Sinquefield Cup Day 1: Caruana, Dominguez, MVL Win In 1st Round
GM Fabiano Caruana won his first-round game today. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Sinquefield Cup Day 1: Caruana, Dominguez, MVL Win In 1st Round

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier Lagrave, and Leinier Dominguez started off with victories at the 2021 Sinquefield Cup, while GM Wesley So missed his chances to do the same against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. GMs Jeffery Xiong and Richard Rapport had a solid draw to start the tournament.

How to watch?
The games of the 2021 Sinquefield cup can be found here as part of our live events platform

Sinquefield | Day 1 Standings

2021 Sinquefield Cup Standings day 1

The Sinquefield Cup concludes the 2021 Grand Chess Tour, being its second classical time control event. Looking at the field of participants we may lament the absence of many elite players. Of the regular Tour contestants, only Vachier-Lagrave was able to come to the United States in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on travel. Without GMs Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov, Anish Giri, or Alexander Grischuk the overall Grand Chess Tour race has been thrown into a tailspin.

The above-mentioned players got to participate in just two events, which effectively put them out of contention. Also, Rapport, who missed the opening stage in Bucharest due to illness, will end up with three events only. This leaves So, Mamedyarov, Vachier-Lagrave, and Caruana competing for the three top spots in the tour. I'm not even sure whether it makes sense to award overall tour standings prize money under such unfortunate circumstances.

In any case, the Sinquefield Cup is good enough as a stand-alone event, and it gives more U.S. players a chance to match their wits against the top guys listed above.

Round one did not disappoint, as all the games were fought to the end. I will start with the quietest one, a draw between Xiong and Rapport:

I'm far from blaming the two young players for taking a cautious approach in their first-round game. They just went through a grueling schedule of 27 games played over five days of the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz. Some rest was needed. I'm sure both young stars will dazzle us with their talent as the tournament goes along.

2021 sinquefield cup
So may have missed a chance or two today. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

So held a large, if not decisive, advantage throughout most of his game with Mamedyarov. White's structural edge became visible early, and after Mamedyarov missed his only shot at meaningful counterplay (15...b6!? instead of 15...Re8), it seemed that Wesley would meet no obstacles on his path to victory.

Perhaps, it would have been the case against anyone else, but Mamedyarov is a very special player. Somehow, someway, he managed to create threats against So's king, and it took just one or two errors from White for Black to complete his miraculous escape—a very enjoyable game.

Now to the decisive games, and we had those aplenty. First, it was Caruana who simply wiped GM Sam Shankland off the board. The final execution was neat, but what really stood out for me was the intricate way Caruana prepared his plans. I particularly refer to the great 16.Qe1 move, but I will allow GM Dejan Bojkov to display this beauty.

No less impressive was Vachier-Lagrave's win over GM Peter Svidler. The world's two best mavens (I'm leaving the word "experts" to the USCF class designations) of the Grunfeld Defense didn't get to match their wits in any of the traditional lines of their favorite opening.

2021 sinquefield cup
Vachier-Lagrave and Svidler played a very interesting game today. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Instead, Vachier-Lagrave went for the topical 3.h4 line, which is taking over modern theoretical discussions. Svidler's choice was to transpose to a Benko Gambit in its delayed variety. It's amazing to watch how the French star was able to utilize his h-pawn to a game-winning effect. Bravo!

The last game to finish was GM Darius Swiercz versus Dominguez, although the issue had pretty much been decided before the time control. Swiercz must have suffered from stage chills, as his play was unrecognizably passive, yet credit is due to his opponent who conducted a flawless positional game out of a sleepy Petroff.

On a final note, welcome back, Fabiano. The 2800 club was missing you, fortunately not for long.

2021 Sinquefield cup caruana
Caruana is back over 2800 with today's victory. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

All Games Day 1

The 2021 Sinquefield Cup tournament is the last stop of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. Games started on August 17 with 10 of the best chess players in the world competing for a piece of the $325,000 prize fund.

You can read more information about the event here.

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