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Sinquefield Closing: Ceremonies, Bughouse, Kasparov And Movies

Sinquefield Closing: Ceremonies, Bughouse, Kasparov And Movies

You could be forgiven for considering the 2015 Sinquefield Cup as merely a prequel to other excitement in St. Louis (don't tell GM Levon Aronian that!).

Two full days and three nights remained before the 10 players departed St. Louis. That was enough time for late-night (and early morning) blitz and bughouse, a closing ceremony, a banter-filled exhibition with GM Garry Kasparov, and a movie screening of "Pawn Sacrifice", the new Bobby Fischer biopic.

[Full disclosure: Chess.com and "Pawn Sacrifice" have a mutual marketing relationship, but this article is not an official review of the movie. Chess.com will ask someone from outside the company to write the review after the movie is released to the wider public.]

GM Levon Aronian -- still wanting to fight more?

After the tournament ended, nearly the entire field let off some tension by playing skittles games in the club's main floor. Aronian said following his victory that he still likes to do this -- it reminds him of going to the chess club in Yerevan nearly every night when he was growing up.

 

Of the constantly-revolving teams, here Caruana/Dlugy face team Vachier-Lagrave/Aronian. The Armenian is also considered one of the best in the world in bughouse.

Also taking place after the club's normal closing was a series of "odds matches" with some players accepting an extra rook but having to win X games out of 10. Some of the results were cheekily announced during the closing ceremony. We won't print them here since all was in good fun, and the chagrined parties don't need further embarassment.

On the third night (Thursday) of games at the club, some of the players moved on to compositions and puzzles.

The closing ceremony took place Wednesday at the World Chess Hall of Fame, across the street from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The second floor temprarily housed an impressive collection of centuries-old chess sets.

 

A meeting of the Chess Collectors International wrapped up earlier in the week.

Surely you can guess the famous position? If not, here's the answer!

Advancing one more flight up the stairs, the players arrived at the intimate closing ceremony. A short interview session followed, where this reporter asked each of the players to explain if they could accomplish any dream or make any purchase using only the winnings of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup, how would they spend their money?

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: Since Wijk ann Zee usually has him busy in January, he's never been able to go to the Australian Open (of tennis!).

GM Viswanathan Anand: "With my [small] earnings, probably a vacation!"

GM Fabiano Caruana: "I think I'd buy a goat. To be honest, I think the goat could see tactics better than me."

GM Levon Aronian: "I would buy a piece of art."

GM Anish Giri: "I am coming back to almost an empty house." He said he needed furniture (he's only been married for about two months).

GM Magnus Carlsen: "I will probably buy a new bike for Peter [Heine Nielsen]. He needs a faster one to keep up."

The world champion thinks one of his seconds may need some help himself.

GM Welsey So: "I will answer when I win!"

GM Alexander Grischuk: Quoting a Russian proverb, "In order to spend something, you need to earn something."

GM Veselin Topalov: "It's a question I should ask my wife!"

GM Hikaru Nakamura: "Ask me when I win Millionaire!" First prize there is $100,000.

Like the opening ceremony, GM Alexander Grischuk again played the role of stand-up comic.

Aronian then received the cup for his first-place finish.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Aronian, and chess club co-founder Jeanne Sinquefield.

"In this history of chess, I don't know anyone that has had so much love for chess," Aronian said of the Sinquefields. "I know that our game is respected."

Aronian's gracious winner's speech was a solemn moment in an otherwise lighthearted ceremony. The biggest laughs came during an exchange between Giri and emcee GM Maurice Ashley.

Giri said he liked all the food options in the Central West End of St. Louis, "but there's really a lot of Mexican food. At some point I was trying to find non-Mexican."

"Who are you, Donald Trump?" Ashley shot back. Trump, a candidate for the U.S. presidency, has been vocal about his desire for immigration reform.

Also announced were the dates of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour, which will not be expanding to a fourth event. Club director Tony Rich said Norway Chess will be April 16-29, 2016; the Sinquefield Cup August 19 - September 2, 2016; and the London Classic November 30 - December 13, 2016.

Tony Rich gave the dates fo the 2016 Grand Chess Tour, which will not be adding another event. Officials close to the tour said working around the Candidates Tournament, World Championship, Summer Olympics, Olympiad, and other events made it impossible. Should St. Louis keep similar dates in 2017, the players will be almost directly in the path of the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous U.S. since Karpov was world champion!

Earlier in the day, some players and support staff had fun playing bullet chess on the giant set outside the hall of fame. Our own IM Danny Rensch attempted a rematch with Vachier-Lagrave (the Frenchman won 3-2 last year). Those videos will be on the Chess.com Youtube channel soon.

For now, enjoy the six-game tandem giant bullet series already published. Game three had a particularly dramatic (and physical!) finish -- you may be able to notice that GM Robert Hess played high school football.

Thursday hosted two final events -- the "Ultimate Moves" exhibition and a screening of "Pawn Sacrifice".

