Cup Chronicle

2016 Cup Chronicle Issue 7

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.!
Ding Liren suffered a heartbreaking loss in Round 5, but came back today with a very nice victory defeating Peter Svidler, who hasn’t been able to find his form this tournament. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored his first victory in the tournament over Levon Aronian. The Frenchman spent his rest day playing bullet against Daniel Rensch with the giant pieces outside of the World Chess Hall of Fame and jokingly attributed his success to the exercise he got from running back and forth to move the pieces.
Another exciting match-up was between Nakamura and Caruana, who became rivals and Olympiad teammates when the Caruana started playing under the U.S. flag a year ago. Caruana chose a very sharp Benoni line and then played down a very complicated line. In the endgame, Nakamura had winning chances but the U.S. Champion played very accurately and found some great defensive resources. Giri had some winning chances against Anand, but with only 4 seconds left on his clock to make his 40th move, he couldn’t possibly calculate an accurate line and played a safe move, which lead to a draw.
Ding Liren sacrificed a pawn in the opening, but after hours of play, it looked like the game was going to end in a draw like the others. The Chinese grandmaster’s nerves must have given out, as he found himself in a mating net after being so close to a draw. Going into the day off, Veselin Topalov is now leading the tournament with 3.5/5.
The players also took the time to talk about fitness and maintaining good health during the tournament. As it turns out, most of them are fitness enthusiasts and actually find the time to exercise either at the gym or outdoors. Anish Giri also joked that chess players like the idea of the general public thinking that chess players are enthusiastic about the game more than actually being enthusiastic about it. Tomorrow is a day off, so the fans are hoping for fireworks as the players have a full day to recuperate.
After suffering two losses, Peter Svidler had some real chances against Fabiano Caruana, but the U.S. Champion once again managed to escape with half a point. Nakamura and Anand had the most balanced game out of the round, with the former World Champion having a slight edge at one point. Aronian, So, Anand and Topalov are now tied for the lead with 2/3.
Hikaru Nakamura also had a fascinating game against Anish Giri, giving him one chance in the game to survive, but after being under the pressure the whole game was unable to find the saving move. The two other Americans, Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana, both drew as they escaped in worse positions.
The wild card of the event, Peter Svidler, is still trying to find his form as he played an excellent middle game in a very unorthodox position against Levon Aronian but was not able to keep the same level of accuracy in the endgame, giving the full point to the Armenian.
The two wild cards of the event, Peter Svidler and Ding Liren, did not seem very confident today, as the former blundered and the latter admitted to feeling shaken up after several bad results. The newest #2 player in the world, Vachier-Lagrave, who has gained almost 100 rating points in the past year, managed to escape with a draw in a much worse position.


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GM Gukesh D & GM Viswanathan Anand
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