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5 Things You Didn't Know About the World's Strongest Tournament

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 8/26/14, 1:44 PM.

By now, you likely know that the 2014 Sinquefield Cup will be the strongest chess tournament ever held. The average rating of 2802 FIDE ensures that the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is the place to be the next two weeks.

GMs Magnus CarlsenLevon Aronian, Fabiano CaruanaHikaru Nakamura, Veselin Topalov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave have all arrived (but some just barely -- more on that below). The event begins tomorrow at 2 p.m. Central (GMT -6) and the drawing of lots is tonight at the opening ceremony.

Update: In round one, the pairings are Topalov-Caruana, Aronian-Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave-Carlsen. Full pairings are here and added below this article.

Think you know what to expect? Here's five things that may have escaped your attention!

1. Fans started lining up more than four hours in advance of today's autograph session.

Al Myatt of Little Rock, Arkansas wins the diehard fan award. He took a seat outside the chess club at 7:30 a.m. this morning, making him first in line to get each player's John Hancock. 

Al Myatt had enough time in line to watch the extended edition of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

He drove the required six hours last night to make sure he would get a place in line.

"I thought about [coming today] but I would get here at noon," Myatt said. "I'd be number 100 in line. I want to be in the top 10."

The superfan also had to convince his wife, but admitted, "I was going to come one way or another...It makes her feel better if I let her know."

The crowd was sizable, but not as large as last year's weekend autograph session.

Fan number two was Mark Cain from Illinois (the state just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis). He took up playing chess in middle school. He also came last year but was looking forward to some new elements to the tournament.

"It's fun to see Magnus now that he's world champion," Cain said. When asked what he did with the photos he took at last year's signing session, he said, "The pictures are displayed proudly, at least wherever my wife lets me put them.

"Chess keeps me out of trouble," he said.  "She knew I was a nerd when she married me!"

2. Being a top grandmaster doesn't save you from the ice bucket challenge.

Thanks to being "challenged" by GM Anish Giri, Caruana offered himself up this morning in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame.

GM Fabiano Caruana, with club founder Rex Sinquefield (far left) looking on (photo courtesy Lennart Ootes). Sinquefield will turn 70 on the final day of the event.

Before being doused, he offered Aronian and commentators GM Maurice Ashley and Yasser Seirawan as the next participants. (A few hours later, Ashley accepted.)

As you can see, apparently when you reach 2800, you get two buckets:

Video courtesy Kevin Duggin and Spectrum Studios

Also intending to accept is Vachier-Lagrave. This reporter shared a plane with him yesterday, and the world number eight informed me that Giri also nominated him. Watch for another video to be added before the event ends.

As for Aronian, he joked that he saw nothing special in the newfound craze.

"I don't get it -- where I come from, we do this every day!" he laughed.

3. The players have been invited to play in The Burning Boards, a chess game with lit candles as pieces.

The World Chess Hall of Fame is hosting an exhibit on September 1 in which burning candles are ersatz pieces. Players not only have to remember which piece is which, but also make their moves before the flame runs out. Once the fire on a given piece is extinguished, it is then out of play.

A new kind of "Fire on Board." (Image courtesy Kavigupta.com and artist Glenn Kaino.)

All six competitors, as well as other notable chess players, have been invited to participate. Vachier-Lagrave has already accepted - let's hope he wears short sleeves.

4. One chess player gave new meaning to world's "strongest" chess tournament.

Chessboxer and St. Louis resident Justin Grimes came to the signing ceremony, but didn't ask for his board to be signed. He brought his gloves.

Justin Grimes hopes these gloves will give him an edge in his chessboxing matches.
Nakamura and Carlsen -- could either survive long enough in the ring to win a chessboxing match on the board? We certainly won't find out these next two weeks.

5. Travel schedules were quite different for the six players.

All players at the Sinquefield Cup competed at the Olympiad in Norway earlier this month, but from there the travel schedules diverged greatly.

Vachier-Lagrave only arrived in St. Louis last night. Nakamura played an exhibition match Saturday in California and survived an early-morning earthquake the next day.

"I thought it was my cell phone going off," Nakamura said of the vibration that awoke him.

Calrsen and Caruana had a more leisurely arrival. The world champion came early enough for a soccer match with the Webster University Chess Team, while Caruana played some blitz games with club members Monday afternoon.

Topalov nearly didn't make it. According to Seirawan, he simply forgot to apply for his visa while competing at the Olympiad (one can forgive him -- his focus netted him a gold medal on board one).

Topalov (second from right) cut it close.

After the Olympiad concluded, he came home to Madrid and applied for an expedited meeting with the U.S. embassy. The visa was granted, then he awaited it in the mail. It arrived Friday, the last business day before his flight on Monday.

