Sinquefield Futility Ends With A 'Giri' As Topalov Snaps Draw Streak At 14

Sinquefield Futility Ends With A 'Giri' As Topalov Snaps Draw Streak At 14

| 37 | Chess Event Coverage

It took more than six hours today, but "Groundhog Day" in St. Louis is over.

At the 2016 Candidates' Tournament, GM Anish Giri went a perfect 14-for-14 on draws. For 2.9 rounds, the field of 10 at the 2016 Sinquefield Cup unintentionally equaled that mark.

The third straight round without a win was about to conclude today when GM Veselin Topalov found the right knight's tour to grind down GM Ding Liren.

GM Veselin Topalov's decision making could be described as "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good."

Silly streaks aside, the crowds have been yearning for something, anything, to happen. Topalov's tango pushes him to 3.5/5 and past the other three former co-leaders going into the lone rest day.

Even before Topalov's breakthrough, GM Peter Svidler insisted that today was more exciting than the last 48 hours.

"You could maybe say the previous two days were damp squibs, but not today," he said.

Today GM Fabiano Caruana was very close to picking up his first win of the week and getting to a plus score. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Sicilian nearly turned into a Sämisch pawn structure, then he mistakenly opened the h-file and with it an assault on his own king.

I thought the French were on the winning side of the American Revolution? Today, détente.

But when the American's clock ran low, Vachier-Lagrave found a tricky simplification into a drawn ending, which Caruana admitted he didn't see coming.

Analysis of games by WGM Tatev Abrahamyan for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis:

Here's's video interview with Caruana, in which he also speaks about the Carlsen-Karjakin match.

GM Viswanathan Anand's tussle with GM Wesley So was a battle off the board as much as it was on the board. The new idea 9...Ne7 was known to Anand even though So was the one to execute the retreat. Anand admitted that So improved upon his home preparation.

"I'm very glad to be able to compete with Vishy in the opening," So said. "He has some of the deepest openings as you can see from his matches with Garry [Kasparov]."

The idea amounts to a pawn sacrifice, but as is often the case in double-king-pawn openings, the e-pawn is offered for compensation.

"It's a very good try," Anand said. "You get something close to a Marshall Gambit. It's a pawn, but it's a fraction of a pawn."


Anand told that he's not thinking about his final placement yet. "Clearly I'm well positioned," he said. "Having said that, it's too early to think along those lines."

Does he have added motivation after a subpar first edition at the Sinquefield Cup? Not really.

"I would like to think that by now, good and bad events are just part of the deal," Anand said. He said that he feels fine and is over any jet lag. 

GM Viswanathan Anand at the place he's made his office for 30+ years.

When asked about Nakamura's statement that Anand is the second-best player of all time, he responded, "I'm thankful to him for that. I'm grateful. I don't try to rank myself exactly, but I understand I have a reasonable case."

Nakamura told earlier in the tournament that the Grand Chess Tour is more important to him than the Olympiad, and today So concurred "because of the sponsors and you want to qualify again for next year."

GM Hikaru Nakamura didn't try the King's Indian in round one, but today he corrected the record. GM Peter Svidler's fianchetto variation was answered by Black's Panno Variation.

13. Bf4 is a rare bird, with the one iteration coming against GM Judit Polgar at the 2012 Olympiad. Nakamura's response 13...h6 became uncharted waters. 

"The opening choice was to get a lot of pieces and play, which made us both happy," Svidler said. Indeed, only one pair of pawns was traded at move 20.

Svidler was very optimistic after the exchanges on b5, but didn't see the power of Black's 24th. "...c6 is just an incredibly strong move. In the end I was the one looking for forced draws."

Nakamura originally thought the space-gaining but king-weakening maneuver 14. h3, 15. g4 was "quite dubious." Then he said he spent 20 minutes trying to make 18...Nf4 work, before getting "stuck on this idea" and played 18...Ba6 as a backup.

After opening with two losses, Svidler now has three draws in a row. "I seem to have restored some sanity to the proceedings," he said.

GM Hikaru Nakamura played his friend today.

Nakamura's had trouble with his results against Svidler in the past, despite their fraternity. He recalled fondly attending a tournament in the Caribbean as a teenager and Svidler looking after him.

"Of the 20 or 30 [best players in the world] I'd say I have the best relationship with him," Nakamura told

Lastly, a win! Yes, it finally happened, but only after a late mistake. Ding became emotional as he realized his fate.

GM Ding Liren survived for quite a while down two pawns, but folded at the last minute.

Weirdly, Ding's bishop and two rooks can't mate the white king on the back rank. If only he could have picked up his bishop off the board instead of resigning!

Topalov wasn't impressed with the game, and seem baffled that he could attack the black king so successfully in the endgame.

Save the first round, Topalov said he is not satisfied with his play. He also led the Sinquefield Cup last year, although not this late in the event.

With the news of the world championship location breaking today, also asked a few players for their reaction and level of interest.

For the first time since 2008, Anand will not be a participant. "I will watch. It will be funny to see it from the other side and watch another guy have a go at Magnus [Carlsen]. I remember a couple of weeks before [a world championship match] you stop being yourself. At least I do. I'm happy not to have the tension, that's for sure."

Do you think those world championship matches took a few years off your life?

"Sure, but I would do it again in a flash. I'm not complaining about it, but it does take a lot out of you. It was my dream to play in the world championships and I'm happy I was able to gorge on them."

An artist's rendering of the world championship table. | Image courtesy of World Chess.

So said he will watch the world championship. "As a professional chess player, you will be trying to play in these tournaments," he told "That's one of the reasons I'll watch -- to get a feel and to see how to play these matches.

Nakamura plans to be in New York in November, but not necessarily for the world championship.

"There are more important things, like a certain election," he said, referencing his desire to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential race on November 8.

How will the players spend the off day? Vachier-Lagrave will reprise his annual giant bullet match with Vice-President Danny Rensch.

He learned a lot from his first match in 2014 to his second series last year -- namely, to wear shorts. St. Louis in the summer doesn't treat jeans and athletics with comfort.

Last year, by game three, Rensch was already collapsing from exhaustion:

For Anand, he will likely head back to the bottom floor of the Chase Park Plaza.

"I started this habit many years ago of going to the gym in the middle of the tournament, and I've kept it up," Anand said. "Yesterday I got one-and-a-half minutes of plank. Anish [Giri] looks like he hasn't done this before."

Giri has, but admitted he needed to make it more of a routine. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."

Here are the pairings for round six, which is Thursday.

2016 Sinquefield Cup | Round Five Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Topalov, Veselin 2761 2931 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 3.5/5
2 So, Wesley 2771 2845 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 3.0/5 7.50
3 Anand, Viswanathan 2770 2859 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/5 7.00
4 Aronian, Levon 2792 2841 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/5 6.25
5 Caruana, Fabiano 2807 2779 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/5 6.50
6 Nakamura, Hikaru 2791 2765 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 2.5/5 6.00
7 Ding Liren 2755 2703 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/5 5.50
8 Giri, Anish 2769 2716 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 2.0/5 5.00
9 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2819 2702 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 2.0/5 4.75
10 Svidler, Peter 2751 2647 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/5

You can watch the games of the Sinquefield Cup in Live Chess. Commentary by WGM Jennifer Shahade and GMs Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen, Alejandro Ramirez and Yasser Seirawan will be available at from Friday, August 5 until Sunday, August 14, with rounds starting at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. CET).

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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