Month Of Chess Opens In St. Louis; Players Give Caruana Advice
Fabiano Caruana accepts a "good luck" card signed by hundreds of kids from Jennifer Shahade. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Month Of Chess Opens In St. Louis; Players Give Caruana Advice

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

Get ready for another football match and penalty shootout, although unlike normal, the shootout will come first.

The 2018 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz and 2018 Sinquefield Cup opened today with a brief ceremony, and the first moves will be played tomorrow. The classical time control event, the only one on the Grand Chess Tour docket this year, will be the later event, flip-flopping from the 2017 schedule.


Club Director Tony Rich isn't supposed to play favorites, but it seems he's already preventing Levon Aronian from dropping pieces. | Photo: Mike Klein/

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is back to defend his title in the Sinquefield Cup, but first GM Levon Aronian will attempt to do the same in the rapid/blitz.

The rapid/blitz is five consecutive days from August 11-15, with the first three devoted to a single round-robin in rapid time controls (three games per day per player), and the final two days hosting a double round-robin in the blitz (nine games per day per player).

The Sinquefield Cup will be August 17-28 and is now in its sixth year. America's premier event has never had a repeat winner (Aronian and GM Hikaru Nakamura are the only two to compete every year). That event is a nine-game round-robin with a single rest day.

All of the players will play both events, with the exception of the two wildcards. World #3 (in rapid) GM Leinier Dominguez will get subbed out for the slower time control event by world #1 (in everything) GM Magnus Carlsen.


The current Grand Chess Tour standings. With only these two events in St. Louis remaining, we will know at the end of the month which top four players qualify for the season-ending event in London.

The short gathering Friday night at the World Chess Hall of Fame allowed each player to make some brief comments after their personal introduction from GM Maurice Ashley. Before we get to those, Ashley also allowed this reporter a chance to engage nearly all of the players with this singular question: "If you could give advice to Caruana about how to beat Carlsen in the upcoming world championship, what would it be?"

Here's a sampling of the players' answers:

  • GM Hikaru Nakamura: "Just play the best moves like the computer."
  • GM Sergey Karjakin: "Just play like you did in Berlin [at the Candidates']."
  • GM Viswanathan Anand: "Sinquefield Cup, '14 is a good plan!"
  • GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: "If you play like you did in Sinquefield '14 you can even afford to get a few drinks before the games."
  • GM Levon Aronian: "Any time I beaten Magnus was because I've had some interesting, original, sharp lines. But that's what they said how you should play against Fischer, and it didn't quite work for Spassky."
  • GM Leinier Dominguez: "Try to be in top form and believe in yourself."

And what did GM Fabiano Caruana think of the collective wisdom? "Some was better than others," he told

Here's the full lineup for the rapid/blitz (all player photos are Mike Klein/


GM Viswanathan Anand: "I've seen even in the time I've been here that the association between chess and St. Louis has grown." He also added that he even saw a mainstream publication suggesting that one the things to do in the city was to visit the Hall of Fame and eat at the Kingside Diner, the chess-themed pub attached to and managed by the club.


GM Sergey Karjakin: "It's very nice to see that here you are getting stronger and stronger. The U.S.A. team is the clear favorite in chess team competitions." (Readers can see the full Olympiad lineups and make their own determination.)


GM Levon Aronian (defending champion of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz): "You just walk around (Forest) Park and see the beautiful buildings and the amazing heritage the city has." Club founder Rex Sinquefield reminded that 134 years ago the middle leg of the Zukertort-Steinitz World Championship Match was held in St. Louis, and a banner was recently erected at the exact spot. Then Vachier-Lagrave, a math major, corrected him that it was 132 years ago.

Aronian also commented on his perception as the most whimsical player. "In regards to people thinking I'm a joker, I can say that it's flattering...I hope I will be a villain in this tournament!"


GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (defending champion of the Sinquefield Cup): "It's my fifth time already [in St. Louis] and I enjoy it just like it was the first."


GM Hikaru Nakamura: "When I came here in 2009, the whole landscape was so much different." He added that the club and its legacy will remain "long after we are gone."


GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov: Not only is it his first time in St. Louis, it will also be his first time competing on U.S. soil. "This is very strange. This is a big problem because I'm afraid of flying. It's a 14 or 15 hour flight and it was hard for me!" He then added, "I will try to improve my chess and improve my English!"

Leinier Dominguez

GM Leinier Dominguez: "I'm thankful for the opportunity I've been given to play against the best players in the world."

Wesley So

GM Wesley So (current leader of the Grand Chess Tour): "I'm very pleased to be leading the Grand Chess Tour at the halfway point." He pointed out that the Sinquefield Cup, the only classical event in 2018, counts for more points than the other events and has yet to be played.


GM Fabiano Caruana: "Of course I'm preparing heavily for the (world championship) match. It's always there in the back of my mind."

Despite playing the rapid/blitz, the Olympiad, and the Isle of Man International, none of which Carlsen has signed up for, Caruana told that he is not concerned about his more rigorous schedule.

The astute reader will notice there's been no mention of GM Alexander Grischuk. "He will make it in time for round one, weather willing," Saint Louis Chess Club Director Tony Rich said.

And if not, it's you know who!

Peter Svidler

GM Peter Svidler (right) and GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko are the Russian commentators on site, but Svidler confirmed that he is the emergency replacement in case Grischuk or anyone else can't play. He's served this role before, filling in for GM Vladimir Kramnik as a last-minute replacement in 2016. | Photo: Mike Klein/

2018 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz | Players Sorted By Rapid Rating

Pairing No. Name FED Rapid Rtg
4 GM So Wesley 2852
2 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier 2826
8 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2824
10 GM Aronian Levon 2806
9 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2798
1 GM Karjakin Sergey 2793
3 GM Anand Viswanathan 2758
7 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2754
5 GM Grischuk Alexander 2751
6 GM Caruana Fabiano 2738

Here's the three rounds of pairings for day one:




Images courtesy Spectrum Studios.

You can catch the action live at the official site. Games begin tomorrow, August 11, at 1pm Central U.S. time, 8pm Central Europe.

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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