Carlsen Arrives As Sinquefield Cup Begins
Magnus Carlsen signs autographs as one fan chooses his favorite color pen. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Carlsen Arrives As Sinquefield Cup Begins

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

Three Grand Chess Tour events are in the books, and one book just came out. A lot has happened in the last 48 hours in St. Louis since Hikaru Nakamura won his second leg of the GCT season to lead the tour standings.

To wit:

  • The Saint Louis Chess Club released a comprehensive book on the five years of the Sinquefield Cup, with unique authors for each of the tournaments.
  • The annual "Ultimate Moves" battle was contested with Rex and Randy Sinquefield filling their usual roles as player-captains.
  • The world champion arrived as all players attended an autograph session with fans.
  • Contracts for November's world title bout in London have been signed.
  • The Sinquefield Cup officially opened at the World Chess Hall of Fame.


Authors of "The Sinquefield Cup: Celebrating Five Years 2013-2017" include GM Maurice Ashley, GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Alejandro Ramirez, and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan. | Photo: Mike Klein/

In what was most certainly not by chance, world-championship challenger Fabiano Caruana was stationed near the end of the line, right next to World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen Caruana

"See any good movies lately?" Kidding—the two did not speak to each other during the interregnums in the fan queue. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Yesterday was the Ultimate Moves exhibition, where each player performs five moves then gives up his chair and goes to the back of his team's line. Caruana and Carlsen were placed on different squads. One guesses that every opportunity will be taken before November to pit them against each other!

Rex Sinquefield

Team Rex included two Americans, and one more sighting of Pickle Rick. | Photo: Mike Klein/

In the end, youth prevailed, as Team Randy won 3.5-2.5.


Randy Sinquefield exhorts his troops to fight hard, and it worked. | Photo: Mike Klein/


In one of the games, Peter Svidler arrived at the board in a completely losing position, and just had to resign against Carlsen.  | Photo: Mike Klein/


"Hey dad, if I take this pawn, am I still invited to Christmas dinner?"  | Photo: Mike Klein/

The tournament then kicked off Friday night with an opening ceremony that resembled the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz event's commencement, except with the highest-rated player of all time in attendance.

"Any tournament that he's not in, it's not viewed in the same way," Nakamura said of Carlsen's presence.

"These are as bad as chess assassins get," emcee GM Maurice Ashley said, using the more positive connotation of the contronym "bad."


Sergey Karjakin, Levon Aronian, and Alexander Grischuk peruse their copies of the book on the Sinquefield Cup. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Naturally, some talk focused on the world championship clash in three months time.

"Regardless of the match, I'd like to win this tournament," Caruana said, but added that he didn't think it was linked in any way with his chance at the title. "Once we get to London, we'll be forgetting all the past results."

Caruana MVL

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2017) and Fabiano Caruana (2014) have both won the Sinquefield Cup, but the thickness of the pages turned suggested they might be checking out the other's win! | Photo: Mike Klein/

Carlsen hasn't won the Sinquefield Cup since the four-player first edition in 2013: "I hope to do better this year and I don't see any reason why I shouldn't," he said. 

He then said something about Caruana needing to win "to get to London" but since that is the city hosting both the world championship and GCT finals, it was ambiguous what was meant. It turned out the statement was not meant to be pejorative. Carlsen was stating that Caruana needed to win the Sinquefield to play in both the world championship and GCT finals (however unlikely that may be to play in both). But with the context not known, Caruana thought he might be getting needled.

"I think in the last few months I've generally won tournaments that Magnus is playing in," Caruana said, before Carlsen clarified that he wasn't trying to engage in any verbal sparring.


Even the world champion wants to see his name in print. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Alexander Grischuk always seems to come ready with the best quip, and tonight he again did not disappoint. He began with a non-sequitur, saying that he didn't understand why he was currently inside the hall of fame. Then it dropped.

"For me there should be a separate building called the 'hall of shame!'" he said.

Since nearly all the players at times found themselves absorbed in the new book about the event, this reporter asked for them all to name the person that they'd pick to write their authoritative game collection. Here's each grandmaster's answer:

  • Alexander Grischuk: "Either myself or no one. I cannot envision someone else starting to do this job."
  • Levon Aronian (agreeing): "Only a player truly remembers these very moments."
  • Sergey Karjakin: "I want (Anish) Giri to write a book about me because he tells the truth and he would say many funny things!"
  • Hikaru Nakamura: "Just Garry (Kasparov)." He said he liked the analysis in "My Great Predecessors" and insists Kasparov is still the greatest of all time.
  • Magnus Carlsen: "I don't care. I probably wouldn't read it anyway!"
  • Fabiano Caruana: "Christian Chirila."
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: "I'm a bit of a sadist. Magnus would be so pissed off to work on something!" Carlsen then asked how much the Frenchman would pay, and Vachier-Lagrave responded, "A lot!"
  • Wesley So: Also chose Kasparov. "'My Great Successors' would be the title." Aronian added, "I think it would be called 'Inglorious Bastards!'"
  • Viswanathan Anand: "I've already published my best games...Three volumes."
  • Shakhriyar Mamedyarov: "I hope my friend Rauf Mamedov will write about me." (Mamedov is seconding him and is on site in St. Louis).


Want to know the players' favorite squares to sign? Here's a sampling. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Round one begins tomorrow with the duel fights for Sinquefield Cup prizes and GCT points (this is the last event for qualification for the final four in London, where the details and dates were just announced and will be provided in a future report).

You can catch all the action beginning Saturday August 18 at 1 p.m. Central Time (8 p.m. Central European Time) at the official site.

Oh, and if you're setting your calendar, the Carlsen-Caruana matchup, perhaps their final classical game before the world championship, will be round seven (Saturday, August 25). Players were given opposite color allocation from the rapid portion of the event that just concluded, with Carlsen taking the slot of the other wildcard, Leinier Dominguez.


As stated, no opportunity is lost to place Caruana and Carlsen near each other. Rex Sinquefield plays the role of Michael Buffer in the middle. | Photo: Mike Klein/



A reminder that these are the GCT standings with only the Sinquefield Cup remaining, which counts for more points than the rapid/blitz events.


Graphics courtesy Spectrum Studios.

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