Carlsen Wins Again To Catch Aronian, Topalov Falters

Carlsen Wins Again To Catch Aronian, Topalov Falters

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

In the final round before the rest day at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup, the players did anything but rest.

For the first time all event, GM Veselin Topalov no longer has a piece of the lead. He lost today to GM Fabiano Caruana, who took 96 hours longer to notch his first win compared to last year.

Also continuing his rebound was GM Magnus Carlsen, who has pocketed 3.5 points from the last four games. His win over GM Wesley So planted the Norwegian's flag alongside GM Levon Aronian at the top of the mountain.

Tomorrow is the lone rest day, and as the pairings have it, Aronian plays the first move against Carlsen in round six. Chess fans will have to wait until Saturday afternoon for the game.

The two leaders and former world one and two will meet this weekend.

In the longest game of the tournament, Carlsen needed nearly six hours, and some self-admitted good fortune, to overcome So's defenses.

"I was unbelievably lucky I wasn't losing," the world champion said. He was referring to the moment that Black could have played a pin with 36...Qb7.

Carlsen had many ways to win at the end, including several zugzwangs. He admitted that 56. Rb7 may have been more elegant. Growing up, Carlsen studied many compositions including those by Leonid Kubbel and Genrikh Kasparyan.

After Norway Chess and the opening-round loss here, GM Magnus Carlsen is now rebuffing the talk of a summertime slump. 

After taking a lawn mower to the bottom of the tables last year, in 2015 Caruana has not be able to punish anyone until today. His defeat of the tournament leader, Topalov, caused the Bulgarian to become a chaser for the first time. Caruana also beat Topalov twice last year.

"He always goes for a fight," Caruana said, noting that they've rarely played a draw in their career encounters (they've played draws more than Caruana's memory suggested but the pair do have a dynamic-game-rate of 60 percent).

Topalov said he had a chance to take a repetition but had a hard time mentally letting go of his now-squandered opening plus.

GM Veselin Topalov admitted that he needs the rest day more than most.

"It happens that after you have an advantage out of the opening, you don't want to take a draw," Topalov explained. "I believe it's a mistake psychologically."

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

Caruana said he only knew he was better after 30. e6 but wasn't perfectly sure his game was won in the rook versus four pawns position.

To hear more about the game and his manager's secret talent, see this video interview with Caruana:

Topalov, one of only two players in St. Louis with a 40th birthday in his rearview mirror, wasn't at his best today. 

"I think the position after the opening is clearly better for White but I started playing badly move by move," he said, adding that his energy was noticeably lower today. "I believed that I was slowing down, even yesterday. You need some energy."

The confessional booth saw a novelty today -- Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave actually went in there together. According to sources, Topalov was trying to thank MVL for the retreat 15. Qd1 in his game! Chief Arbiter Chris Bird said nothing was untoward about the exchange.
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave unknowingly helped a competitor today.

The other three games ended drawn, but all three offered something for the viewer.

GM Hikaru Nakamura tried his best to give GM Anish Giri his first loss of the Grand Chess Tour, but the American mixed up his rook lifts deep in his opening preparation. A full 22 moves into the game, Nakamura had only used 10 minutes -- the entire sequence had been home-cooking. But thinking for only about one minute, he followed with the misguided 23. Rd3 instead of his intended 23. Re2, simply the wrong rook advance.

Giri called it a "weird move" and said this kind of thing can happen when you are navigating an elongated memorized variation.

GM Hikaru Nakamura went with a purple hat/shirt combo today...
...but his opponent had the same "prep" -- GM Anish Giri went purple shirt/tie (and credited his wife with all things non-chess).

"I very conveniently forgot what I prepared before the game," Nakamura said.

"We discussed the opening (after the game)," Giri told "We discussed how he messed up. If he would not be prepared, he would never play Rd3. Sometimes the computer moves are so sophisticated, if you try to understand them, it would take a year." His point was that if a top-level GM thinks the memorized moved is opaque, he may not question it like normal, since some moves are so dense they're just trusted blindly.

Usually players of this caliber have a solid sense of who is preferred in a given game, but not today according to Nakamura. "I had a very bad feeling for most of it, and Anish did too." For one brief moment Nakamura thought he was "completely winning" but forgot about the move 34...Qb6.

Girl said he expected the winning score for this year to be plus-four. "I'm not a big favorite," he said. Giri sits at 3.0/5 and would need three wins in the last four games to meet that standard. "I haven't won a tournament in a long while...I've been playing really solidly so I don't know about going on a winning streak."

