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Caruana Weathers Early Storm at Sinquefield Cup | Update: VIDEO

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 8/27/14, 5:59 PM.

The first round of the strongest tournament in history began with a bang. Actually, many bangs. Two hours into the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, a thunderstorm roared through, and a lightning bolt struck close enough to knock out seven of the televisions inside the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

"It was definitely quite loud," said GM Hikaru Nakamura. He was able to keep his concentration thanks to his hometown experience -- in his 2011 match with GM Ruslan Ponomariov, also in St. Louis, a tornado came through town, sending the players to the basement.

After the storms cleared today, third-seeded GM Fabiano Caruana converted against the weakened king of GM Veselin Topalov.

All graphical images courtesy Eric Mousel and Spectrum Studios.

"I would have been happy with a draw before the game began," Caruana told Chess.com about his first rated game on U.S. soil in about eight years. Caruana grew up in New York City before moving to Europe in his early teens to pursue his chess career.

"I'm very happy to be back playing in the U.S.," he said. 

"He [Topalov] played pretty aggressively with g4," Caruana said.

GM Ian Rogers, commentating on site, explained the idea was to play Bd2-e1-g3. He added that 20. Ne4 may have been Topalov's intention, but there are too many tactics on the g1-a7 diagonal to ever capture the c5-pawn.

GM Veselin Topalov and GM Fabiano Caruana, in a battle of green, red and white flags.

"I grabbed my chance with ...b5," Caruana said. "After ...Nd4 I have a huge advantage...His play was a but too loose."

Although we've led with the only decisive game of the day, the match that captivated for most of the day was the draw between GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen. Both players had long thinks after an original idea early in the game.

The duo had only played five previous games, and not once in three years. However, in their last event in Biel 2011, the number one Frenchman got the best of Carlsen by grinding in Carlsen-like fashion.

The two followed the game Volokitin-Eljanov, Kiev 2013 until Vachier-Lagrave's novelty on move eight. Carlsen spent about 30 minutes on his 13th move, but it proved not to be unlucky, as computers suggested it was the top choice and a creative way to develop Black's remaining forces.

White then gave back the 30 minutes on the very next move.

Vachier-Lagrave told Chess.com that according to his memory, 13...Nb4 was not recommended by his home computer. "It's obvious you should look at it," he admitted.

He praised Carlsen for finding many precise moves, "because, you know, I could be just mating him." 

Vachier-Lagrave played the opening dozen moves in negative time, which Carlsen said is always disconcerting.

Update: here's a video with both players explaining their thoughts during the game:

"I thought maybe I could do better because I had some initiative," Vachier-Lagrave said. It seemed like he played everything right. At the end I was lucky to have a perpetual."

The two engaged in a spirited post-mortem analysis after the game, lobbing variations back and forth. Carlsen admitted that he missed the move 30. Rxg5+.

MVL had a surprise in store for the champion...

...but Carlsen said he'd seen the idea of 13...Nb4 "in some position."

Historical precedent suggested that GM Levon Aronian vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura would be the highest chance for a fighting game. Consider: 13 of their 20 classical encounters have produced a winner, the last six games have all been won by White (10 straight if you count rapid and blitz), and Aronian had won five straight games as White against Nakamura.

"Taking that into account, the result is disappointing," Aronian said of that final statistic.

Nakamura's King's Indian Defense has scored poorly against the world number two, but he said his opening choice was more based on tournament situation.

"It's the start of the tournament," he said. "And I have to play Magnus tomorrow." Nakamura said he has often been paired with Aronian in the opening round of a tournament.

"I was hoping he would not quite be on form. I play in Europe a lot and usually the jet lag is on me. What goes around comes around I guess."

GM Levon Aronian declared himself fit.

Aronian, who had been vacationing on the beaches of South Carolina prior to the event, but got stuck in bad weather Monday night, said he felt fine for the first game.

Nakamura's last weekend before the event included an all-day exhibition against a computer. That "training" might seem unconventional, but according to Nakamura, jousting with something that is near-perfect has a hidden benefit.

"Playing against the computer gave me more confidence. Psychologically it's nice to play against the human."

GM Hikaru Nakamura, who will once again try to upend Carlsen tomorrow (they drew twice in the inaugural event in 2013).

In a recent interview with Norwegian TV2 (which is broadcasting the tournament live) Carlsen was asked to describe his opponents in one word. Carlsen laughed when questioned about Nakamura and responded "udugelig" -- which translates as "inept". You can see his delivery here at the 0:07 mark.

Nakamura responded diplomatically: "He's entitled to say what he wants to say."

Carlsen is 10-0 with 15 draws lifetime versus Nakamura. The two meet tomorrow, with Nakamura getting white.

