Aronian Crushes In St. Louis, Catches Topalov

Aronian Crushes In St. Louis, Catches Topalov

| 37 | Chess Event Coverage

If Wesley Snipes provided commentary for round four of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup, his line would have been queued up: "Always bet on Black."

Today GM Levon Aronian routed GM Wesley So with the black pieces, and in a similar attacking style, GM Hikaru Nakamura held the favorable position too but was barely held to a draw.

Tournament leader GM Veselin Topalov even suggested he nearly prefers Black. "It's easier to destroy than to create!" he quipped.

The move of the day was surely ...Nh5, which served as a catalyst for both aggressors. Across the street at the Q Boutique at the World Chess Hall of Fame, you might think this shirt was minted just for today:

Of course the outline gives it away -- the Rorschach blob is actually a map of Iceland and references when Bobby Fischer played 11...Nh5! to win game three of the 1972 World Championship Match. Nakamura admitted to thinking about this game during his own (see below for an interview with where he reveals more about this).

Let's first start with the lone winner of the day, whose game was so spectacular it nearly allowed chess fans to forget about the four other draws. So fell into Aronian's home-cooking, which was actually Hungarian! The goulash came courtesy of GM Peter Leko, whom Aronian credited with revealing the novelty 8...Ba5! "I caught him by surprise," Aronian said.

GM Levon Aronian is having one of his best events of the past year.

The Armenian then followed up with 10...Nh5 two moves later and the double-wing play ensnared So quickly. White's pieces became idle bystaders as Black ripped open lines everywhere.

"I wasn't sure if the sacrifice was any good," Aronian said of allowing his king's knight to depart. "I thought Peter [Leko] would be upset if I didn't win!

"You can't calculate anything for Black. You have to believe it."

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

After this second demolition win at the Sinquefield Cup, commentator GM Yasser Seirawan asked Aronian about his preparation not showing in his style.

"How is it that you study Petrosian's games but you play like Tal?" Seirawan asked. "I didn't study too well!" Aronian replied. He added that his play resembled Leonid Stein ("Just go for it!"). You can hear more about this comparison in the interview below.

Both GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Wesley So endured similar attacks today.

Another secret weapon? His girlfriend WIM Arianna Caoili, who arrived in town today. "When the lady talks, you have to listen," Aronian joked about her pep talks.

Here's our video interview with Aronian:

Aronian's colleagues also seem to be appreciating his resilience (he's dropped about 70 points from his peak, regaining 11 so far in St. Louis).

Nakamura: "It's quite nice to see from Levon, him playing well again."

GM Magnus Carlsen: "So far it's a different Levon from what we've been seeing recently. Today was his kind of chess."

Nakamura nearly joined Aronian as a winner with Black but GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's liquidation right at time control spoiled any remaining winning chances for the American.

GM Hikaru Nakamura's hat says "Motown" -- he played a simul in Detroit right before arriving. "Of all the simuls I've done, it's the one I enjoyed the most."

"When you play a game like this, it would have been more fun to play a decisive result," Nakamura said after the game. This echoes his second confessional booth visit (his first was to hazard a guess at the computer evaluation of his position). During the game, he spoke like a poker player who just wanted action -- any action.

"If there's anything I'm not happy about, it's that I have to play on for an hour and it's drawish," he said then. "I would have preferred something crazy to happen, win or lose."

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

"In the middlegame I lost the thread a little bit," Nakamura said. "I forgot about d7." Nakamura thought the ending was winning for Black without the clever clearance for White's bishop.

Here's our video interview with Nakamura:

Vachier-Lagrave didn't ever panic. "I never thought I was worse with more pieces on the board," he said. He liked the chances he got too. "Today I cannot say I wasted my White," he said. In round two he achieved nothing versus Aronian.

And don't malign the Frenchman's choice of knight postings. Vachier-Lagrave said landing on h1 is a "typical idea." When ribbed by Seirawan about it, he teased back, "Ask Yasser what he thinks about my knight on e5!"


