Caruana Pounces On Aronian Error To Tie For Sinquefield Lead
Fabiano Caruana's simple tactic vaulted him into a tie for the lead at the 2019 Sinquefield Cup. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Caruana Pounces On Aronian Error To Tie For Sinquefield Lead

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
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21 | Chess Event Coverage

Levon Aronian said before the 2019 Sinquefield Cup that he wanted to be the first to win both it and the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz in the same year. He took care of the first part of business last week, but in round four of the classical event, an elementary blunder gifted a point to Fabiano Caruana.

The American's win was only the second of the entire event and ties him with Viswanathan Anand for the lead. All other games ended drawn. Anand, who has been all alone in first since the event concluded day one, did have a pathway to hold on to the lead but missed a very complicated win against Wesley So.

Levon Aronian Fabiano Caruana
The final moments of Caruana-Aronian. The perspicacious reader will note the clock times, which played a pivotal role in the outcome. Photo: GoldDustTori.

In what is becoming a theme this tournament, it seems large oversights are needed to produce victories. While many players have tried to grind down their opponents and push small advantages (Hikaru Nakamura's three turns with White all fit that label, amongst other games), the only two wins have come from inexplicable errors befitting players of much lower rating classes. In round one Anand was the beneficiary and in round four Caruana capitalized. Caruana said that fatigue has led to "shaky technique" by the field.

Today's tactic wasn't that hard to spot. It took Caruana 22 seconds to play it but in Puzzle Rush it likely would have been one-tenth that time.

Fabiano Caruana
His wins aren't coming as easily as in 2014, but just like back then, Caruana is atop the leaderboard. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Caruana intimated that the clock did play a role. He said that unlike his Q+R ending torture that he inflicted on Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the 2018 Olympiad, this time his opponent didn't have an increment or a secondary time control to buoy his defenses. At one point, Aronian had merely a single tick left on his clock (although with a 30-second delay each move).

"It seemed like he was defending very well and I was misplaying it and he was getting drawing chances which I couldn't believe," Caruana said. The world number two added that he was sure he was winning until missing 43...Qd6.

He said that the blunder 46...Qc5 is "kind of typical when you are playing on delay in this case for so long." Caruana spotted the deflection tactic on the back rank right away, scoring the point: He said he planned to use his personal stockpile of 12 minutes to make Aronian suffer even without the error but conceded that the "drawing chances are high."

When you are down to a few seconds your mind works in mysterious ways. - Caruana

While the focus has been on the ending to the game, Caruana revealed some rare insight into the heretofore closely-guarded details of his world championship match training. He said that the 7. d4 advance is rare and was studied in preparation for London last year. Funnily enough, Caruana said it doesn't put Black "to the test" in traditional ways, admitting that nearly any response is playable.

"Because he has such a wide choice, it's difficult!" Caruana said, despite the original antecedent being a Norwegian not an Armenian. "A wealth of choice is not your friend."

"The mistakes are there, waiting to be made," as even Kasparov reminded earlier in the tournament. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Caruana said Aronian accepted a slightly worse position, but felt he outplayed his opponent until the endgame. As it turns out, one way to outplay is to manage time more wisely.

Another queen ending came from Anand-So, but if the pre-round leader had played perfectly, it would have been over long before that. This time, fatigue or other issues are hardly to blame -- this tactic's difficulty would have been worthy of the final moments of a Casper Schoppen Puzzle Rush session.

"I just couldn't believe it, but I couldn't make it work," Anand said, despite revealing afterward that his magnificent idea was part of his preparation.

"I was fortunate to save today; I knew at some point I was probably lost," So said. "I played the Petrov terribly. I need to ask Fabiano how to play the Petrov."

About the critical moment, Anand said, "Qf3 looks so good I even played it kind of fast." (A check of the logs shows that it actually took more than 15 minutes, but with the variations so dense, even that amount of time could be considered fast!)

"I tried lots of different moves but I kept missing the intermezzos." - Anand

Anand's mood perked up bit after the review of the game, when the commentary team revealed a stat he didn't know. Anand had no idea that he currently holds the longest unbeaten streak at the Sinquefield Cup (now 38 games). "It would have still be a good streak had I won today!" Anand said.

Vishy Anand
A mixed bag for Anand: Great preparation but a missed win but still leading the tournament and still the toughest to beat at the Sinquefield. Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi repeated moves early while Nakamura again had a closed position that he couldn't open effectively. He subsequently drew Ding Liren. Anish Giri's extra passer couldn't overcome Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's fianchettoed bishop pair.

The world champion's best chance for a win came today against Mamedyarov, but Magnus Carlsen's bishops could not notch the point despite the Azeri's cramped pieces. Giri thought Carlsen would win this:

If Carlsen had pulled it out, Giri thought that might change the tenor of the entire event. He said that a hot Magnus might inspire others to open things up:

Images courtesy Spectrum Studios.

In round five, Carlsen completes his "trifecta" of world championship challengers. Having already faced Anand and Caruana, now he faces 2016 opponent Karjakin.

Round four coverage:

Watch Sinquefield Cup Round 4 with GM Hess #grandchesstour from Chess on www.twitch.tv

You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.

Previous reports:

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