With the free day coming, Carlsen decided to play some evening basketball at nearby Webster University (he played soccer after round four). Here's the highly-rated squad, left to right: Third row: GM Ray Robson and Shawn Swindell; Middle row: Tom Polgar, WGM Katerina Nemcova, GM Fidel Corrales, GM Manuel Leon Hoyos, GM Vasif Durarabayli, IM Eric Rosen, Magnus, PJ Truong, Peter Heine, GM Ashwin Jayaram; Front row: Reggie Jackson, Leeam Polgar.

One game could have offered much more but was snuffed out just before a would-be time scramble. With GM Alexander Grischuk needing to make 10 moves in five minutes, GM Levon Aronian accepted his draw offer. The handshake came right on move 30, the minumum allowed by rule.


GM Levon Aronian let go his advantage today but remained undefeated in St. Louis.

"I missed this Qf4 move," Aronian said. "This is the moment you know you're tired. When you've spoiled a couple of positions, why not play it safe?"

Commentator GM Maurice Ashley asked why did he not play the "Petrosian" move 16. g3 to sac the exchange?

"Probably I'm not that intelligent!" Aronian said.



The game prompted discussion from the commentary team about which rule strikes the best balance between fair-play and excitement. Nakamura thought 30 moves was best, Aronian 40 moves.

"You're trying to force a decisive result, and I don't think you should," Nakamura said about extending the rule further than the current prescription of 30 moves. "You should be forcing the best chess."


Giri thinks 6.5/9 will be the winning score.

Aronian wasn't too dispirited with the half-point. "I was fighting and that makes me happy. That's how I assess my play." He told that he agreed with Giri's prognotiscation that plus-four would be the mark to beat, but "it's better to try to concentrate on the game, unless it's the last round."

In the final game of the day, GM Viswanathan Anand applied some pressure but his extra pawn was meaningless against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In the final position, Black will trade his b-pawn by advancing it and the resulting endgame is drawn even without his remaining pawn.

Don't forgot there's no chess in St. Louis tomorrow, but there is a wrapup show of the first half of the superstar event. GM Alex Yermolinsky will host on at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. CET with guest GM Simon Williams.


2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 5 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen 2853 2932 phpfCo1l0.png   0 ½   1 1     1 3.5/5 7.50
2 Aronian 2765 2923   phpfCo1l0.png   ½   ½ 1 ½   1 3.5/5 7.25
3 Topalov 2816 2882 1   phpfCo1l0.png   1   0 ½ ½   3.0/5 7.75
4 Giri 2793 2866 ½ ½   phpfCo1l0.png ½     1   ½ 3.0/5 7.50
5 Nakamura 2814 2793     0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½   1   2.5/5 5.25
6 Vachier Lagrave 2731 2805 0 ½     ½ phpfCo1l0.png     ½ 1 2.5/5 5.25
7 Caruana 2808 2743 0 0 1   ½   phpfCo1l0.png   ½   2.0/5 5.00
8 Grischuk 2771 2724   ½ ½ 0       phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 2.0/5 4.75
9 Anand 2816 2641     ½   0 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png   1.5/5 3.75
10 So 2779 2636 0 0   ½   0   1   phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/5 3.50

All images by Spectrum Studios

Some other clearinghouse items from today:

  • The players were polled by the production crew about which historical player they'd like to see compete at the Sinquefield Cup. Bobby Fischer was the near-universal top choice. "It would be interesting to see how he would play against this field," Caruana said.
  • For contemporary player, Nakamura preferred GM Ding Liren. Carlsen? "Hammer of course. I want to get my revenge." GM Jon Ludvig Hammer beat his countryman in Norway Chess in June.
  • After the round the club hosted a chess trivia contest based on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." This reporter got randomly selected to compete. After seven questions correct, none of my lifelines proved useful for a question about the significance of a game between Henry Bird and James Mason in 1876. (It was the first brilliancy prize in chess.) 
  • GM Varuzhan Akobian got the furthest and was only one question away from the grand prize -- a trip back to the Sinquefield Cup in 2016. It's not clear he would value that, since he's flying from Los Angeles to St. Louis regularly anyway to compete for the local U.S. Chess League team! Here's the question that finally flummoxed him. You can leave your (non-Googled) guess in the comments!

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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