Tough Day for Americans at Sinquefield Cup

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 9/13/13, 5:58 PM.

The Sinquefield Cup leaderboard experienced a shakeup in round four as both Americans suffered through, and ultimately lost, worse endgames.

Pre-round tournament leader GM Hikaru Nakamura breezed through the first half of the tournament, winning twice and nearly taking out GM Magnus Carlsen to make it a clean sweep (they drew in round three). Today was completely different against GM Levon Aronian, who blundered badly in their round one game.

"I took too many risks," Nakamura said. "All credit to Levon. He played well...I just gave him a free point."


Nakamura said he regretted his plan of ...a6 and ...b5. Aronian said better resistance could have been offered if Black matched 20. h4 with 20...h5, but "...h5 feels so sad. You give away this g5-square. His position is so unpleasant there."

"I'm just much worse," Nakamura evaluated the move. "Maybe a computer could hold it, but not a human."


Even so, an inventive piece sacrifice nearly allowed America's best player to liquidate all the pawns. Aronian was unimpressed with his own decision to trade queens and allow chances to hold in the endgame. He called the decision "silly...I have no explanation for it. I should have played Qd1 and won by attacking his king. The extra piece should help."

Nakamura spent nearly half of his remaining time trying to find a last-gasp salvo after 45. g3. The response 45...f3 nearly saves Black, but the plan to zigzag the pawns with ...e5 and ...e4 fails because he needs to spend a tempo on ...Kf6. For example, 46. Nd2 Bxh5 47. Bc2 Kf6 (to guard f5) 48. Bd1 and the e-pawn is too slow to connect with the loose pawn on f3.

Instead, Aronian wedged his knight on an inviolate outpost. When he finally reactivated it by heading for g5, Black's pawns stood to begin falling, and Nakamura capitulated.


Aronian and Nakamura have now played seven consecutive decisive games against each other in classical time controls. "I tend to complicate things, and as Black, I tend to lose," Aronian said of the curious stat.



The other American, GM Gata Kamsky, did not come out of the rest day with aggression, and was similarly ground down. He played the Exchange Ruy Lopez against Carlsen and lost as White for the first time against him.

"I thought perhaps he would be more ambitious," Carlsen said, adding that he thought Kamsky drifted after the opening. "I think he played a few mistakes from move 15-18." 


Carlsen seemed especially critical of his own play as well. "At some point I lost control, but fortunately it was enough. Today in the fourth hour of play I was playing so badly. The same against Levon (Aronian) the other day - hesitating and burning huge amounts of time."

One oversight that would have converted sooner was the simplification 36...Nxb2 37. Rxb2 Ba3 38. Rc2 Rd2 39. Rf2 Rxf2+ 40. Kxf2 Bxc1 41. Rxc1 Rd2+, winning another pawn and establishing an insurmountable four-on-one queenside majority.

Both matchups went nearly five hours, the longest two games of the tournament. Carlsen conducted his normal on-air interview, but unlike the first few rounds, left the playing site expeditiously without answering questions from the growing contingent of media. There was also a big increase in the number of fans in attendance.


Kamsky, who began the tournament the most visibly excited of the quartet, was asked to explain how sometimes he has tournaments in which he struggles greatly. "It just happens," he said softly.

The two decisive games today make five winners out of eight games. Carlsen now leads with 3/4 and leapfrogs Nakamura, who is on 2.5/4. The two meet tomorrow, with Nakamura getting White this time around.

"I expected to be trailing him," Calrsen said on the live commentary. "It's a welcome change for me."

Aronian (2/4) takes White against Kamsky (.5/4).


10134 reads 30 comments
4 votes


  • 3 years ago



    I think you understanded my comment.

    I truly believe that we need to start playing chess960 because then the real talented players with great creativity and calculating skills will dominate the game and not necessary they will need to be prodigy kids with photography memory.

    Now days if you want to become a GM you need to start when you are a small kid and have an extraordinary memory to be able to learn the thousands of opening lines of modern chess. 

    Besides when a computer outplay the best players in the world, it is time to change to a new version of the game where there is no opening theory book available for the computer to start the opening phase of the game, because if you remove the opening library of the computers then GM can easily beat them because computers can not think, they just follow the opening theory library installed in their hardware at the opening phase.

  • 3 years ago


    P_G_M well said,... can anyone please explain me why did Gata played c3 pawn sac .....was it forced?

  • 3 years ago


    Thanks for the article as always, but after you present the game Aronian vs. Nakamura, I believe there's a typo here: "Aronian and Nakamura have not played seven consecutive decisive games against each other in classical time controls." Don't you mean "...have now played"?

    @ P_G_M: that's an interesting perspective. It's not like these 2700s know nothing about the middlegame or endgame, but Carlsen is usually outclassing most of them in the middlegame and especially in the endgame. I don't know if one can qualify your statement about them not having the same middlegame and endgame skills as the greats, not only because these two groups are from different eras, but also because you really need to do a thorough analysis of each group's games to analyze who's better.

    I know you're not knocking the 2700 elite, but anyone reading your post should realize that you're stating that while the 2700 elite have a spectacular understanding of the middlegame and endgame, their understanding is simply outclassed by other top players' (Carlsen, Aronian, Kasparov, Anand, ...many more but I obviously can't name them all in this post). These same top players don't have a much better understanding of the opening than the 2700+, but they're a bit ahead in the middlegame and endgame. So, basically, for the 2700s, the opening is their strength and the middlegame and endgame their weaknesses. 

    However, as mentioned previously, without conducting a thorough analysis of each player's games, we're only at the hypothesis stage for now...

  • 3 years ago


    I believe that Carlsen has been taking advantage of the fact that today's elite GM are prodigy kids with extraordinary memory who at a very early age learn to play chess and most importantly learn hundreds of opening theory lines which is more than enough to push them to the 2700 elite club without really having an extraordinary chess understanding and calculation skills like Lasker, Capablanca, Alekin, Nimzovich, Botvinik, Tal, Fisher, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, and Anand. Therefore, all that Carlsen needs to do to win tournament after tournament is come out of the opening with an even position and then he uses his better understanding of the middle game and endgame to win games. His opponents get lost on the middle game and end up with slightly lost endgames. This was exactly the same approach of Capablanca but for him was easier because opening theory was limited at that time and access to it was difficult and expensive, so the prodigy kids with great minds could not learn thousands of opening lines from a data base like it happens today.

  • 3 years ago


    OK guys, on Kamsky's game what is wrong with 22. Rb1 instead of the c3 played by Kamsky giving up a pawn with no compensation.

  • 3 years ago


    @FM MikeKlein

    On Kamsky's game what is wrong with 22. Rb1 instead of the c3 played by Kamsky giving up a pawn with no compensation.

  • 3 years ago


    Gata seems uninspired.

  • 3 years ago


    want Naka to be Carly....go all out Naka..nothing to lose

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