Heart-Stopping Time Scramble, 3 More Wins In St. Louis

Heart-Stopping Time Scramble, 3 More Wins In St. Louis

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

If poker is long periods of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror, then today chess was too. GMs Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen proved it.

"The position wasn't very complicated for a long time," Caruana said about his round-two game at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. Two games finishing earlier were mostly lifeless draws. It was shaping up to be a ho-hum day. Then, everything changed.

Both players found themselves in severe time pressure leading up to move 40. Caruana had less sand in his hourglass and that proved to be his downfall. Nearly any other reasonable move besides his final would have given him a chance for a plus. The problem? He had only four seconds before triple zeros would appear.

"It got a bit out of control...It's hard when you have a couple of seconds," Carlsen said. "Rxd2 is just reflex. It's hard but it can happen."

The world champion has been having some clock adventures this summer.

Caruana's clock management became more dire with nearly every move. He had only one minute and five seconds to make the final 10 moves, then was reduced to 15 seconds for seven more. He did technically make the standard, then resigned immediately afterward due to his blunder on move 40.

Carlsen originally had much more time than his opponent, but then dwindled perilously close to zero himself. He admitted that after the misguided 27...b4, "there was no emergency exit. I thought I should start playing for tricks."

He made his 40th and winning move with about three seconds left also.

GM Fabiano Caruana -- trying to read GM Magnus Carlsen's mind before the game?

Caruana actually avoided all the land mines but spent far too much time in the process. The most egregious ply came with 33. Qb3, which took 41 seconds, the lion's share of his remaining time. Carlsen guessed that his opponent missed the threat of 33...Qxf5 in case of 33. Rb6.

In the must-see replay of the year, we pick up the action with the man who is made for this moment, GM Maurice Ashley.

Still, it's hard to fault the labored decision-making on move 33 -- computer analysis showed that the move was the only one to retain an advantage.

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

"I was clearly better toward the end," Caruana said. "Rxd2, I just didn't think about this move. I had two or three seconds, but that should have been enough time [to find any queen move]. I was just trying to anticipate his moves." (The video replay seems to show that he played the move with nearly no time coming off of his clock.)

"The problem at the end was that I stopped keeping score and I didn't know what move it was." spoke with Carlsen about the frenetic closing moments of his game:

"It is really hard to keep calm," Carlsen said. "With my recent form, I'll take any win I can get."

She wasn't the only one feeling this way. GM Alexander Grischuk had already finished and was bouncing up and down while watching the television monitors next door.
The situation began as relaxing, then turned into a maelstrom of expeditious tactics. (Photo courtesy Spectrum Studios).

With a lede hinting at the double time-trouble mess, you may find it strange to only now read the name of the most notorious time-pressure warrior, GM Alexander Grischuk. In fact he played like a cheetah compared to them -- banking a full three-and-a-half minutes for his final seven moves.

GM Alexander Grischuk used a pet line to get on the scoreboard: "I played my favorite opening." (Photo: Lennart Ootes).

That's a leisurely pace for him; yesterday he had to make a dozen moves in the same amount of time. It turned out he didn't even need to fulfill the time control today. GM Viswanathan Anand resigned on move 35 rather than face another hopeless endgame. Grischuk thought he missed 35. Rf8+, but White was winning nonetheless.

"It's my fault," Grischuk said his usual style of falling behind on the clock. Lacking increment is "definitely very bad for me."

"It happens sometimes," Anand said of his 0-2 start. "You lose control and it's hard to find your feet." Mercifully, he will get his first crack at the white pieces tomorrow.

GM Viswanathan Anand's form has not carried over from Norway. (Photo courtesy Spectrum Studious).

Grischuk actually copied his blitz game versus Anand from this year's Norway Chess until differing with 8. Nf3 instead of 8. Qd4.

"He must have known this move but didn't check it before the game," Grischuk said. "In the game it was very sad for Black. He lost a similar position to Gelfand in the world championship match."

"I should not have repeated a blitz game from Norway," Anand said. "That wasn't very bright."

"It's a very important victory for me," Grischuk said. "It's my first in classical chess against Vishy [in 15 years of playing him]. It's also my first victory this year against a top player." He quickly corrected himself, remembering a win versus GM Sergey Karjakin in the FIDE Grand Prix.

What about this pet system of his? Grischuk joked it should be renamed. "I think 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 is called the 'Bishop's Opening'? But it should be called the 'Wrong Bishop's Opening!' 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 should be the 'Bishop's Opening.'"

Grischuk was the latest player to "project" his moves!

Besides wanting to rename openings, today we also learned what he thinks about various U.S. cities.

