berlin has become very popular in top level chess, because it’s so solid but is dreaded by the fans due to the high number of draws. After 18 moves of theory, Nakamura played a novelty. Later in the game, Vachier-Lagrave felt that, in order to have some chances, he needed to sacrifice an exchange but was not sure how to evaluate the position. Nakamura drew comfortably with the black pieces.
Peter Svidler – Wesley So ½ - ½
Even though a win for So with the black pieces against the player who has been struggling the whole tournament could seal the deal, he decided to play safely. The American thought that Svidler was a dangerous player, like a cornered animal who is ready to attack. Svidler didn’t get anything out of the opening joking that, “it’s hard to play the English against someone who plays the English.” The position petered out to an opposite color bishop middle game where neither side had any initiative. The players agreed to a draw after they reached the 30 move requirement.
Viswanathan Anand – Levon Aronian ½ - ½
Aronian had an opportunity to sacrifice a piece right in the opening but chose a safer option. After the queens were traded off, Aronian got the bishop pair but Anand had a good grip on the dark squares on the queen side. The Armenian grandmaster felt that the position was unpleasant but fortunately for him, the former world champion did not put enough pressure on him and allowed a lot of trades. Aronian was quite proud of his last move of the game, equalizing the position and ending the game in a draw.
Veselin Topalov – Anish Giri ½ - ½
Topalov was determined to have a Sicilian on the board, so he played it with the colors reversed. Giri got a comfortable position out of the opening, forcing white to find counter-play. In the endgame, the Dutchman won a pawn but his opponent had a very active rook cutting off black’s king and not allowing the passed pawn to advance. Giri pushed for a win for a little while, but, thanks to Topalov’s accurate play, the game ended in an uneventful draw.
Fabiano Caruana – Ding Liren ½ - ½
This was truly a titanic battle, which lasted 7 hours. Caruana had a structural advantage because his king could infiltrate, but it wasn’t quite enough. Like a true champion, Caruana took any chance that he could, making his opponent work for the draw. Even at the very end, after about six and a half hours of play, the U.S. Champion allowed his opponent to queen his pawn while queening his own pawn a tempo down, trying to win an endgame with only eight pieces on the board. Ding defended ferociously, giving up one of his remaining two pawns just to activate his king. Eventually, he won the pawn back and the game was drawn.