Fire, Water, Sport During Sinquefield Rest Day

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 9/1/14, 7:46 PM.

The 2014 Sinquefield Cup's lone "rest day" was just a clever name for most of the field. Interviews, athletics and one spectacular artistic exhibit filled the day.

What do you do if you're playing the perfect tournament? GM Fabiano Caruana began the day with interviews, then went swimming.

The world champion, GM Magnus Carlsen, chose a round of golf (he had already played soccer prior to the first day).

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, a devotee of table tennis and follower of tennixs's U.S. Open, chose to play tennis with chess club founder Rex Sinquefield and this reporter.

I can report that his backhand is balky but his speed saves him on many occassions. Pro tip: attack his second serve.

MVL, a huge fan of Roger Federer, runs down a ball deep behind the baseline.
Rex Sinquefield, days shy of his 70th birthday, still gets around the court quite well.
GM Magnus Carlsen took advantage of the mild weather (photo: Kaja Snare of TV2).

But what of the commentators? GM Yasser Seirawan fulfilled his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but not before bracing for impact.

"The Yaz" knew what was coming, having seen other chess players complete the challenge in St. Louis.

Here's how he took the frigid bathing:

Just prior to the West side of Maryland Avenue getting doused, Vachier-Lagrave completed his challenge on the opposite sidewalk. He sat beneath the world's largest chess piece and awaited his fate.

Who knows? Maybe it's the secret to winning five games in a row. Caruana's case study certainly didn't hurt. 

As you heard, much of the chess elite are getting drenched thanks to a single catalyst -- GM Anish Giri. MVL took the liberty of nominating five candidates instead of the normal three, but hey, 2700s get special treatment in lots of ways.

As you also heard, one of those "on the clock" is now our own IM Danny Rensch.

UPDATE: IM/WGM Sopiko Guramishvili "completed" MVL's challenge, sort of.

As evening fell, all six players' paths converged at the World Chess Hall of Fame. The third installation of "The Burning Boards" by artist Glenn Kaino took place in a blacked-out room.

As if they needed it, all the GMs were given White.

Candles were ersatz pieces as chess professionals matched with artists. In a night where two disparate subcultures coalesced, the levity contrasted greatly with the first five rounds of the tournament.

Tournament leader GM Fabiano Caruana...
...actually stalemated his opponent (you're going to have to trust him on this one). There goes his perfect score!

Kaino wanted to show the impermanence of objects and the ever-changing nature of the rules we live by. Players were encouraged to form their own fire-based rules, but it was generally agreed that extinguised flames and immobilized pieces were both out of the game.

Only the heights of the pieces differentiated them, so as games dragged on and candles burned lower, a good memory was required.

MVL played "The Immortal Wax Game" -- see for yourself.

Just after the next photo was taken, a funny incident occurred. 

WGM Jennifer Shahade had actually played "The Burning Boards" at a prior installation.

Just after Shahade delivered a pretty dovetail mate, she laughed hard enough to blow out her own king. "But it was mate on the board!" she joked.

GM Magnus Carlsen and the other five players participated.
GM Levon Aronian using the provided tongs.
Without a known dominant strategy, some players invented their own systems. One idea was to move your own king every few turns so the wax didn't drip and affix him forever!
GM Hikaru Nakamura with his own version of "Fire on Board."
20. Kd2! was especially deep Smile.
Moves in the center of the board were especially hazardous to those in long sleeves.
MVL and Caruana -- shirt sleeves are not recommended when fire is involved.
The 2014 Sinquefield Cup -- even St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is tweeting about it. will embed the official commentary at 2 p.m. Central (GMT -6) for every round. The games resume Tuesday, September 2.

21154 reads 26 comments
17 votes


  • 2 years ago


    very nice ,amacing

  • 2 years ago


    very nice ,amacing

  • 2 years ago


    It's nice!!

  • 2 years ago


    Is it a draw if the smoke alarm goes off before checkmate?

  • 2 years ago


    Happy to see the severe tension broken by some good clean fun. Good sport awards to MVL and Yasser. 

  • 2 years ago


    What a fun way to promote chess, which many people consider a staid game because of the seriousness and focus of the players. It is great to see the players relaxed, and enjoying the artist's concept, smiling, and laughing. We often only see the players before the games, when they are trying to get focused, and after the game, when they are either happy with the win or draw, or very disappointed in their play.

    This pictoral album really dispays a lighter side to the players on their day off, and helps to humanize the game, and players. They can be cold and calculating at the board, and still enjoy their friendships off of the board, although I know there are some rivalries. This is part of what makes this great game of war, a war of the minds, where we can build friendships, and comraderie, in the midst of heated composition. I think this represents the best aspects of this game of thrones.

  • 2 years ago


    WOW. You've brought these amazing chess events to life! Plus, you've been part of the action. Congratulations! Can hardly wait to see Danny Rensch drenched! I hope he then nominates you for the challenge, Mike! Looking forward to seeing those videos!

  • 2 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    creative concept!

  • 2 years ago


    Nice touch of MVL to give blac the opportunity to see the checkmate several moves in a row.

  • 2 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Awesome as usual Mike.

    I can't believe MVL challenged me... We will see what I can come up with Undecided

  • 2 years ago


    goodnight ! 

  • 2 years ago

    FM MikeKlein

    @melvin - Since the players were playing non-professionals, many of them did not play for a quick kill, since it would end their game. I'm sure he saw the mate.

    Two of the chess professionals (who I will not name Sealed -- not players in the tournament) played versions of the four-move checkmate. 

  • 2 years ago


    Nice update thx

  • 2 years ago


    Where's Topalov?

  • 2 years ago


    Pretty awesome. Not all are having a great event but all are still enjoying Saint Louis. The candle chess was pretty awesome.I'd like to see MVL vs Naka at tennis.

  • 2 years ago


    Nice article as always!!! thanks!!

  • 2 years ago


    It's quite obvious we chess fans are indebted to you and Peter, Mike, but you took the standard brilliant reports to a whole other level of splendor!

    Thanks for that, and thanks for all the people (players included!) at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for providing us with one of the most exciting chess tournaments of the past decade (IMO, though I've only been playing for two years, so my opinion doesn't hold much weight as I missed many great tournaments Tongue Out). 


  • 2 years ago


    There must be an error in the MVL "immortal Wax Game" as there was 15.Qf7#. 

  • 2 years ago


    WoW, Fire, Water and Sport looks like ( AWESOME FUN )!***
    When is the next time? I'll fly from country to country to be there.

  • 2 years ago



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