Cup Chronicle

2016 Cup Chronicle Issue 9

After a very dramatic round, America’s #3 rated player, Wesley So, won the 2016 Sinquefield Cup. His road to victory was not easy, as today there were several different scenarios in which someone could have tied with him, sending them to the playoffs tomorrow; in the case he lost, someone could have passed him! Wesley was very solid throughout the tournament, not losing any games and making draws when he needed to, a strategy that he felt worked very well for him. His opponent, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, needed to beat So in order to get as many points as him, but he had no real chances in the game and it was drawn quickly. The quick draw meant that either Topalov or Aronian, who were facing off, could catch him with a win. For a very long time, it seemed as if Topalov was going to win, but Aronian defended ferociously and Topalov ended up giving away his advantage and turning the game into a drawn rook endgame. Wesley waited at the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic center with his family surrounded by fans watching the final moments of the game unfold, as the handshake after 81 moves ensured his win of the tournament. So earned 13 Grand Chess Tour points and $75,000 for his efforts and is now the sole lead of the tour!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.
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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