Russians Win As 5 Players Share Lead At Sinquefield Cup
Russian stars Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin congratulate each other on their victories. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Russians Win As 5 Players Share Lead At Sinquefield Cup

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
40 | Chess Event Coverage

It was the day everyone had been waiting for at the 2019 Sinquefield Cup. Round eight saw two wins after a dozen draws as the two Russian stalwarts Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin scored resounding victories to join the leaders.

Elsewhere, the overnight joint leaders drew each other in the game between Fabiano Caruana vs Viswanathan Anand. The other co-leader, Ding Liren, put up a stellar defence against the overly ambitious world champion, Magnus Carlsen, to hold the draw.

This round delivered as many as five players in the lead with only three rounds left to play.

The world champion looked dapper and was clearly in the mood to fight. | Photo:Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour
The world champion looked dapper on and was clearly in the mood to fight. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

Carlsen made his intentions clear right from the start and sacrificed a pawn in the opening. He was in his preparation for 17 moves, even after Ding forced the queen trade.

The Norwegian GM then opened up lines against Black's king and, using a remarkable rook maneuver, tried to weave mating nets around his opponent's  king. The latter defended perfectly and liquidated to a drawn rook and bishop endgame, giving Carlsen his eighth straight draw in a row.

Carlsen vs Ding was quite the contest. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Carlsen vs Ding was quite the contest. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In the post-game interview, commentator GM Maurice Ashley asked Carlsen: "What does it take to win a chess game?" The answer was: "First of all, your opponent has to make a mistake. I had a ferocious attack and he had to defend by the skin of his teeth."

After two full rounds of draws, we finally had a decisive result as Nepomniachtchi managed to outwit Levon Aronian. The former had started with a loss to Anand in round one but now shares the lead and is involved in the highest number of decisive games in St. Louis. 

Nepomniachtchi stuck to his pet Italian and blitzed out his first 15 moves and then got an advantage after Aronian went for a innocuous kingside attack. The Armenian player was still in the game before he blundered with 30...Nhf5 that allowed White to grab some material on the queenside.

Nepomniachtchi working hard to get his second win of the event. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Nepomniachtchi working hard to get his second win of the event. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In the other decisive encounter, Karjakin played a fabulous game to defeat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the latter's pet Gruenfeld. Both players came prepared as the players blitzed out 17 moves in the Seville variation. Vachier-Lagrave played 17...bxc5? (instead of 17...Bh3) without thinking and said he deserved to lose because of this.

Karjakin looked focussed as he won his first game today. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour
Karjakin looked focussed as he won his first game today. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

Karjakin pounced on the chance and maintained his advantage throughout. Like Nepomniachtchi, he got a passed a-pawn and won a piece because of it. He then managed to deliver mate on the board with his g-pawn, as Vachier-Lagrave graciously allowed it.

Here is the game in full with some annotations.

a visibly cheerful Karjakin at the post game interview. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
A visibly cheerful Karjakin in the post-game interview. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The two leaders, Caruana and Anand, played the longest game of the round. Caruana tried his best to force a result but the Tiger from Madras defended well.

Caruana gave up a pawn in the opening and for some initiative, after which Anand held the fort and was never in any real danger. He gave an exchange for another pawn. The position didn't offer much and they repeated moves to shake hands.

Caruana vs Anand in action. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Caruana vs Anand in action. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Caruana seemed to be in his zone today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Caruana seemed to be in his zone today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The all-American clash between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So turned out to be a tame affair. So equalized after Nakamura used the highly trending Harrwitz Attack against the Queen's Gambit Declined. The players traded pieces frequently and no side had any real chances whatsoever. In the rook endgame, they ended up repeating moves even before move 30.

Nakamura hasn't made any big waves in this event. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour
Nakamura hasn't made any big waves in this event. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

The game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Anish Giri was a slugfest. It seems like Mamedyarov used all his saved up energy and threw the sink at Giri. He sacrificed the house and tried to crash through. But, Giri invested a lot of time to come up with the best defence. He thought for an hour on only four of his moves! Mamedyarov then sacrificed his queen to get an unusual perpetual.

Mamedyarov vs Giri was quite the contest. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour
Mamedyarov vs Giri was quite the contest. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

The Grand Chess Tour has great following and even more so with the younger generation.

The decisive games have shaken up the standings. As many as five players lead! Eight players have a decent chance to grab the all-important first place and those precious Grand Chess Tour points.

Image: Spectrum Studios.
The standings after round eight. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Two decisive games and four draws in round eight:

Image: Spectrum Studios.
Sunday's results. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Mathematically, almost all the players still have a chance to win the event. Realistically, everyone at 50 percent and above has a reasonable chance. The last three rounds will decide it all.

Image: Spectrum Studios.
Monday's pairings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Round eight coverage:

You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.


Previous reports:

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