Ultimate moves pitted all 10 players, plus GMs Yasser Seirawan and Garry Kasparov, with captains Rex and Randy Sinquefield (his son). The format was still in flux up until the starting time. Eventually this was agreed: one game between teams where each player makes five moves and relinquishes the chair, then a series of one-on-one blitz games where the players allow Rex and Randy to make moves 21-25!

The original plan was a sort of knockout event where the winning player stays, but probably was scrapped due to GM Sergei Karjakin's recent dismantling of the entire Chinese team in the same format. If repeated, the audience could very likely not see one of their favorite players compete.

The strongest benches in history? Team Randy Sinquefield included Carlsen, Topalov, Giri, So, Grischuk and Kasparov (pictured). Team Rex Sinquefield included Aronian, Nakamura, Caruana, Anand, Seirawan and Vachier-Lagrave.
26. Kd2? Yeah that was a doozy! Anand and Carlsen didn't have any of the stress of their matches Chennai or Sochi.
Seirawan gives Aronian a pre-match pat, and the champ looks ready.
Arbiter Chris Bird counts off the moves of the opening game. Each player executed five ply, then gave way to the next teammate.
Seirawan and Kasparov inherited the board deep into the opening game. "This is the best position versus Garry I've ever had!"

After Seirawan's joke, Aronian quickly shouted, "What about Dubai '86?" Seirawan's defeat of Kasparov allowed the U.S. to beat the Soviet Union in round eight.

Team Randy came out of the gate flying, winning the all-play-all opening game and the father-son matchup in game two. Randy said it was only his fifth win ever against his dad.

Rex (left) and son Randy. The patriarch's attack ran out of steam, allowing Randy to win.

In a hybrid contest in game three that played off of the recent odds games at the club, Nakamura gave his queen's rook to Randy (no time bonus though -- the game was still five minutes per side). That turned out to be not nearly enough compensation -- Randy accidentally gave the entire rook back on move three, the shortest that is legally possible!

You can construct the game even without any help: 1. b3 g6 2. Bb2 d6?? 3. Bxh8. Caruana's and Topalov's expressions are priceless. "Black is still better after 3...e5!" one player yelled.

As you might guess, Nakamura won easily, then his team rattled off all the remaining decisive games to win the overall series. The mood was so casual that even rivals Nakamura and Carlsen seemed to enjoy their match.

The top two in the world played the first 20 moves, then allowed their amateur captains to make the next five, then the pros returned.

The game was approximately level until Randy sat in for Carlsen and Rex for Nakamura. How did Carlsen feel about giving up control? "This is like a mother leaving her child alone for the first time!"

Randy dropped another rook and this time his father got the winning position, which Nakamura finished off when he retook command.

Kasparov and his former student Nakamura discussed the games.

The ad-hoc rules continued. After Team Rex officially won 6-2, it was decided that Kasparov would play Seirawan straight up (without any of the recklessness of the captains!). Kasparov chose to go back his old friend, the King's Indian Defense.

"I was dead, he gave me a reprieve," Seirawan said of his comeback draw. "I was a condemned man."

"He's right," Kasparov replied.

The kibitz-filled afternoon can be replayed here. If you're most interested in the Kasparov-Seirawan showdown, by far the most serious game of the event, skip to one hour, 45 minutes.

Image courtesy Spectrum Studios

The final event came Thursday evening. A screening of the new movie "Pawn Sacrifice" was held at the Chase Park Plaza's movie theater. Note that this was not a "premier" -- according to the club, calling it that would require some of the principle actors to attend (Tobey Maguire, a.k.a. Bobby Fischer, was invited according to club officials but did not attend).

A short cocktail reception featured the customary red carpet photo shoot.

Staff of the World Chess Hall of Fame pose.
Aronian listens to Kasparov before the screening. Neither man played Fischer in a rated game.

Here's a scene in the film that was shown at the end of Ultimate Moves:

As chess players could probably already guess, some of the chess scenes were dramatized and will likely look foreign to competitive chess players.

The factual aspects of the life of Fischer and match with Boris Spassky mostly followed the historical record. Although the crowd of elite players and historians could find a few dates wrong and other quibbles, overall much effort went in to making the story accurate.

According to producer Gail Katz, who hosted a forum following the film, the concept began in 2004 but a script wasn't finalized until 2009. She said Maguire was her only choice for Fischer and that for several years after the screenplay was written, the film was on Hollywood's "Black List" (no, not that Blacklist). She also had to wait for him to finish his Spiderman franchise!

Katz said the movie was mostly filmed in Montreal and that painstaking detail went into details like getting Fischer's and Spassky's chairs right (they had to be specially made).

The most unsupported claim the movie made came in the closing text, that Spassky-Fischer Game 6 was the best game played in history. Although subjective, the merits of that statement were questioned by many in attendance.

"Pawn Sacrifice" officially premiers September 18, 2015 in the U.S.

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