Another complicated arrival befell Aronian, who arrived in St. Louis today minutes before the autograph session. He was vacationing with his girlfriend in Charleston, South Carolina -- "It's a beautiful city," said Aronian -- but flight delays during his connection had him sitting on the tarmac in Chicago for several hours last night. He finally got a morning flight and arrived with what he was wearing on the plane.

Aronian didn't have a chance to change clothes before the photo shoot...

...and borrowed a shirt from the club.

Check Chess.com throughout the next two weeks for daily reports, video interviews, and live coverage of all the games.

Chess.com/TV will embed the official commentary at 2 p.m. Central (GMT -6) for every round.

2014 Sinquefield Cup | Participants

Rank Player Age Country Rating
1 Magnus Carlsen 23 Norway 2877
2 Levon Aronian 31 Armenia 2805
3 Fabiano Caruana 22 Italy 2801
5 Hikaru Nakamura 26 USA 2787
8 Veselin Topalov 39 Bulgaria 2772
9 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 23 France 2768

2014 Sinquefield Cup | Schedule & Pairings

Round 1 27.08.14 14:00 CDT   Round 6 02.09.14 14:00 CDT
Aronian - Nakamura   Nakamura - Aronian
Topalov - Caruana   Caruana - Topalov
Vachier-Lagrave - Carlsen   Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave
Round 2 28.08.14 14:00 CDT   Round 7 03.09.14 14:00 CDT
Nakamura - Carlsen   Carlsen - Nakamura
Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave   Vachier-Lagrave - Caruana
Aronian - Topalov   Topalov - Aronian
Round 3 29.08.14 14:00 CDT   Round 8 04.09.14 14:00 CDT
Topalov - Nakamura   Nakamura - Topalov
Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian   Aronian - Vachier-Lagrave
Carlsen - Caruana   Caruana - Carlsen
Round 4 30.08.14 14:00 CDT   Round 9 05.09.14 14:00 CDT
Vachier-Lagrave - Nakamura   Caruana - Nakamura
Carlsen - Topalov   Carlsen - Aronian
Caruana - Aronian   Vachier-Lagrave - Topalov
Round 5 31.08.14 14:00 CDT   Round 10 06.09.14 14:00 CDT
Nakamura - Caruana   Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave
Aronian - Carlsen   Topalov - Carlsen
Topalov - Vachier-Lagrave   Aronian - Caruana

12400 reads 36 comments
14 votes

Comments


  • 7 weeks ago

    Melchizedek10

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 8 weeks ago

    GiampaoloTalamo

    Forza Caruana, sei il migliore!

  • 8 weeks ago

    zealandzen

    First round of Sinquefield airs on ChessTV at 2pm PDT Wed 27 Aug. Look under MORE in top menu. :) Join us.

  • 8 weeks ago

    ShivaDP

    I would like to see Levon win this, for once!

  • 8 weeks ago

    mjm16

    Go carlsen

  • 8 weeks ago

    Otnip

    Go Vachier!

  • 8 weeks ago

    alghul

    Awesome report Mike. This is going to be a great tournament. May be Nakamura will finely vanquish Carlsen. Rooting for Caruana to win this tournament: Go Fabiano!

  • 8 weeks ago

    themaurish

    Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is just amazing, the chess community is gratefull for their efforts. Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis > FIDE lol

  • 8 weeks ago

    tyepukatyaibatyako

    13 hours ago

    yogiOK

    This is just The Most Incredible Event of US history.

     

    I agree. Even considering non chess related events.

  • 8 weeks ago

    D_Ostwald

    Carlsen and Nakamura seated next to each other during the signing!  :)

  • 8 weeks ago

    otkrivenje

    go naka!!!

  • 8 weeks ago

    pm11081994

    Nice report! :)

    "ALS ice bucket challenge" is just being insane, and the burning board doesn't seems to be viable...lets see how it works o.O

  • 8 weeks ago

    laughingqueen

    most awesome lineup ever. young hungry players, all around 2800.

  • 8 weeks ago

    iMacChess

    It's not that far away but unfortunately I don't have the money for it... :(

  • 8 weeks ago

    Rehcamuhcs_Retep

    As a St. Louisan, I'm absolutely devastated that I won't be in town for the event . . . Cry

    Instead, I'll rely on chess.com to keep me updated . . .

  • 8 weeks ago

    P_G_M

    I hope Caruana does not catch a cold becauase of the stupid ice bucket challenge.

  • 9 weeks ago

    ning-ning

    ..Carlsen has to loose, to motivate him some fighting chess... he got bored in recent weeks :P lol guys 8)
  • 9 weeks ago

    Wappinschaw

    "She knew I was a nerd when she married me" ,that's a classic!

  • 9 weeks ago

    tonightatsix

    Go, Naka, go!!!:)

  • 9 weeks ago

    theKingSwings

    Aronian missed the gold medal at the olympiad, I hope he clinches the title in this tournament

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