Caruana Completes Perfect First Half at Sinquefield Cup | Update: VIDEOS
Today in St. Louis, GM Fabiano Caruana completed his five-game first-half shutout. Also today in Japan, a high school baseball pitcher completed a 50-inning shutout.
Which was more impressive? Well, the baseball game lasted for four days; Caruana's streak took five.
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis founder Rex Sinquefield summed up Caruana's start this way: "Had you bet on that, somebody would have taken you away and locked you up, because you'd be certifiably insane." And he was only talking about the 4-0 start!
An opportunistic Caruana continued his improbable run at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in round five. He final victim was GM Hikaru Nakamura, who overpressed in a mostly equal middlegame.
Not much of Caruana's perspicacious opening preparation was required today. Instead, it was a day of middlegame patience and a nervy king walk.
"I couldn't imagine I could do something like this," Caruana said. "I don't know if it's a matter of luck or I'm playing well. I wish I knew."
The start is so perfect that performance rating calculations can't give an accurate estimate -- the math relies on at least a half-point blemish. What we do know is that his performance is well north of 3000 and nearly unprecedented. Oh, and he's done that with more Blacks than Whites, something GM Magnus Carlsen found particularly impressive.
Today Nakamura badly needed to win to get back in the tournament. "I think he was playing too ambitiously after he gave up the light squares," Caruana said.
The win was Caruana's first against Nakamura. He had lost three games in 2013 to the fellow New York native, then a series of draws ensued before today's breakthrough.
Eventually White got a putrid bishop and the American number one desperately tried to create chances on the kingside. Caruana's sole errant move of the entire event only delayed the inevitable, or extended the drama, depending on how you want to look at it.
See if you can find how he could have ended the game even sooner:
"I completely missed Bh4," Caruana said. "That would have been a nice way to end the game." Instead, he labored for about another hour while White's queen chased him around the board.
"I had about two minutes and it was very difficult to calculate everything. I was afraid I would blunder my bishop."
Chess.com spoke with Caruana about the incredible start and his plans for the second week. Here's the video interview:
The lead was stretched for the fifth round in a row, even though there were two other winners today. Caruana has added exactly 0.5 points to his lead every single round. Basically, he has continued winning while the rest of the field knocks one another down.
Sitting in joint second (albeit with half the points of the leader) are now GM Magnus Carlsen and also GM Veselin Topalov. Further emphasizing the unpredictability of the tournament, this was Carlsen's first win, and Topalov was in last place just three days ago.
Commentator GM Ben Finegold didn't think any of those facts were the most surprising. He pointed to usually-solid GM Levon Aronian losing his third game in a row today (at the hands of Carlsen).
Aronian and Caruana were basically tied for second in the live ratings at the outset of the Sinquefield Cup. Now the tournament leader has more than a 30-point cushion.
"It's a really strange series of results," was GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's take.
So is it over? That daily query has either been answered with uncertainty or equivocation by the players, but today Topalov conceded. When asked the same question, he answered, "I guess so."
He should know -- in 2005 Topalov won five consecutive games in rounds 3-7 at the World Championship Tournament in San Luis, Argentina, then drew the rest of his games to earn the crown.
"I know what strong players should look like and right now only Fabiano's showing it," Topalov said. "I'm happy we have a free day tomorrow so he can't win a sixth day in a row."
Topalov's game was the first to finish, as Vachier-Lagrave resigned just after the time control rather than wait for the inevitable invasion on his queenside pawns. This was only their second career meeting; MVL won at the 2012 Olympiad.
"I had absolutely no risk," Topalov said. "He didn't defend the best way. White has many useful moves, while Black is quite passive."
"I made some dubious decisions," MVL said of his favorite defense. "I thought I was solid but Veselin showed I wasn't. I should have gone for more active play.
"I think I need to play in more tournaments of this caliber. [I'm learning] simply never to have a weak moment. It gets punished immediately. Every day you need to be your best."
Chess.com caught up with the resurgent Topalov; here's the video interview with him:
Going along with Nakamura-Caruana, the other five-hour game (a rarity at this year's event so far) was Carlsen's endgame triumph over the struggling Aronian.
Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that Carlsen managed to win the rook-and-five versus rook-and-four endgame. After all, that's an extra a-pawn compared to a 2010 rapid win over GM Ruslan Ponomariov in the same ending.
The beleaguered Aronian made a series of inaccurate moves, highlighted by a final fatal error on move 64.
Carlsen gave a video interview to Chess.com:
On the live show, commentator GM Yasser Seirawan found a way to make chess culture meet pop internet culture.
"If [Caruana] gets 10 points, I'm going to take the ice bucket challenge five times!" Seirawan said.
The standards of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge would mean a $500 donation would thus be in order. Also in that scenario, Caruana's winner's check of $100,000 could afford him 999 more buckets dumped on his head.
Chess.com/TV will embed the official commentary at 2 p.m. Central (GMT -6) for every round. Monday is the only rest day of the event.
2014 Sinquefield Cup | Round 5 Standings
2014 Sinquefield Cup | Schedule & Pairings
|Round 1||27.08.14||14:00 CDT||Round 6||02.09.14||14:00 CDT|
|Round 2||28.08.14||14:00 CDT||Round 7||03.09.14||14:00 CDT|
|Round 3||29.08.14||14:00 CDT||Round 8||04.09.14||14:00 CDT|
|Round 4||30.08.14||14:00 CDT||Round 9||05.09.14||14:00 CDT|
|Round 5||31.08.14||14:00 CDT||Round 10||06.09.14||14:00 CDT|
- Round 4: Caruana Streak Continues at Sinquefield, Now 4-0
- Round 3: Caruana Beats Carlsen, Leads Sinquefield After Round 3
- Round 2: Caruana and Aronian Win Rd. 2 in St. Louis
- Round 1: Caruana Weathers Early Storm at Sinquefield Cup
- Preview: 5 Things You Didn't Know About the World's Strongest Chess Tournament
- Preview: 2800+ Elo for 2nd Sinquefield Cup