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Anand, Aronian Catch Vachier-Lagrave In St. Louis

Anand, Aronian Catch Vachier-Lagrave In St. Louis

With two rounds to go, the Sinquefield Cup has three leaders on 4.5/7. Both Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian won their games, and caught Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in first place.

MVL was joined in first place by Aronian and Anand. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The fifth Sinquefield Cup will see two exciting final rounds and possibly a playoff on Saturday. Anand, Aronian and MVL are in the lead (with the former and the latter facing each other tomorrow!), and Carlsen is only half a point behind them.

A point of trivia Jennifer Shahade noted during the live broadcast: the five players who wear glasses are at the top of the leaderboard, ahead of the five without glasses. Also, all players from the USA and Russia are below the four players who are not from these two countries.

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Wesley So went for a quick draw today against Fabiano Caruana, and nobody could blame him—including his opponent. "He was pretty wounded by the last two games and just wanted to stop the bleeding," said Caruana.

So had a down-to-earth approach today. "I was trying to think it's just the beginning of the tournament, like it's the first round, trying to prevent the tournament from snowballing into losses into losses. The past few days have been very tough for me and very stressful, with losses taking its [sic] toll."

Caruana also didn't want to press for more. "I thought a little bit about my strategy yesterday. I'm behind the leaders by a bit, and there's a still chances to make up some ground. I thought that this is not the time. Even though he had a rough last two games, this is not the time to go all-out."

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Caruana saw no reason to go "all out" today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The qualification race for the Candidates', where Caruana has So and Kramnik as his main rivals for qualifying by rating, played a role as well.

"I do want to keep my rating high to qualify for the Candidates'. This is an important goal. At the moment I have a pretty decent lead on both of them. So this is also a reason why I thought he might try to make up some ground today...It didn't seem like he has many ambitions to win," Caruana said.

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So decided to "stop the bleeding" today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

One of the most exciting games of the round was actually one of the draws, between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Sergey Karjakin. The players went straight into a deep Berlin endgame, and the experts expected a quick draw there. They predicted the right result, but not all the adventures the players went through.

One of those experts was in fact Caruana. He discussed MVL-Karjakin with Maurice Ashley and was dazed by some of the excitement—which originated from some beautiful, study-like variations that the computer produced—by stating that it must be all preparation.

Caruana: "If they both remembered their analysis, the game would've already be over with a draw. The problem is that it is so long and so complicated that you just can't remember. And then you get an exciting game. I don't know what the result will be, so I think that is the definition of suspense.

"Objectively the position is for sure a draw. I think we've all analyzed it, like every player in the tournament has analyzed this line and concluded that it is a draw. But it's very complicated and very difficult so over the board anything can happen."

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The handshake before the players proved that "an exciting Berlin endgame" is not necessarily an oxymoron. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

After the game Karjakin confirmed all this: "I was very good prepared but at home, I mean theoretically. But for today's game of course I didn't remember anything and even though I have repeated this line one hour before the game this didn't really help me."

However, his reputation as Minister of Defense did help Karjakin. Although he was out of book after 28.f4 a4, he found all the critical moves over the board.

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Karjakin showed good skills as soon as his memory failed him. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Vachier-Lagrave, who had prepared the line not an hour but 20 minutes before the game, said: "I didn't expect Sergey looking at this for a long time because this line has virtually not been played in recent years. It's a bit tricky. At some point he has to find only moves. It took almost all of his time to find these moves. (...) I expected Sergey to be prepared but not to remember everything. It seemed like a tricky enough try."

Chess.com's interview with Karjakin after the game.

The first winner of the day was Vishy Anand, who won his second white game in a row. The endgame saw some nice points, and Anand played well, but the result was mainly because of a surprising and total collapse of Ian Nepomniachtchi shortly before the time control. In a position where he had an hour on the clock, the Russian GM blitzed out one dubious and one bad move, and was lost after that.

Rather upset, Nepomniachtchi immediately left the chess club. "He just seemed to fall apart at this point," said Anand about the final phase of the game.

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"He received a gift today; there's no other word. This one was sad to watch," said MVL about Anand's win. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Chess.com's interview with Anand after the game.

At the end of the day Levon Aronian also joined the leaders. He defeated Hikaru Nakamura in a long and complicated game. "It's difficult to win in such tournaments," he said. "To get a good position early on and press, this was very satisfying."

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Aronian gave Nakamura some "false hope" by taking on f3 with the rook instead of Bg2+. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

According to Nakamura he had himself to blame, for not dealing well with a mistake he made. He missed one move and then noticed the idea of h4 and Kh2 too late. White should play it without putting the knight on d5.

When he noticed that during the game, Nakamura got in "a bad mood," as he said, and this didn't help him defending in the remainder of the game.

Robert Hess's Game of the Day analysis

When Yasser Seirawan asked Aronian how his new world-number-two status feels, the Armenian GM replied: "I think being number-one will feel better!" He added: "But it does feel good to gain some rating back."

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Aronian with the Armenian-born U.S. grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian outside the club. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Chess.com's interview with Aronian, in Russian—subtitles available; click 'CC'.

Last but not least, Peter Svidler vs Magnus Carlsen. This game brought some "Kasparov flavor" to the round, because, on a day that Garry Kasparov visited the chess club, Svidler chose the Scotch—the opening that first appeared in a world championship match when Kasparov played it against Anatoly Karpov in 1990.

Svidler himself had played the Scotch 19 times in his career, and scored +9 =10 -1. He had won his last four games with it, in 2000, 2001, 2011 and 2012. Carlsen had only faced it in six classical games, one of them being the fifth round of this tournament vs So.

The opening phase was unfortunately all of the excitement in this encounter. Carlsen did win a pawn, but it was worth little and Svidler quickly found a way to liquidate to a 2-vs-3 rook endgame that was easily drawn.

"This is an extremely strong field and I'm not drowning but once you start getting ecstatic about being on minus-one in any tournament, even this strong a tournament, something has gone wrong I think," said Svidler.

Carlsen: "Clearly I missed the amount of chances I usually miss for a year in this tournament, which to some extent is a good thing because it means that I've been getting chances almost every game. Today wasn't one of them. There wasn't much either of us could do.

"I'll just have to keep fighting. Two rounds left... I'm not the favorite by any means but it's still possible to play a good tournament."

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It's been a while since Carlsen won a classical tournament, and it might not happen this time. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

2017 Sinquefield Cup | Round 7 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave,M 2791 2895 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/7 15.00
2 Anand,V 2783 2886 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/7 14.75
3 Aronian,L 2799 2888 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 4.5/7 13.75
4 Carlsen,M 2822 2836 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 4.0/7
5 Caruana,F 2807 2790 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/7 13.00
6 Karjakin,S 2773 2786 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 3.5/7 12.75
7 Svidler,P 2749 2739 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 3.0/7
8 Nakamura,H 2792 2685 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 2.5/7 9.25
9 Nepomniachtchi,I 2751 2686 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 2.5/7 7.50
10 So,W 2810 2686 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/7 7.00
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