Sinquefield Standstill: 5 Draws Get Aronian Closer To Title

Sinquefield Standstill: 5 Draws Get Aronian Closer To Title

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

Round eight of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup brought inclement weather. The rain washed away all the wins, which had been floating in all fortnight.

Also gone were the queens -- none remained after 90 minutes.

The "do nothing" round was just fine for leader GM Levon Aronian, who now only has one handshake between him and the title, and still has one point between him and the field. For the four players one game back, their best chance is now nearly snuffed out.

The closest any player came to grabbing Aronian's coattails was GM Magnus Carlsen, who continues to be GM Hikaru Nakamura's svengali (although today some of the mastery escaped him).

Unlike round seven, the world champion was playing for two results, but they were on the other end of the seesaw. He pushed with two bishops versus rook but couldn't get his dozenth win against Nakamura (but was never in danger of yielding his first loss).

Neither GM Magnus Carlsen nor GM Hikaru Nakamura played a complete game today.

"Today is just a moment of insanity," Carlsen said after the game. "Just a complete lack of concentration."

He especially condemned allowing Nakamura to trade off one set of rooks, which gives the twin bishops fewer targets and makes them more vulnerable.

"Right now I'm sick of playing so badly."

Analysis by GM Robert Hess:

For the second straight day, Carlsen played the longest game. The struggle creeped into the seventh hour just like in round seven. It could have ended sooner, but Nakamura's erroneous claim of repetition was denied by chief arbiter IA Chris Bird.

Nakamura took a positive spin on both the result and the rejected claim.

"It's a victory even if it doesn't show in the standings," he told "It makes up for the game I blew in Zurich." In that famous struggle, the computer gave Nakamura a massive plus but he allowed a startling counterattack.

"It's a confidence-builder certainly...To defend a position like that against Magnus (after the failed draw claim), it's good practice for something like the Candidates."

Nakamura said he is baffled how he could still be on 50 percent after playing below his standards.

"Everyone has come to the conclusion that Magnus is human except Hikaru, but now maybe Hikaru will come to that conclusion too," said commentator GM Ian Rogers.

The American number-one was less sanguine about his general form. "For the millionth time I played a terrible opening against Magnus. I felt I could have almost resigned. I played well when I had to but it still doesn't really excuse the way I played the first 15 moves. For the most part I've played bad chess here. I can't seem to remember anything I've prepared."

GM Garry Kasparov visited the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for an extended time, even commentating on the live broadcast. A past instructor of both Carlsen and Nakamura, he advised the latter to return to the King's Indian Defense.

"For Hikaru, to play the Queen's Gambit requires a lot of patience," Kasparov said. "[In the King's Indian] even if you go down, you will be kicking and screaming. Here, you're just screaming."

GM Garry Kasparov analyzes with GM Alejandro Ramirez (and his computer)!

Why was Nakamura's draw claim rebuffed?

"It was a different person to move," Bird told By rule, the position has to be exactly the same three times, and having a different person on move is considered a unique position unto itself. Carlsen was granted two extra minutes on his clock, but still could not make meaningful progress.

IA Chris Bird discusses GM Hikaru Nakamura's draw claim while GM Magnus Carlsen awaits the decision.

Aronian's draw came hours beforehand. He had one fewer pawns but all the pressure against the still-winless GM Viswanathan Anand

"I actually loved my position," Aronian said. "This endgame, I really underestimated the defensive resources for Black."

Aronian gets Black against Topalov tomorrow, a man he cited as having his number throughout their career record.

He told he would not have played this game any differently if it were round one, though he did admit to trying to save energy for the final round. As for tomorrow? "I'll just go play my regular moves and not follow [other games]. It's a great opportunity to win the tournament of course."


GM Levon Aronian finished second-to-last in Norway Chess but is a draw away from jumping up many spots in the Grand Chess Tour standings.

The Armenian also said he does not know the tiebreak procedure. "I'll check tomorrow," he said. Someone at the club will surely point him to this page, where the simplest scenario, a two-player playoff, will result in twin rapid games (G/25+5).

In other action, GM Anish Giri also failed to close the gap and scare the leader. In fact, it was all he could do to avoid his first loss in the Grand Chess Tour. GM Fabiano Caruana held an extra pawn for most of the ending, but could not make full use of it.

