5 Up, 5 Down In Sinquefield Cup Opening Round

5 Up, 5 Down In Sinquefield Cup Opening Round

| 47 | Chess Event Coverage

So much for dipping your toes into the water. In the opening round of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup on Sunday, all fives games produced victories, giving the packed house of chess fans storylines at every turn.

Choose your top happening of the day:

  • GM Veselin Topalov beats GM Magnus Carlsen again, and just as in Norway as Black (with an early ...g5! novelty).
  • GM Hikaru Nakamura uses a strategy he learned from Carlsen to notch yet another win against GM Viswanathan Anand.
  • GM Levon Aronian gets back in form against GM Fabiano Caruana and ends any repeat streak speculation. 
  • GM Alexander Grischuk is reduced to 47 seconds for seven moves to play and pays the price. 
  • GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won his fourth straight game if you count his wins in Biel.


We have to start somewhere, so let's begin with the game ending first. In a textbook-worthy attacking game, Aronian showed accuracy and panache in routing Caruana's king. The beauty was not lost on the Armenian. He admitted to enjoying himself in the culminating moves.

"I like it when my opponent has a weakened king," Aronian said. "I saw millions of wins!"

GM Levon Aronian looking forlorn, but that all changed after his win.

Caruana's early ...g5 thrust didn't turn out nearly as well as Topalov's. He pawns flew to the fifth rank and were four-wide but instantly porous.

"This pawn formation is nuts," commentator GM Maurice Ashley said. "I've never seen this before in my entire chess career."

The atypical pattern was forshadowed yesterday. Before the two knew the pairings, they played a handful of blitz games in the afternoon. By the end, 1. g3 h5 was being played. Today was tamer, but only just.

No one could figure out how to save Caruana's position.

Aronian had little trouble keeping the Ra5 out of the game, essentially giving him license to sac his own. Still, he had to have it all worked out, and find the necessary 28. Rf1! in the middle of the sequence.

Analysis by GM Robert Hess: spoke with Aronian and here's the video interview:

The move ...g5 got its revenge one board away, and on the biggest stage. GM Veselin Topalov was shown the novelty by his second two years ago, but had no idea he would use it today against the world champion.

"This kind of preparation is not just for Magnus," he said.

GM Veselin Topalov has now beaten GM Magnus Carlsen on the clock and on the board this summer (image courtesy Spectrum Studios).

Topalov couldn't remember everything, but played it anyway.

"The conclusion is that White is not worse," he said. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it did cause Carlsen to think for nearly 30 minutes. Several players got in time trouble before move 40, and that is more serious than in many tournaments since the increment doesn't kick in until the second time control (40/120, SD/60+30 seconds).

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

"After 17...Qc6, objectively Black is winning," Topalov said of the moment he knew. Before that, some doubts lingered.

Did Carlsen press too much in trying to enact revenge for losing to Topalov in Norway? He didn't think so. About the piece sacrifice, Carlsen explained, "It seemed he wouldn't be comfortable defending these types of positions...I missed a couple of his moves."

Namely, Carlsen only considered ...Qg4 after Black developed his queen, forgetting that he also had to contend with ...Qh3 defensive ideas.

Carlsen drew a stark comparison between the two opening-round losses.

"I wasn't outplayed in Norway," Carlsen said (he lost there due to ignorance of the time control). "Today I was just beat, fair and square. It's not a good feeling (sigh) to not play well. I was trying to play a solid line. Then he played ...g5...Even in the endgame I made a couple of stupid blunders."

GM Magnus Carlsen has not impressed so far in the Grand Chess Tour.

"It's surprising to see Magnus play this way," Nakamura said. "He's so consistent."

Despite the win, Topalov, the winner of the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour, continued to undersell himself.

"All these wins, they don't change my view. I don't see myself as a contender for the world championship. [In Norway] I liked my results but not my play."

The wins kept coming every few minutes. Next to share the lead became Giri, who is now undefeated in America (at 1-0!) and also perfect as a married man (same score).

His opponent, GM Alexander Grischuk, suffered from a double-whammy: a worse position and his usual time issues. He had three minutes to make a dozen moves without the benefit of increment.

"I knew of the tournament and Rex Sinquefield of course," Giri said about the founder of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. "I must say it turned out to be a little bigger than expected."


Giri discusses the game with Grischuk.


The ropes bulged today at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.