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 ½-½ Nakamura   Nakamura - Aronian
Topalov 0-1 Caruana   Caruana - Topalov
Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ 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

15373 reads 63 comments
7 votes

Comments


  • 4 months ago

    Fnxu-Ikki

    Chess players and their inflated ego , an old story .. :)

    Thankfully some do not take themselves too seriously for playing the game well  ,  the elegance and wisdom of a Tartakower who staked his life on the frontline and had many other interests  or more recently the class and modesty of an Anand helps seeing them in a better light as human beings

  • 4 months ago

    BigChessEnthusiast

    Great victory for Aronian today, a dissapointing start for Topalov:

    http://goo.gl/sx275E

  • 4 months ago

    Farewell314

    Does anyone know where to get the pieces they use? They're beautiful.

  • 4 months ago

    inselschaker

    @Annakarina: First of all, 7.-a5 was known to other people, at least Eljanov (who played it in the Ukrainian championship last year) and his opponent Volokitin. And just because it appeared on Kasparov's analysis board or screen, it doesn't mean that others can't find it independently - after all, it isn't such a strange move (no stranger than 7.Qe2 which is 'topical' in this line).

    13.-Nb4 isn't the only move in this position, but it came as a surprise to MVL and both players were out of book on the same move (has this ever happened before?). Either his preparation was fairly shallow (13.Bc4, this looks promising) or - this happens even to strong GMs - he forgot something at the board or mixed up lines from different variations.

  • 4 months ago

    Annakarina

    Could anybody explain me something : in the game Carlsen-MVL, players were home preparation til the 14th move.

    7...a5 is a very rare move known by very few people in the world (only 3 according to Nakamura).

    Yet, MVL kept on playing quickly so I guess he also knew this move thanks to important amount of work but how is it possible that MVL hadn't prepare Carlsen's 13....Nb4 ! Indeed, it was may be the only move in the position not to loose quickly. If I remember, GM Ashley showed that it was also computer #2 or #3 proposition whereas MVL said it was no computer proposition according to his prep. So I don't get this point : it seems that it is a "hole" in MVL's prep. What the cause ? Low level of MVL's computer ?

  • 4 months ago

    AleSGCHESS

    Go HIKARU TODAY!!!!

  • 4 months ago

    drumdaddy

    Seriously, how much would Hikaru love to break the streak today?

  • 4 months ago

    TRANKD

    @savantz If you're talking about me, I'm not a Carlsen fan at all. I just hate Nakamura. I'm a Grischuk fan.

  • 4 months ago

    savantz

    here's a quote from a news organization...

    "Carlsen require thinking time after threats of default", says the headline of this NRK report from August 25. "Just eleven weeks before the start of the World Championship match there is a serious conflict. And Carlsen has traveled to the United States – without signing any contract." On Sunday Magnus plays the world's number two Levon Aronian with black in Saint Louis. It is also the deadline to sign the contract and accept the original FIDE plan. It will be a very tense day for the World Champion.

  • 4 months ago

    netzach

    Carlsen did win the The Sinquefield Cup in 2013. Guess that allows him some license with his comments.

  • 4 months ago

    savantz

    typical of the carlsen fan pool mentality...

    make excuses for him and attack everything and everybody else

  • 4 months ago

    adarkhorse

    3kush3:

    Intersting article, thanks, in the hostile replies of fans to the reporter you can see exactly what he is describing. People think he is a saint because he is that good at chess. But if you get past that, and past national bias, you see one of the most antisocial egocentric world champs ever. Maybe comparable to Alekhine, if any. Tho Alekhine didn't take back moves ofc.

  • 4 months ago

    TRANKD

    Still, Nakamura is rude, even in public.

  • 4 months ago

    savantz

    yeah, when the world was watching; this was private, one on one, secluded.

  • 4 months ago

    TRANKD

    @3kush3 He might have been very tired and not in the mood for an interview. I say that because I've seen Magnus in a lot of interviews and he was always very polite and behaved adequately.

  • 4 months ago

    cobipal

    This is some exciting shit! :P

  • 4 months ago

    3kush3

  • 4 months ago

    thebeatmodnrocker

    All the commentators up in arms about Carlsen "insulting" Naka need to lighten up and also travel a bit, or interact with people from other cultures. He was taking the piss out of someone he knows, joking around (but also probably applying a little gamemanship, cos Naka doesn't have the best record against him), it just didn't translate very well.

  • 4 months ago

    Dekker

    Love all the American comments below. Of course, Carlsen is rude, of course. Why don't you all read the whole story...?

  • 4 months ago

    BigChessEnthusiast

    An exciting start to the Sinquefield Cup, MVL vs Carlsen was a great game:

    http://goo.gl/Orgo6F

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