Is it a perfect start? Mathematically, yes.
GM Fabiano Caruana moved to 3-0 today by beating GM Magnus Carlsen as Black. No other player is within 1.5 points, which is the maximum possible lead after three rounds at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup.
"I couldn't hope for better, especially since I was starting with two Blacks," Caruana said.
He now has an even higher live rating (2816) than all but five men in history (passing GM Vladimir Kramnik).
In fact all three games were decisive today, with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave bouncing back against GM Levon Aronian, and GM Veselin Topalov getting on the board after surviving time trouble against GM Hikaru Nakamura. F-pawns were particularly important, as you'll see below.
Even GM Magnus Carlsen's Norwegian-branded bottles couldn't save him today.
Collectively, the players have now produced six wins in nine games, but that's not the most telling statistic. Not a single game has had both players reach the time control, whereas all but one game got to move 40 in 2013.
Something is in the water, lovers of endgames.
Chief Arbiter Chris Bird joked that he had to reread his contract to make sure he wasn't getting paid by the hour.
Today at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Carlsen sacrificed on f7 early but it was Black who began an onslaught. Just when the worst may have been behind him, he uncharacteristically blundered on move 31.
Carlsen explained that he saw 31...Rd1+ several moves earlier in his analysis. But when 30...Qh5+ appeared on the board, he became unsatisfied with 31. Qh2, and so instead played 31. Nh2, expecting 31...Re5. He simply forgot his earlier analysis.
"I can't really explain it. He just blundered ...Rd1," said Caruana.
The world champion suffers his first-ever loss in St. Louis. He will have to come from behind like last year.
Here's Caruana talking about his win against the world number one:
After the game, Carlsen stayed at the board for a minute with his head down.
Caruana still liked Black after 31. Qh2. His original intent was 31...Qe8 32. Re1 Rh5. He mentioned in the post-mortem that 32...Bf2 is even better (see the above analysis).
GM Fabiano Caruana, unknowingly wearing the same shirt he wore to beat Carlsen as Black at the 2013 Tal Memorial. Photo courtesy Lennart Ootes.
Carlsen said the tournament wasn't over, but conceded, "I have to beat [Caruana] to stop him." The two meet again in round eight. Their lifetime score is now only +1 for Carlsen (five wins to four).
The two players who lost yesterday both bounced back with wins.
Vachier-Lagrave had an inverted game from yesterday. Instead of taking all of his opponents' pawns, he offered them. Aronian bit, but like MVL in round two, paid the price.
"It was a misjudgment, I was very greedy," Aronian said. "Maybe I'll get to consolidate but I never got the chance." Vachier-Lagrave said Black should have given the pawn back.
MVL took many looks at Carlsen-Caruana, sometimes even while his own clock was running.
Aronian added that 13. Qe3 surprised him. He had only considered 13. axb3.
"So far I'm not playing well, honestly," he said. "Today I just got too excited -- all these [pawn] structure changes."
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, unintentionally showing which pawn he intends to sacrifice first (photo Lennart Ootes).
Here's MVL talking about the game:
On-site announcers GM Alejandro Ramirez and GM Ben Finegold correctly predicted only 80 minutes into the round that there would be three decisive games. They were right, but they got one of the winners wrong.
GM Veselin Topalov's "bluff" worked against GM Hikaru Nakamura. 21. Ng5 should have been punished with 21...Bxf2+!
Neither GM Hikaru Nakamura's New York Red Bulls jersey, nor his actual Red Bull, could help today.
"Sometimes it happens that your opponent believes your calculation," Topalov said.
On Ng5: "I was running out of time and I thought I had to make some move," he said.
Topalov told Chess.com that 19. e5 was probably the losing move.
"My opponent played more or less the one opening I didn't prepare for," he said.
About the "upset" Carlsen-Caruana, Topalov said: "Number one losing to number two is not a big surprise. The way [Caruana's] playing, he has the world championship strength."
Chess.com/TV will embed the official commentary at 2 p.m. Central (GMT -6) for every round.