Like Carlsen and Nakamura, Giri and Caruana also have a shared former coach. Giri mirrored GM Vladimir Chuchelov's past critiques: "Not only did you play stupid, but you lost...Today I played stupid but at least I didn't lose!"

Giri wasn't just being semantic or flippant, he was highlighting that he put up sufficient defensive resources. He also showed his great understanding of rook-and-pawn endgames by showing different drawing setups he had in mind in case Caruana played differently in the final moments.

Giri has now performed a "pacifist-Caruana." No, not by drawing him, but rather by recording seven consecutive draws.

"I live with a heightened sense of correctness," he said. "Sometimes I don't put enough pressure on my opponent."


GM Anish Giri said after the game his wardrobe is filled with pink shirts.

Caruana is now guaranteed to finish with fewer than half the points he did last year (2014 was 10 rounds, not nine) and a minus score.

"We've identified what the problem is here," said Caruana's manager, IM Lawrence Trent. "I'm not going to delve too deeply into our strategy."

What's the player's take? "I don't think anyone's immune to having a bad tournament," Caruana said. "After a tournament, everybody's form resets."

With Carlsen and Giri both failing to get closer to the top, that left GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Alexander Grischuk. In their matchup, any win would make that man the chaser. Alas, they drew as well.


GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Alexander Grischuk discuss who was in trouble more.

"I'm not disappointed in my play," was Grischuk's litotes. Calling the game "far from fantastic," he still seemed content with his play.

"Things were quite interesting at some point," Vachier-Lagrave told "I found my chances, but it turned out to be nothing.

"At some point I was in danger." When asked when, Grischuk stepped closer to the interview and interjected the answer for him: "The whole game!"


"The position was slightly better for me but easier to play for him," Grischuk said. "For him he plays for tricks, but it is much easier."


The post-mortem must not end! Grischuk (left) and Vachier-Lagrave (middle) refused an offer for a ride back to the hotel or an umbrella. They decided instead to slog two blocks in their suits.

Vachier-Lagrave said he wouldn't focus too much on Topalov tomorrow, the only man who can help him win the tournament. "My game matters more," he said.

Topalov drew So today, making it the first winless day for the field. Before today the win rate was hovered around 50 percent, on par with the first two Sinquefield Cups.

While a host of players have become big fans of Bulgaria suddenly, Topalov did not sense any gravitas to his meeting with Aronian tomorrow.

"I don't feel so special," he said. "For Levon it's important. When you fight for first place it's completely different."


"So that's the guy you want me to beat?" Giri needs Topalov's help in round nine (as do Grischuk, Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave).

And what about acquiring Grand Chess Tour points to complement his 13 earned in Norway Chess? "I don't think we should already make calculations. Everything will be decided in London." The final leg of the inaugural tour is the London Chess Classic in December.


Kasparov discusses the action with club founder Jeanne Sinquefield.

Since Kasparov spent several hours at the club today, it seems prudent to end this report with a few of his quotes:

  • On Nakamura's game with So: "I enjoyed it immensely -- the old glory of the King's Indian returned."
  • On the marketability of classical chess: "Even the popularity of certain kinds of music doesn't threaten opera."
  • On his pre-season pick to win the Grand Chess Tour: "In Twitter and Facebook I called Magnus the favorite. It was quite rational for me to say he would win if not finish well."
  • On Carlsen now: "Somehow he's missing his aura of invincibility."
  • On time controls: "[Next year] it makes sense to have one unified time control."
  • On the confessional booth: "If players are happy, let them do it. It meets the expectations of the public. That's why the game survived." 

2015 Sinquefield Cup | Round 8 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Aronian 2765 2932 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 5.5/8
2 Giri 2793 2846 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5/8 17.75
3 Grischuk 2771 2838 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ 1 1 0 4.5/8 17.50
4 Carlsen 2853 2829 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 ½ 1 1 4.5/8 17.00
5 Vachier-Lagrave 2731 2846 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/8 16.50
6 Topalov 2816 2796 ½ ½ 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 0 ½ 4.0/8 15.75
7 Nakamura 2814 2796 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 1 4.0/8 13.75
8 Anand 2816 2696 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 3.0/8 12.00
9 Caruana 2808 2707 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 3.0/8 12.00
10 So 2779 2658 0 ½ 1 0 0 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 2.5/8
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. Check for listings. Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png

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