Nepomniachtchi Has Own Analysis Used Against Him By Aronian In Sinquefield Cup

Nepomniachtchi Has Own Analysis Used Against Him By Aronian In Sinquefield Cup

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

How are American-Russian relations doing? We'll have to wait another day to find out.

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup features exactly four Russian speakers in the 10-player field, and they all played each other in today's opening round. Granted one is Armenian, but clearly gone are the 1960s-era games where friends agreed to save energy for the outside world. Instead today both of those games ended with wins.

GM Levon Aronian chatting with GM Sergey Karjakin during the autograph session yesterday. Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

In the first game to finish, GM Levon Aronian ousted GM Ian Nepomniachtchi when the latter had his own analysis used against him. Later, GM Sergey Karjakin won his first-ever game at the Sinquefield Cup by taking out countryman GM Peter Svidler. Karjakin now has as many wins in one day on American soil as he did in the entire month of November at the 2016 World Championship, although this is his second time "ahead" of the world champ.


The crowds gathered for day one of the strongest annual U.S. tournament. Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave showed that he wasn't longing for his would-be fifth-straight title in Biel. On the same day it ended, he became the third winner in St. Louis, against world number two GM Wesley So, who is suddenly world number three after this game.

That's because GM Fabiano Caruana drew GM Magnus Carlsen, effectively pulling up behind him again. It should be noted that Aronian's win edged him past GM Vladimir Kramnik (who is not playing here), meaning the top four players in the world all have ownership of every Sinquefield Cup title in the four years of its existence. All are gunning to the first to two.

In other action, GM Viswanathan Anand played a modest Spanish but agreed to a draw with GM Hikaru Nakamura.


Stars of the 2037 Sinquefield Cup? We'll have to wait to find out. | Austin Fuller, Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Back to the first game to finish. Aronian's exotic rook lift on move 10 may have been unique (Aronian: "You don't get to do it every day."), but Nepomniachtchi said afterward it was in his preparation, only for White!

"It's funny that I prepared this exact same time as White," he said. "I have everything written down."


GM Levon Aronian, left, "found" an innovation for his rook which his opponent knew about. | Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Unfortunately, it's well known in St. Louis that using notes is not allowed during a game. Nepomniachtchi didn't waste much time with his reply, and then when his b-pawn was threatened, he didn't think twice about offering it.

"After Qb3 I couldn't believe that castle short won't work," Nepomniachtchi said. "It's a little bit annoying that I'm losing the game in a moronic way...This is insanely stupid."

It turns out, it was indeed a pawn, minus the poison.

"He allowed me to take on b7, which he shouldn't have," Aronian said. "I'm not going to chicken out and play something else. My whole concept of bringing my rook into play was to attack the queenside...I had to go for it."


On his recent good form, Aronian said it is really just finishing off the good positions he was always getting.

"I used to play well and spoil it, now I'm converting." he said.

"To be honest he played very poorly in the Grand Prix, but in the biggest round robins he's been pretty good," was Carlsen's take on Aronian's recent form.

So you can beat a 2700, but can you beat your fiancée? Aronian gets in a training game with bride-to-be WIM Arianne Caoili, who apparently has changed her tune. | Austin Fuller, Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Last year, Svidler was the emergency replacement for an ailing Kramnik and necesssarily didn't have the usual preparation time. This year, he's the wildcard, but his tournament began the same way as in 2016 (at least he won't get a double black to start like last year).

At one point, Karjakin had imposing pawns five abreast on the fourth rank.

"I shouldn't have allowed that," Svidler said. "The thing is, I severely underestimated just how unpleasant 16. c4 is...[The move is] basically the only idea White has and I was trying to keep it under control.

"The position went from looking completely fine to completely lost in a span of about five moves and I only have myself to blame for that."

"I thought that he blundered c4," Karjakin said. "After c4 he should have found something."

"I arrived here six days ago," Karjakin said about his first time competing in St. Louis. "I like the weather very much. It's very sunny. It's just exactly how I like it." (The 2016 World Championship in New York City was in November and much cooler.)

Yesterday the high in St. Louis was 89F but today the mercury is expected to eclipse 90F. Karjakin may then not enjoy the full solar eclipse which will pass over Missouri on August 21 -- maybe that's why the departure day for the rapid/blitz event is a day before?

The final round one winner was Vachier-Lagrave, who is also the highest-rated player in the field without a Sinquefield title in his CV. His game was basically the exact same opening as Karjakin-Svidler, and it had the same final result.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has the biggest beard and is tied for the most points. | Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Vachier-Lagrave said his preparation ended after 14...c6 "but I knew that White has a pleasant advantage."

"I think I didn't defend well, and then I ran into time trouble," So said after his loss. He added that his ...f5 idea was flawed since he missed the idea of White's bishop re-routing to h2. "Probably not the best idea."

Unsurprisingly, as the position opened up, "[White's] bishop pair got really strong."

"Probably d4 is just refuted right now," Vachier-Lagrave joked about the avoidance of the move by all five players of the white pieces (Aronian chose 1. Nf3 while all others played 1. e4).

In the battle between the first two Sinquefield Cup winners (2013 vs. 2014), Caruana and Carlsen drew despite the world champion's late but benign oversight.

"There wasn't so much to do actually," Carlsen said. That's when he went for a liquidation, but after avoiding a repetition, Carlsen missed a key defensive move. "I went for this b3, d3 thing, which I thought was a forced draw. At the end I was lucky I could escape because I didn't see his Rf8 thing."

"It's a bit surprising to miss this move, but it doesn't change anything," Caruana said.


GM Magnus Carlsen got along just fine with GM Maurice Ashley after the game. | Austin Fuller, Chess Club & Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Earlier than this, Caruana said he caught Carlsen smirking during the game.

"At some point he smiled," Caruana said. "It was the kind of smile where you could tell he saw something beautiful or funny and I was trying to figure out what it was."

Caruana went into sleuth-mode to uncover what the Norwegian had conjured. He found it:

Carlsen said he regrets that he won't be able to play GM Garry Kasparov in the rapid and blitz event later this month. The announcement that the 13th world champion would return to rated chess came after Carlsen had opted to compete in the Grand Chess Tour's other two rapid events.

"If I had known he'd be playing here, I'd have given anything to play in the tournament," Carlsen said. He guessed that Kasparov would be "better prepared than the others" but he would not hazard a final placement.

That is more of a hedge than Nakamura, who said unequivocally that Kasparov would not finish first. Before he gets a chance to be a part of that theory, he drew his opening game with Anand.

"In the first round it didn't feel like it was the play some crazy stuff," Nakamura said.

2017 Sinquefield Cup | Standings After Round One

Rank Name Fed. Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 GM Aronian, Levon 2799 x 1 1
2 GM Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2789 x 1 1
3 GM Karjakin, Sergey 2773 x 1 1
4 GM Carlsen, Magnus 2822 x ½ 0.5
5 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2807 ½ x 0.5
6 GM Nakamura, Hikaru 2792 x ½ 0.5
7 GM Anand, Viswanathan 2783 ½ x 0.5
8 GM So, Wesley 2810 0 x 0
9 GM Svidler, Peter 2751 0 x 0
10 GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2751 0 x 0

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup is a 10-player round robin from August 1-12 with a $300,000 prize fund. Games begin daily at 1pm Central U.S. time (GMT-5). Commentary can be watched live at the official site or at

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