Sinquefield Cup 2017
The Sinquefield Cup 2017 began on August 2 in Saint Louis, USA, and runs until the 11th. It is one of the most important tournaments of the year and brings together 10 of the best chess players in the world, with an incredible average rating: 2787.87! The highlight is the presence of the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen, from Norway.
The Sinquefield Cup is part of the Grand Chess Tour, a kind of multi-step circuit that tries to raise the level of the elite tournaments with better prizes, structure and a previously defined schedule. On August 14, for example, another Grand Chess Tour tournament begins, the Saint Louis rapid & blitz, with the illustrious participation of former world champion Garry Kasparov.
Turning to the Sinquefield Cup, in addition to Carlsen, the other participants are: Viswanathan Anand (India), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Maxime Vachier Lagrave (France), Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, the three from United States and the Russian trio with Sergey Karjakin, Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The playing system is the all-versus-all (Schuring) format on a single turn. The time control is 1 hour and 40 minutes for the first 40 moves plus 1 hour for the remainder of the game. The players receive an additional 30 seconds per move since the first move. In other words, a single game can last up to 6 hours.
Standings After 5 Rounds
Until the closing of this article, five of the nine rounds had been played with great fights. Of the 25 games played, 15 finished in a draw, with six white wins and four black wins. The leader is frenchman Maxime Vachier Lagrave, with 3.5 points in 5 rounds, followed by Carlsen and Anand, both with 3. Caruana, Karjakin and Aronian are just behind with 50%. Nakamura, Svidler and Nepomniachtchi are the tail-enders with 2 points out of 5 possible.
Speaking of the games themselves, the leadership of Maxime Vachier Lagrave is well deserved. In the first round, the Frenchman defeated Wesley So with great positional chess He won the bishop’s pair, opened the position and decided the game. In the fourth round, against the world champion, Lagrave defeated Carlsen in the same way as the Norwegian prevails against his opponents: a balanced position, without much theory and that requires technique in the positional game. It was a real battle, with the advantage shifting from side to side. But Capablanca would be proud of the Frenchman’s game.
Speaking of the world champion, despite the loss to the leader, Carlsen did not collapse. True to his style, he beat Karjakin (see the game clicking here) and Wesley So in his best trademark style.
Levon Aronian is undoubtedly the most fun player for the public. In the first round, against Ian Nepomniachtchi, his superb opening preparation made him win a game full of tactical tricks. It’s worth stopping and thinking to try to understand the motives behind every move.
On the other hand, Aronian was somewhat worse with Caruana in the second round, until committing the biggest blunder of the tournament until now. 33. Re2 ?? simply pinned his knight. Who said that elite players do not make big mistakes?
White to play and lose: 33.Ke2?? (click here for the full game)
Still, the beauty prize for the most beautiful game of the tournament goes to Viswanathan Anand. In the fifth round, the former world champion used all his creativity and calculating power to sacrifice the queen and beat Fabiano Caruana. A fabolous performance from the Indian, who until then had been playing a solid tournament.
White to play. Click here for the full game.
Finally, there are still four rounds left and everything is open. As a curiosity, we draw attention to the fact that 1.d4 was only played twice in the first 5 rounds. Is the Queen’s Gambit going through an existential crisis?
Images credit: Lennart Ootes, available on chessbase.com