Carlsen, So Win In Calmer Day At Sinquefield

Carlsen, So Win In Calmer Day At Sinquefield

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

Maybe we've been getting spoiled. Round three of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup produced "only" two winners and lacked any clock-banging or sudden finishes.

It was more a day for lovers of endgames. GM Magnus Carlsen benefitted from being able to keep his a-pawn, and that proved to be a mistake by GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In somewhat similar fashion, GM Wesley So also used a rook-and-bishop combo to earn his first win in the event over GM Alexander Grischuk.

In the last game of the day, GM Hikaru Nakamura pressed for just over five hours but couldn't overcome his fellow American GM Fabiano Caruana. Also drawing earlier were former world champions GMs Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov, allowing the former to get on the board and the latter to retain his lead.

GM Veselin Topalov is keeping it light in St. Louis. Here he shares a laugh before the round with longtime manager IM Silvio Danailov.

Rounding out the action, GM Levon Aronian and GM Anish Giri drew.

The world champion's Symmetrical English became unbalanced quickly when Vachier-Lagrave's queen took an early journey. White's queen knight captured Black's queen bishop on its home square on move 10 (!), which gave White the bishop pair and a better pawn structure.

GM Magnus Carlsen is back in the mix after a hiccup in round one.

Much later, on the 25th move the Frenchman preferred to leave White with his lone queenside pawn rather than risk a possible kingside attack. Isolating the action to one side of the board seemed to favor his drawing chances, but he obviously didn't see it that way. Carlsen didn't play the quickest win, but didn't spoil the point.

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

When asked about the popular viewpoint that his early tournament results aren't the best, Carlsen didn't completely disagree. "Everybody's a slow starter," he told "I don't play a lot of tournaments anymore. It almost always take a while to get going."

Vachier-Lagrave drops to an even score, but today So got rose up to even by winning his first game ever against Grischuk. So said in a tournament like this, he was happy to ensure he got at least one win.

GM Wesley So waited for the right time to visit the confessional booth this round. (Photo courtesy Spectrum Studios).

"I was a pawn up and I better be careful not to let this slip away," So paraphrased of his confessional booth statement. He picked a better time to visit the secluded area than in round one. "The first day I went in 20 minutes into the game against Maxime!" So joked (he lost that game).

The win was as straightforward as any game so far in St. Louis. So developed a space advantage with a pawn on d5, then brought up the e- and f-pawns, and controlled the only open file and eventually the seventh rank. In short, a textbook win.


In fact the most novel part of the round was that half the field visited the confessional (Chief Arbiter Chris Bird reminded the field before the round that "the booth was lonely yesterday".) Other players making their way there today were Carlsen, Nakamura, Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave.

No draws yet for GM Alexander Grischuk. spoke with So and here's the video interview:

Nakamura played the part of pawn-grabber today against his new national teammate Caruana. It's nothing new to move your queen several moves to capture your opponent's b-pawn, but today White went much, much further.

"I had looked at this with someone else a while back but I didn't look at this today," Nakamura said of the salient intricacies of the Russian Variation of the Grünfeld. "I wish I had."

For those looking ahead to the Carlsen-Nakamura matchup, it comes in round eight.

After the 10th move, Caruana admitted he couldn't remember any more preparation, but was confident nonetheless. "The position's supposed to be OK for Black," he said. "I thought I had more than enough compensation."

By move 20, Nakamura had touched his queen nine times, and she found herself right back on d1! His extra pawn was the compensation, but eventually Black's rooks and dark squared bishop bore down on White à la the Benko Gambit.

Instead of marshalling his forces for defense, Nakamura ditched all of his queenside pawns to reorganize his forces cohesively. The strategy worked, and all the pressure was on Caruana to find his way back to equality.

The top two Americans, facing each other for the first time on U.S. soil.

"The way he played this game, it's almost like he was on a death wish," said GM Maurice Ashley of Caruana's middlegame decision making.

In the end Caruana held by finding a sequence to an opposite-colored bishop position. "Without 35...Rc8 he can pretty much resign," Nakamura said. His point was that after any other move, he would play 36. Bf1 and collect the c-pawn, but have better winning opportunities than in the game with knight versus bishop.

Nakamura milked the ending all he could but to no avail. "Chess is always going to be a draw if he finds the right defense."

"Hikaru outplayed Fabiano today but sometimes there are enough resources and its just a draw," Carlsen said while observing the finish.

"I managed to stop the bleeding," Caruana said. His one draw from three games is making his 7-0 start in 2014 look that much more other-worldly.

Caruana's manager, IM Lawrence Trent, gave some insight how his charge felt after round two's split-second loss. "Yesterday against Magnus he was despondent." What was the fix? "We [had] him do pushups! We went down to the gym. He's in top shape."

Nakamura's attempts to win went longer than the commentators expected today, causing one of them to kick his feet up:


Today the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis unveiled a new product tie-in to the world of chess that will ruin any health regimen: a cupcake themed for the tournament. Would Nakamura indulge after his game?

"I never eat dessert during the tournament," the ascetic grandmaster said. 

The two senior statesmen were the first to finish today. Like Caruana, Anand was desperate to register something on the scoreboard today, and Topalov likely didn't mind protecting his lead as Black. Both seemed content trading pieces and giving handshakes just after move 30.

Topalov thus retains his lead with 2.5/3 but didn't get any closer to being able to explain his recent form.

"The last time I had a training session with someone else, it went so badly for me," he told Topalov was referencing his last-place finish at the 2014 Candidates Tournament. "Now I'm just very much relaxed. The results are 100 points ahead. For me it's a mystery."


GM Veselin Topalov is looking to win his second straight leg of the Grand Chess Tour. (Photo courtesy Spectrum Studios).

The third draw of the day came from Aronian and Giri, and for the third time opposite-colored bishops were the culprit:

In a random non-news moment, Giri bent down so far early in the game that his chin nearly touched his own pieces. Nothing was untoward about the moment, but take a look at the "chin music."

Tomorrow the biggest matchup in terms of number of combined points will be Giri-Carlsen, who are both on 2.0/3.

All images courtesy Spectrum Studios.

One-third of the way into the tournament, will Topalov readjust his preparation methods? "As long as it goes like this, I don't think I should change," he said.


2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 3 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Topalov 2816 3107 phpfCo1l0.png     1     1   ½   2.5/3  
2 Giri 2793 2892   phpfCo1l0.png ½     ½   1     2.0/3 2.75
3 Aronian 2765 2897   ½ phpfCo1l0.png   ½         1 2.0/3 2.25
4 Carlsen 2853 2905 0     phpfCo1l0.png 1         1 2.0/3 2.00
5 Vachier-Lagrave 2731 2799     ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1         1.5/3 2.50
6 So 2779 2765   ½     0 phpfCo1l0.png   1     1.5/3 2.00
7 Nakamura 2814 2814 0           phpfCo1l0.png   1 ½ 1.5/3 0.75
8 Grischuk 2771 2676   0       0   phpfCo1l0.png 1   1.0/3  
9 Anand 2816 2521 ½           0 0 phpfCo1l0.png   0.5/3 1.25
10 Caruana 2808 2532     0 0     ½     phpfCo1l0.png 0.5/3 0.75

Here are the pairings for round four:

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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