Recap Article

2016 Sinquefield Cup Recap Day 2

The second round of the Sinquefield Cup brought a lot of excitement for the fans. The most fascinating game of the round was between current world #2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and 5-time world champion Vishy Anand. It looked like the Frenchman was going to continue his winning streak until he blundered in his calculation and ended up losing the game. 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 entire 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 second 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.

Ding Liren – Wesley So ½

This was the first game to end and was quite uneventful except for few key moments. It was a symmetrical position but white had a slight lead in development and was able to achieve a comfortable edge by putting all of his pieces on the right squares. Unfortunately, white tried to capitalize on the advantage by playing a forced line that won a pawn, overlooking a tactical shot that won the pawn right back and completely equalized the game. The peaceful result was inevitable.

Fabiano Caruana – Veselin Topalov ½

The Bulgarian completely outplayed the U.S. Champion but failed to convert the winning advantage. Not sensing the danger early on, Caruana made a few careless moves and allowed black to place his pieces on the optimal squares and forcing white to be very passive. Black found a very nice tactical sequence, sacrificing a piece for an attack. Caruana tried to complicate the position by sacrificing his queen for three pieces but his position was still hopeless. Topalov didn’t find the most accurate continuation and allowed white to solidify. He later sacrificed his queen back and had a rook and two pawns for two minor pieces. The Bulgarian joked that he was too old to try to win that position and drew the game soon after.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Viswanathan Anand 0-1

All eyes were on this game right from the beginning. Anand surprised his opponent by playing the Caro-Kann but as he himself avoided any theoretical discussion, the Frenchman also opted out for a sideline. Things were very complicated and strange early on, resulting in a position that is hard to explain by following simple chess principles. In the confessional booth Vachier-Lagrave shared with the audience that he didn’t expect so much excitement but was happy with his position. Just like Ding Liren, the Frenchman tried to win a pawn by tactical means which was a blunder. Unfortunately for him, the blunder cost him the game thus ending his long streak of no losses. In the postgame interview Anand shared his concern about his position as he was simply trying to survive with each move. This puts the 5-time world champion tied for first with 1.5/2.

Levon Aronian – Peter Svidler 1-0

The Armenian chose a very unusual set up and the players found themselves in a new territory after 7 moves, a rarity in modern chess. It was clear that both players were uncomfortable as they both spent a lot of time in the opening. Svidler came up with great ideas and played some excellent moves to equalize the game but misplayed the ending, which Aronian won quite smoothly. The Russian was very disappointed with himself for losing such a position but refused to accept any excuses such as jet lag, simply putting that he’s “not dying”. When asked how he managed to get any advantage in such a seemingly dry position, Aronian jokingly attributed it to luck.

Hikaru Nakamura – Anish Giri 1-0

White got the bishop pair early in the opening but black was still uncomfortable. Giri felt that his opponent made a few strange moves and tried to play for an advantage. His ambition allowed his opponent to slowly improve his position and pose some serious problems for black. In order to complicate matters, the Dutchman sacrificed a piece. Even though white’s king was surrounded by the enemy army, black did not have a real attack. In a desperate attempt, Giri sacrificed a rook. His gamble almost paid off as Nakamura tried to play it safe and didn’t accept the sacrifice. Still being under the impression that he was completely lost, Giri didn’t take the opportunity and played the crucial mistake on move 41 very quickly, just as he received another hour on his clock. He admitted that he didn’t consider the move that would have given him the chance to draw the game. Nakamura was quite pleased about his quick recovery after his first round loss. As he put it himself, World Champion Magnus Carlsen lost his first game in the recently completed Bilbao tournament yet managed to win the tournament, so the American remains optimistic.


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GM Gukesh D & GM Viswanathan Anand
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