Ding Holds Marathon Game vs Caruana; All Draws In Sinquefield

Ding Holds Marathon Game vs Caruana; All Draws In Sinquefield

Today served as a brutal yet soporific reminder that a well played game of chess is ultimately a draw. By far the most interesting game of the round was GM Fabiano Caruana vs GM Ding Liren. Caruana tried every trick at his disposal for just shy of seven hours and 95 moves, but resistance and accuracy from Ding held the draw that good play deserves.

With no change in the standings, GM Wesley So (4.5/7) retains a half-point lead over GM Viswanathan Anand — who pressed slightly against GM Levon Aronian — and GM Veselin Topalov, who drew with GM Anish Giri. The anticipated highlight of the final two rounds will be the leader, So, playing the top two seeds, Caruana (with White tomorrow) and Vachier-Lagrave (with Black on Sunday).

Photo Lennart Ootes.

Readers may be wondering why the generally combative players at the the Sinquefield Cup haven't seemed to be evincing their usual fighting spirit. Nakamura shared interesting thoughts on the matter. When asked if he was thinking much about scenarios that might close the gap between himself and the tournament leader. He scoffed at such "silly" thoughts, and stated that with the London Chess Classic still ahead in the Grand Chess Tour, there was no reason to enter "suicide mode" in a vain all-or-nothing push for triumph in Sinquefield, but one leg of the larger Grand Chess Tour.

A round needs a mascot. I propose yawning sloth. Your suggestions?

In the first game of the day to finish, Vachier-Lagrave played into the main lines against Nakamura's Berlin Defense, but as against GM Vladimir Kramnik in Dortmund earlier this summer, he was unable to get real chances to win in the main lines.

Nakamura was untroubled by Vachier-Lagrave's opening choice. "I was pretty much prepared up until he played Kf2," Nakamura acknowledged after the game.

Unfortunately for Vachier-Lagrave, good preparation, a relatively interesting set of imbalances, and an active king amounted to little. As Nakamura said afterward, "the moral of the story is that all Berlin endgames are drawn."

Nakamura was sporting some stylish new Olympic apparel today. Chess.com's own FM Mike Klein had previously asked the participants which Olympic sport they would like to play. Nakamura cheekily selected the winter sport of speed skating. Lo and behold, yesterday he received a sharp new shirt and cap courtesy of the team!

Will Nakamura return the favor and send some Naka gear to the U.S. speed skating team? | Photo Lennart Ootes.

"I had him at some point," commented Anand after the game. While that may be a bit strong, he was certainly for choice against Aronian.

Aronian felt that he "would make a draw because of [his] bishops." Anand saw further. "I also know the two bishops are supposed to rescue everything," he said, but he chose to tackle them today.

He seemed to be building a considerable bind for a while. Then just as things were solidifying, Aronian struck with 33...b5!?

"I just missed b5. I was really surprised when he did it," said Anand.

The position may not have been totally equal, but the coming simplification dried the position out to the players' satisfaction, and they shook hands just a few moves after spectators were starting to find their interest picking up.

You thought I was getting squeezed?! You must have missed... b5!? | Photo Spectrum Studios.

The struggling GM Peter Svidler played with much panache yesterday, but the result was not as desired. Today, he played more simply, and after getting little to nothing in the opening against So, a draw was a quick outcome.

Post-game Svidler said, "it's hard to play the English opening against people who play the English opening themselves."

I played a line of the English that I hadn't played before, but that didn't surprise him either."

So looks to be in excellent position to win his first super-tournament, but he is realistic about his chances: "My toughest test in this tournament is yet to come."

This is true. So plays the two highest seeds, Caruana (with White) and Vachier-Lagrave (with Black) in these next two rounds. Both players sit on 50 percent and have struggled to shine in this event, but with wins, either could produce a massive tie at +1 between themselves, So, and a host of their fellow competitors.

Still no wins, but Svidler can be satisfied with solid play against the leader today. | Photo Spectrum Studios.

Topalov got pretty creative in the opening as he offered 2.d3!? after 1.c4 e5. "My problem is to find advantage with the white pieces," said Topalov. 

He tried the unorthodox solution of playing "Black" with an extra move. Topalov seemed unlikely to repeat this play.

"What I did was not a very good experiment in the opening," said Topalov. 

Giri was always comfortable, and he even acquired an extra pawn, but there were no real chances to win.

"With small advantages, in order to convert them, you need first of all to play extremely precisely, and then you also need your opponents to make mistakes," said Giri.

Was Giri struggling with precision or are his opponents just not making mistakes? Yesterday against Anand, he may have struggled with precision, but today, Topalov just didn't make further mistakes.

Giri was positive about his play in the game and humorously noted, "a game like this gives me confidence that some day, with God's help, I will win a game as well."

Giri achieved a small moral victory, outplaying Topalov comfortably with the black pieces. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Giri achieved a more tangible success, more than equalizing with Black when he decided to attempt a 1 minute, 30 second plank on air with commentator, GM Maurice Ashley. Giri not only succeeded, he held it for two minutes!

For his success, Giri was promoted to full chessbrah by chessbrah number one, GM Eric Hansen.

The final game of the round between Caruana and Ding lasted more than two hours longer than any other game. Caruana gave a master class in transforming advantages as he demonstrated advantages in the opening, in an endgame thanks to a weak pawn on b4, in an endgame with mutual passed-pawns, in a queen-and-minor-piece endgame after both players promoted, and finally in a good-knight versus bad-bishop endgame.

Phew! Despite all of Caruana's hard work, Ding successfully rode the various waves that Caruana created, and while it was clear that it was Caruana that was always pushing (especially after Ding's one clear error, 73...g4?), the position remained objectively drawn from move one until the players shook hands on move 95.

Caruana: a man who knows how to wear plaid, and how to apply a squeeze. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

2016 Sinquefield Cup | Round Seven Standings

# FED Player Rtg Perf Score 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 So, Wesley 2771 2871 4.5 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½
2 Anand, Viswanathan 2770 2836 4 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½
3 Topalov, Veselin 2761 2830 4 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2807 2777 3.5 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½
5 Nakamura, Hikaru 2791 2778 3.5 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½
6 Vachier Lagrave, Maxime 2819 2777 3.5 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½
7 Aronian, Levon 2792 2777 3.5 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1
8 Ding Liren 2755 2774 3.5 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1
9 Giri, Anish 2769 2729 3 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½
10 Svidler, Peter 2751 2627 2 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0

Matchups courtesy Spectrum Studios.

You can watch the games of the Sinquefield Cup in Live Chess. Commentary by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GMs Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen, Alejandro Ramirez and Yasser Seirawan will be available at Chess.com/TV from Friday, August 5 until Sunday, August 14, with rounds starting at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. CET).

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