Topalov, So, Out Of Gate Quickest At Sinquefield Cup

Topalov, So, Out Of Gate Quickest At Sinquefield Cup

Last year's opening round of the Sinquefield Cup produced five winners from five games. The 2016 field couldn't replicate that kind of start, but that was just fine for those that held worse positions.

At the end of play, only GM Veselin Topalov and GM Wesley So converted their positions into wins. For Topalov, he got out to an early lead just like in 2015, while So notched his first-ever win in classical against GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Equally enthralling was GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's escape against GM Anish Giri, thus preserving the top seed's unbeaten streak in 2016. GMs Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana played an exciting draw. Only GM Ding Liren's split point with GM Levon Aronian lacked a pulse, but that was just fine for the defending champ.

There may be no duo more acquainted with each over the past two years than So and Nakamura. Counting the U.S. Championships, Millionaire Chess, Grand Chess Tour Rapid/Blitz, Bilbao, and the specialty blitz events after big tournaments, they've played more than 20 games in 2015 and 2016 combined.

Today ended So's shutout in classical chess, as he earned his first win against a man who will be his teammate next month at the Olympiad. There would be no repeat of last year's Sinquefield Cup, when Nakamura's King's Indian checkmated So on the board.

GM Wesley So, piling up on the a-file for success.

Instead the U.S. board-two tried something different against the U.S. board-three, but So acted precisely with a well-known two-pawn sac for initiative. Nakamura's plan was to offer back the exchange to fix his pawns, but after So traded queens, the queenside was too vulnerable to hold.

"I wasn't seeing things today," Nakamura said. "Everything I did in this game, I miscalculated something."

On-site commentator GM Alejandro Ramirez said that defending worse positions is "not Nakamura's strong suit."

So credited his seconds with help in this variation but said he wasn't sure of the evaluation for most of the game. He liked his decision to trade queens to reduce the complications that Black could pose.
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So talked with Chess.com on camera about finally beating Nakamura, the preparation for the Olympiad, and why he would have a fear of swimming in Rio:

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Nakamura doesn't openly try to emulate GM Magnus Carlsen often, but he said he hoped to repeat the world champion's feat in Bilbao -- missing many tactics and losing in the opening round, only to recover to win the tournament.
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A tough day at the office for GM Hikaru Nakamura.
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Topalov didn't put too much stock in his first-round success against GM Peter Svidler. He reminded everyone that in 2015 he won his first two games against Carlsen and Nakamura, only to finish on 50 percent and in the bottom half of the field.
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Still, a win is a win, even if it did come via a blunder in an otherwise equal position.--

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"He always had some small problems during the game," Topalov said. "During the game I had the impression that he was jet-lagged a little. It was clear he was still in Russia, or in Switzerland." Svidler was a last-minute replacement for GM Vladimir Kramnik and had also just played a match with Vachier-Lagrave in Biel.
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GM Veselin Topalov admitted that, despite his quick start, the math didn't allow him to finish in the top two of the Grand Chess Tour.
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Anand didn't win a game in his first run at the Sinquefield Cup, but today he pressed against 2014 champion Caruana (who, as we all remember, won plenty that year).
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He chose not to enter the spiderweb of ideas in the Winawer Variation of the French Defense, a rare bird in top-level skies. You "have to know your stuff" in those lines he explained. The capture on d5 and Bd3 system he'd studied years ago, and decided to go that route but the game "got a bit crazy" anyway.
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Caruana said in the confessional booth that he was surprised Anand took on d5.
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There may have been no bigger disappointed chess player than WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, a French devotee whose series on the Winawer spanned six videos. 
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Giri came very close to doing what few have done in the past 12 months: beat Vachier-Lagrave. No one's done it in this calendar year, and luckily Vachier-Lagrave saved this reporter an hour of fact-checking by counting the streak. It's been since last year's World Cup -- 67 games -- since the Frenchman resigned a game in classical chess.
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That's 11 more games than Joe Dimaggio, but of course Vachier-Lagrave's run is more tantamount to getting hits and walks since plenty of draws intersperse that streak. Bobby Fischer's 20 straight wins is still the moonshot of chess streaks.
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Was this the closest he'd come to losing during the span? Vachier-Lagrave told Chess.com that he also had a fortunate escape during round three of the Svidler match, as well as against Topalov in Norway.
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"Mssr. Imbattable"
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"I was in big trouble once again," he said. The culprit was Giri's brilliant strategic/tactical idea 27. Ka1! The computer move was played by a carbon life form, causing Vachier-Lagrave to "put myself back together...It's never too pleasant to miss something so crucial." 
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While neither Giri nor Vachier-Lagrave will be too happy with the game, commentator GM Maurice Ashley might be. He got his fighting game, unlike the early repetition from the same opening in McShane-Nakamura at the 2015 Millionaire Chess Open.
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The most stable draw came from Ding's first-ever Sinquefield Cup game (but not his first tournament in St. Louis -- he played in the 2012 SPICE Cup, won by Vachier-Lagrave!). Ding drew Aronian, and since the game didn't offer too much, Chess.com asked Aronian about the game, and other events. First, the game:
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Aronian told Chess.com drawing easily as Black wasn't quite like winning as White (as he did in round one of 2015), but instead was a "move in the right direction." He called his other Grand Chess Tour results "solid" and said he liked the mix of time controls in the year-long series. 
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Welcome to the show, Ding Liren.
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When asked about the recent news that Armenia will not be participating in the Olympiad in Azerbaijan, Aronian said that didn't affect his training for St. Louis. He added that his team, three-time gold medal winners, "had good chances."
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Last, what about the most recent news of the Russian Chess Federation's proposal to allow world championships matches to anyone with enough money? Aronian, who could theoretically benefit from such a system, was not in favor.

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Sinquefield Cup | Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 So,Wesley 2771 3591 1 1.0/1 0.00
2 Topalov,Veselin 2761 3551 1 1.0/1 0.00
3 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2819 2769 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
4 Caruana,Fabiano 2807 2770 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
5 Aronian,Levon 2792 2755 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
6 Anand,Viswanathan 2770 2807 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
7 Giri,Anish 2769 2819 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
8 Ding,Liren 2755 2792 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
9 Nakamura,Hikaru 2791 1971 0 0.0/1 0.00
10 Svidler,Peter 2751 1961 0 0.0/1 0.00
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You can watch the games of the Sinquefield Cup in Live Chess. Commentary by GMs Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen, Alejandro Ramirez and Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade will be available at Chess.com/TV from Friday, August 5 till Sunday, August 14, with rounds starting at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. CET).

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