"Before I was only ever in New York and Las Vegas," he said. "I really hate Vegas and I'm not a big fan of New York, but I like it here very much." He couldn't articulate why he wasn't partial to New York, but for the other it was easy. Vegas is Grischuk's home for the World Series of Poker, which takes place in the scorching Nevada summer. Two years ago during the WSOP the temperature reached a record 117F.

The final game of the day saw GM Veselin Topalov take a creative idea and play it all the way into a long endgame win. His 16. e5! pawn sac garnered the two bishops, which he used to paralyze GM Hikaru Nakamura's play.

GM Ian Rogers put it more broadly: "Nobody's wanted to play two knights versus two bishops since the 1951 World Championship Match between Botvinnik and Bronstein." For those of you without photographic memories, you can see that game here.

Nakamura chastised his move 15...f5, which allowed Topalov to play his novel idea. "I just thought I was better, but the moment he goes 19. b3 I'm like, whoops!

"Every time I play Veselin he plays moves that aren't bad but I get too optimistic."

GM Hikaru Nakamura said he is goaded into pressing when playing Topalov.

If that sounds like Nakamura using litotes to only halfway praise Topalov, he didn't necessarily disagree.

"[I'm] trying to be practical, don't complicate too much," the Bulgarian explained. "In the past I was too optimistic and always tried to play for the win. The point is not to always try to play the best move."

GM Veselin Topalov's training, or lack thereof, is confounding. (Photo courtesy Spectrum Studios).

He then admitted that last time he studied chess seriously was early in 2014. "I'm not really training. The time between Norway (in June) and this was more or less holidays. I don't think I should be playing this well."

The rhetoric leads to a strange conclusion: the same man who admits to not always trying to play the best move and not training is also the sole leader at 2-0.

The other two games ended early and never seriously wavered from the status quo.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played only about an hour against GM Levon Aronian.

"I'm always ready to play," Aronian said.

"Same here," Vachier-Lagrave replied. "It's my fault, since I'm White."

What did they plan to do with a completely free afternoon? The Frenchman said he would go to Forest Park; Aronian preferred the hotel pool.

GM Levon Aronian barely sat down before he had to get up again.

Finally there was GM Anish Giri against GM Wesley So. Despite a little more action than the other early finish, So comfortably achieved an opposite-colored bishop draw. 

"When he took on f5, it looks from an outsider's point of view like I blundered," So said. In fact, he had it all worked out -- once he envisioned how to trade knights, the half-point was secure. So pointed out that even without any of his c-pawns, it would still be drawn.

So is easily the least-experienced player in the field at the top levels, a point he brought up by revealing this stat: "If you do a bunch of research you will see that Magnus has played Vishy 89 times (in all time controls). I've played Magnus twice."

He would have faced him a third time had he accepted his invitation to be a permanent member of the Grand Chess Tour instead of the wildcard for this leg. So explained to that while waiting for the organizers to choose a date for the Norway event, he signed a contract to play GM David Navara in a match (which So won). When the dates for the tour were finalized, So did not want to back out of his commitment.

GM Wesley So "allowed" a tactic but saw it didn't
disturb the balance. (Picture courtesy Spectrum Studios).

So added some other insights into his game. On yesterday's loss against Vachier-Lagrave: "I played like a five year old." On Caruana's decision to transfer to America: "Personally we are very happy that Fabiano decided to come back. Of course it pushed my placement down further, but it encourages me...I'm excited to be a part of the U.S. chess team." On the chances for Baku, 2016: "A medal is not assured with three strong players."


2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 2 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Topalov,V 2816 3633 phpfCo1l0.png       1 1         2.0/2  
2 Giri,A 2793 2965   phpfCo1l0.png         1 ½     1.5/2 1.25
3 Vachier-Lagrave,M 2731 2962     phpfCo1l0.png ½       1     1.5/2 1.25
4 Aronian,L 2765 2960     ½ phpfCo1l0.png           1 1.5/2 0.75
5 Carlsen,M 2853 2812 0       phpfCo1l0.png         1 1.0/2 0.00
6 Nakamura,H 2814 2816 0         phpfCo1l0.png     1   1.0/2 0.00
7 Grischuk,A 2771 2804   0         phpfCo1l0.png   1   1.0/2 0.00
8 So,W 2779 2572   ½ 0         phpfCo1l0.png     0.5/2  
9 Anand,V 2816 1993           0 0   phpfCo1l0.png   0.0/2 0.00
10 Caruana,F 2808 2009       0 0         phpfCo1l0.png 0.0/2 0.00
(Images courtesy Spectrum Studios).

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

Company Contact and News Accreditation: 

  • Email:
  • Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
  • Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

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.

More from FM MikeKlein
Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

New ChessKid Adventure App Released

New ChessKid Adventure App Released