Despite the ribbing he took from his peers about a wife leading to a loss of rating points, Giri named some counter-examples.

"It's not a real fear," Giri said. "Any change in your routine often leads to a change, good or bad." He then cited Anand, who Giri said had a "big breakthrough" after getting married.

In Giri's case, his wife is a titled player -- IM/WGM Sopiko Guramishvili. "Personally it is nice," he said. "The person who is close to you knows what you are going through."

GM Anish Giri took advantage of GM Alexander Grischuk's time pressure.

Despite playing in St. Louis for the first time, he has a sizable contingent here. Giri's uncle lives close by and came for the weekend. Guramishvili is by his side, as is coach GM Vladimir Tukmakov.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk is also having a tough time. He's hurt and out for 15-20 games. At least Grischuk gets to play again tomorrow. (Image courtesy Fox Sports)

Giri was barely down the stairs when yet another domino fell. This time, it was Anand, who resigned instead of try to put up resistance in a losing endgame.

Nakamura explained to on-site commentator GM Ian Rogers his strategy in the game:


The win increases the American's curious but strong career stats against Anand. Nakamura's now up 5-1 in classical chess, but this was his first win as White (indeed all five decisive games before today came with Anand as White).

GM Hikaru Nakamura's Catalan got him his first win at the Sinquefield Cup since 2013. spoke with Nakamura and here's the video interview:

Could the day get more exciting? Indeed it could. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finished out the "perfect day" with a win of his own over GM Wesley So. Vachier-Lagrave struggled to a -2 finish in 2014, but got hot this summer. He finished Biel win three wins and a first place trophy; the win here makes it four in a row, although he doesn't believe form carries over between events.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, known by his peers for his calculating ability, wears his skill set on his face. Or was he auditioning for "A Beautiful Mind"?

"In general, it ends after each tournament," he said. Vachier-Lagrave said he does not feel like he has something to prove after being invited to the tour then losing a bucket of rating points. Still, the precipitous drop out of the world's top 10 stung.

"I must admit it was not nice to give up so many games and rating points. It was nice [qualifying for] the Grand Chess Tour after having some horrendous tournaments."

He's now gained 20 points in his last four games, catapulting him up 10 spots in the live rankings and back into the top 15. Topalov and Nakamura, at 2821.5 and 2819.0, respectively, also achieved personal bests on their live ratings.

Vachier-Lagrave was one of only two players (along with So) to test out the newly-created confessional booth ("I just like it, why not?"). The club worked overnight to sound-proof the closet-sized room, and Vachier-Lagrave chose to enter it after 17...Bf5, when he knew he wasn't worse.

"I think the opening has gone well for me," he said. "This pawn sac seems to have good compensation. Unlike some sacrifices I've made, this one seems sounder."

When asked by if he was worried about sound-proofing and did he possibly consider doing his testimonial in French, he said, "Some of [my competitors] may have rudimentary knowledge."

There's a difference between being knowledgeable of French, and The French, an important distinction in chess!

Why did Aronian not visit the confessional booth? "I forgot about it because I was so excited attacking my opponent."

Despite nearly everyone commenting on the uniqueness of having five winners, Topalov was not surprised. He surveyed all the games early and concluded that he saw advantages to all the eventual winners with the exception of Giri.

A fresh look at the playing hall and crowd (image courtesy Spectrum Studios).

In the first Sinquefield Cup, 50 percent of games produced wins. Last year the number of games tripled and the win rate fell to 47 percent. So far this year the math is easy: 100 percent.

"Even if I was the only one to win today, I wouldn't make a big deal out of it," Nakamura said. "It's early."

2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 1 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts
1-5 Topalov,Veselin 2816 3653 1.0/1
1-5 Nakamura,Hikaru 2814 3616 1.0/1
1-5 Giri,Anish 2793 3571 1.0/1
1-5 Aronian,Levon 2765 3608 1.0/1
1-5 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2731 3579 1.0/1
6-10 Carlsen,Magnus 2853 2016 0.0/1
6-10 Anand,Viswanathan 2816 2014 0.0/1
6-10 Caruana,Fabiano 2808 1965 0.0/1
6-10 So,Wesley 2779 1931 0.0/1
6-10 Grischuk,Alexander 2771 1993 0.0/1


Round 2 24.08.15 13:00 CDT
Grischuk - Anand
Topalov - Nakamura
Caruana - Carlsen
Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian
Giri - So

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

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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