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Aronian, Svidler Grab 2 Pawns; Win 2 Endgames

Aronian, Svidler Grab 2 Pawns; Win 2 Endgames

GM Levon Aronian won a critical two-pawn-up endgame against an ill GM Hikaru Nakamura to move into shared second place with one round to go in the Sinquefield Cup. Aronian, GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Veselin Topalov are all at 4.5/8 just behind the clear leader, GM Wesley So, who is at 5.0/8.

Photo Austin Fuller.

In the final round, the major battles will be the top-seeded GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave playing White versus So, Topalov playing White versus Aronian, and Anand playing Black versus GM Peter Svidler. Before this round, Anand might have seemed the favorite to manage a last-round win among those trailing So, as he will play the largely struggling Svidler. However, today Svidler's poor form vanished, as he won a fine game (also converting using two extra pawns in the endgame) as Black against GM Anish Giri.

The tight standings make a tie for first place quite probable, and in fact, a seven-way tie (!) for first is mathematically possible. In the event of a tie, a rapid and blitz playoff will be set for Monday.

This round's mascot? How about a greedy dog, grabbing all the pawns!

The game of the day was clearly the duel between Aronian and Nakamura. Aronian's strong performance had a bit of an asterisk, as post-game, Nakamura admitted to being ill and vomiting the previous night.

Aronian knows something about playing under the weather, since he had to do so earlier in the tournament. At the time, Aronian was fortunate enough to have White and to be able to steer the game to a short draw against Caruana.

Nakamura was not able to manage the same as Black in a largely symmetrical position. "Even out of the opening, it was always worse for me." Too many weak squares and pawns began to appear on Nakamura's side of the board.

Aronian cashed in and picked up his first pawn with 34.Rxb6. The second pawn fell much later with 59.Bxe4. Aronian's conversion may not have been the most efficient, but it was certainly sufficient, denying Nakamura any real counter-chances.

Aronian uses Scrutinize. It's super effective! | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Svidler finally found his footing today after being called upon to fill in for GM Vladimir Kramnik at the last minute for the Sinquefield Cup. "It's nice to show a glimpse of what I assume the organizers wanted when they invited me," he said.

Giri offered Svidler a creative pawn sacrifice with 16.Ne5!? Komodo fully endorses Giri's choice, but clear compensation never materialized. Instead, tenth of a pawn by tenth of a pawn, the advantage shifted to Svidler's side of the board. Soon Svidler was simply a pawn up, and eventually he snagged the second one with 52...Nxc4.

Svidler's fine play won him a brand new fan:

Not many know that Svidler also holds the GM title in peekaboo. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

For the second day in a row, a Berlin Defense produced an enterprising battle. Anand's 17.Be3!? committed him to 18.Nh6, which stranded his knight for many moves, but it also allowed Anand to saddle Topalov with tripled pawns.

Anand wished to offer an incredible rook sacrifice (reminiscent of the masterpiece Polugaevsky vs Torre below) with 19.Bg5, but declining the sacrifice would have been too effective.

The resulting play was still highly imbalanced and interesting. Accurate and active play held the balance, but many interesting pitfalls existed for both players along the way to a well-fought draw.

"When in doubt, push a rook's pawn." —Bent Larsen | Photo Austin Fuller.

Caruana admitted, "I tried really hard to win yesterday, and I was really disappointed." Today, Caruana was happy to seek equality as Black, and the tournament leader, So, was happy to stay ahead of the field, allowing other players to take risks and push for wins.

The result? A very clean draw on move 34.

So never needed to make use of his ear plugs this round. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

The second casualty of yesterday's marathon game between Caruana and Ding was today's Ding vs Vachier-Lagrave.

Vachier-Lagrave offered a very interesting pawn sacrifice, but Ding turned down the pawn, rejecting 12.Qxc6. Right or wrong, accepting the pawn was the way to challenge Vachier-Lagrave, but wandering into a thicket of dangerous preparation was not on Ding's agenda after yesterday.

The result was a game in which the players nearly copied each other, until they found a repetition and ended the game on move 26.

One wonders what interested Nakamura in this extremely symmetrical game. | Photo Austin Fuller.

2016 Sinquefield Cup | Round Eight Standings

# FED Player Rtg Perf Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 So, Wesley 2771 2869 5 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½
2 Anand, Viswanathan 2770 2826 4.5 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½
3 Aronian, Levon 2792 2822 4.5 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1
4 Topalov, Veselin 2761 2822 4.5 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1
5 Caruana, Fabiano 2807 2776 4 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½
6 Vachier Lagrave, Maxime 2819 2774 4 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½
7 Ding Liren 2755 2780 4 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1
8 Nakamura, Hikaru 2791 2737 3.5 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½
9 Giri, Anish 2769 2689 3 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0
10 Svidler, Peter 2751 2696 3 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1

Matchups courtesy Spectrum Studios.

You can watch the games of the Sinquefield Cup in Live Chess. Commentary by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GMs Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen, Alejandro Ramirez and Yasser Seirawan will be available at Chess.com/TV from Friday, August 5 until Sunday, August 14, with rounds starting at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. CET).

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