Carlsen Falters In Winning Position, Loses To MVL
For 45 moves today, Magnus Carlsen played a model "Carlsen" game in the Sinquefield Cup's round four. Getting little from the opening, he created complex positional problems and was rewarded with subtle errors from Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. However, just as the commentators and engines were declaring Carlsen's position winning, Carlsen erred, immediately allowing a resourceful Vachier-Lagrave to get back into the game and then to claim the advantage.
Headline photo: Austin Fuller, Grand Chess Tour.
Despite fierce resistance from Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave claimed the full point. This swing reintroduces questions about Carlsen's status as the world number-one. He has a 10-point edge over Fabiano Caruana who is currently second (in St. Louis and on 2700chess.com), but there is a real possibility that continued tribulations could allow Caruana to overtake Carlsen in St. Louis.
Meanwhile Vachier-Lagrave is leading the tournament and is only a fraction of a point shy of re-crossing 2800. This is also Vachier-Lagrave's first classical win against Carlsen the world champion (He has one win in Biel 2011 from before Carlsen claimed the crown.) which means that he enters the select "Chigorin Club" of just over 100 players that have defeated a reigning world champion.
Carlsen and MVL discussing the game afterward. | Photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour.
A Game In Tweet
The drama of this game captured the imagination of many chess fans throughout the world. Here is a rough timeline of reactions on Twitter from around the globe.
@samuelmaxton) August 5, 2017
MVL: "I would be very surprised if Magnus knows who is better, becuase I certainly don't." #SinquefieldCup— Tarjei J. Svensen ( @TarjeiJS) August 5, 2017
@CristianChirila) August 5, 2017
Vachier was doing good,but now it's really bad for him #SinquefieldCup— Teymur Rajabov ( @rajachess) August 5, 2017
@TarjeiJS) August 5, 2017
Carlsen,lost this! Very painful loss! #SinquefieldCup— Teymur Rajabov ( @rajachess) August 6, 2017
After the handshake...— Sam Thompson ( @samuelmaxton) August 6, 2017
MVL: "You missed f4?"
Magnus: "Yea. I thought Rf3 was killing."#Sinquefieldcup
@GrandChessTour) August 6, 2017
@USChess) August 6, 2017
This is the kind of loss that can ruin your tournament completely, if you don't get it out of the system. #SinquefieldCup— Tarjei J. Svensen ( @TarjeiJS) August 5, 2017
@samuelmaxton) August 6, 2017
@GrandChessTour) August 6, 2017
The first game to finish was actually Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Hikaru Nakamura. "Nepo" scored his first classical win against the American grandmaster. Things seemed to be proceeding normally until Nakamura played the move 20...b6? He must have mis-calculated something as after Nepo simply retreated the rook, Nakamura found himself facing a compounded problem. h7 was hanging, and his c6-knight was vulnerable. Chess coaches will find this an excellent illustration of the maxim, "Never meet a threat with a threat."
Nepomniachtchi in the act of converting his advantage. | Photo: Austin Fuller, Grand Chess Tour.
Peter Svidler and Wesley So also finished quickly, but their result was peaceful. Many beautiful variations stayed behind the scenes as Wesley came well-prepared with 25...Qg8! After this move, Svidler realized he had only a perpetual, and he was lucky to have that. Had the players sought to be more combative (and risky), there were some truly crazy variations that might have appeared.
The "jovial" Svidler really enjoyed the variations in his game today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour.
Levon Aronian and Viswanathan Anand's draw seemed to be cut a bit short. The consensus (including from Aronian) seemed to be that Anand was better in the final position, but he was concerned about Aronian's potential counterplay with the bishop pair and agreed a draw rather than play on.
Aronian acquired that bishop pair with some real "beginner's chess" as he surged forward with "Harry the h-pawn" and hopped around with his knights to force Anand to relinquish a bishop.
Two focused professionals. | Photo: Austin Fuller, Grand Chess Tour.
Caruana and Sergey Karjakin's game would have been largely devoid of drama were it not for the clock. With mere minutes on the clock to play the last half of the game, the players were inducing perspiration amongst those of us who fear time pressure.
The players denied any concerns themselves though, considering the final position to be too equal and easy to play for the clock to be a real factor.
Caruana and Karjakin both denied remember much of their opening preparation. | Photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour.
2017 Sinquefield Cup | Round 4 Standings