Sinquefield Cup - Round 8

By Tatev Abrahamyan

The leader of the tournament, Wesley So, was not able to seal the deal today, as he drew quickly against his compatriot, Fabiano Caruana. It seemed as if it was going to be a quick round, for three of the games ended very quickly, but Levon Aronian got a very solid advantage right out of the opening and masterfully progressed it towards a win. Veselin Topalov and Viswanathan Anand, both of whom were trailing So by half a point, drew their game. Topalov, Anand and Aronian are all still half a point behind the leader.
In the final round, all eyes will be on the Vachier-Lagrave vs. So game. The American holds the fate of the tournament in his hands, as a win would mean that no one could catch him. If he ties the game, he is at least guaranteed a tie for first, as the burden to win a game and catch him would fall on his competitors. The most interesting scenario that  could happen is if So loses and a specific series of results happen, which could mean a 7 way tie for first! The Frenchmen vowed to try to beat the leader, as it is his last chance to have a shot at the crown. After eight days of hard fought chess, everything will come down to the final, dramatic round.

Wesley So – Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½

The battle between America’s numbers one and number three players was a quiet affair. As the leader of the tournament, So, did not want to take any risks and was happy with a draw. After an exhausting seven hour game in the previous round, the U.S. Champion was not looking for another marathon session over the board. The game ended in less than an hour after most of the pieces came off the board and there was nothing to play for anymore.

Ding Liren – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½ - ½

The other participant in last round’s marathon game, Ding Liren, also was not looking for any adventures with the white pieces. The position was symmetrical, with white having no edge. The game ended when the players started repeating the position, not even meeting the 30-move draw rule.

Viswanathan Anand – Veselin Topalov ½ - ½

This was the second day that the Berlin was played in the tournament. After the standard opening moves, a really unorthodox position occurred when white put his knight on the edge of the board on the king side, where it couldn’t move, and black had triple pawns on the queen side. Even though the players violated a lot of chess principles, the specific placement of the pieces demanded such action. With precise play from both sides, no progress could have been so the game ended in a draw in a rook endgame.

Levon Aronian – Hikaru Nakamura 1-0

Historically, Nakamura has struggled against Aronian and this game was no exception. The Armenian grandmaster had an edge right out of the opening as black struggled to finish his development. The advantage increased when white got the bishop pair in the open position then won a pawn. Unable to withstand the pressure the entire game, Nakamura blundered giving Aronian another pawn, simplifying Aronian’s task. With this win, Aronian is only half a point behind Wesley So and is still very much in contention for first place.

Anish Giri – Peter Svidler 0-1

Both players have been suffering this tournament, unable to find their form. Giri sacrificed a pawn for the bishop pair and activity, but he was unable to create any real threats. Svidler’s extra pawn ended up being the key to the game, as he eventually rerouted his pieces and the pawn became a significant advantage. At the critical point, Svidler traded down to a theoretically won rook ending and finished the game off soon after.