Today they were equals, but the question remains: Will we see Nakamura and MVL on the tennis courts on Friday's free day?

Turning to the other end of the tables, today was an opportunity for the two tail-enders to begin a run. GM Fabiano Caruana, winner of seven straight games last year, was just looking to scratch out one. GM Viswanathan Anand had not had a clearly favorable position all tournament, so something seemingly had to give.

Alas, it didn't. Caruana pressed with opposite-colored bishops but Anand was up to the challenge and even forced an immediate repetition with drawing tactic. See if you can spot the quickest path to a handshake:


Here's the full game:


Two more opposite-colored bishop draws occurred in the final two games (that's seven of them in the past two rounds -- indeed every draw since round three is due to the bishops dancing on their own dance floors).

Here's GM Anish Giri and GM Magnus Carlsen's version:

Carlsen's two-game winning streak ended with the draw. He's still sanguine about his chances, noting that he gets three more Whites.

He has still never beaten Giri. The Dutch number-one owns one win and two fistfuls of draws against the world champion. 

When asked by why he performs so well against Carlsen, Giri said, "The rest of the world is sitting against Magnus; I'm sitting against a guy who blundered a piece on move 17 as White...At some point by measure of statistics I'm going to lose to him."

Rounding out the day's action, GM Veselin Topalov also earned a draw as Black against GM Alexander Grischuk, though not without some trepidations. "I was quite nervous at some point," Topalov said. "I don't guess the openings of my opponents [at the Sinquefield Cup]."

GM Veselin Topalov analyzes with commentator GM Ian Rogers after the game.

Namely, the Bulgarian feared 19. Rhe1 as he explained in the post-mortem on site. Grischuk didn't disagree.

"Bxf6 is probably a very stupid move," the Russian said. "I thought I would be better in the endgame. Overall I'm playing very bad this year."

"He said in his file somewhere this is a better ending," Topalov said. "Sometimes you remember the evaluations but not the complete lines."

The "accidental leader" Topalov now has some company.

With Caruana and Anand both still mired in last place, interview questions with them centered on a band performing at the World Chess Hall of Fame Wednesday night. Who did they think was the best singer of the 10 players in the field? Anand wasn't sure, but when pressed Caruana said, "I'd pick Aronian as a wild guess."

Co-leader of the tournament, girlfriend in town, universally liked amongst his fellow competitors, and the possibility of singing talent? Some guys have all the breaks.


2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Topalov 2816 3004 phpfCo1l0.png     1   1   ½ ½   3.0/4 5.75
2 Aronian 2765 2968   phpfCo1l0.png ½   ½   1     1 3.0/4 4.75
3 Giri 2793 2880   ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½     ½ 1     2.5/4 5.00
4 Carlsen 2853 2875 0   ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1         1 2.5/4 4.25
5 Vachier-Lagrave 2731 2802   ½   0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1       2.0/4 4.00
6 Nakamura 2814 2793 0       ½ phpfCo1l0.png     1 ½ 2.0/4 2.50
7 So 2779 2677   0 ½   0   phpfCo1l0.png 1     1.5/4 2.75
8 Grischuk 2771 2713 ½   0       0 phpfCo1l0.png 1   1.5/4 2.50
9 Anand 2816 2612 ½         0   0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.0/4 2.00
10 Caruana 2808 2622   0   0   ½     ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.0/4 1.50

Tomorrow's matches all feature someone with a plus or even score against a minus score, except for Nakamura-Giri. Depending on the results, the field could get very bunched or begin to separate at the poles.

Images courtesy Spectrum Studios


Games will be played daily from August 23-September 1 except for a rest day August 28. Games will start at 13:00 local time (21:00 Moscow, 19:00 London, 14:00 New York, 11:00 Los Angeles). is streaming the official live commentary of all rounds at, with GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. In addition, GM Alex Yermolinsky will host a mid-tournament highlights show on the rest day and a wrapup show. Check for listings. Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png

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