Sinquefield Cup: Round 1 - Creativity and Precision

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
8/3/2017 – Aronian’s creativity, Karjakin’s precision in an advantageous position, and full-fledged fights in all the boards were the talking points of the first round at Sinquefield Cup which started today at Saint Louis, USA, the 4th leg of the Grand Chess Tour. So Wesley fell for the time immemorial classic zeitnot tragedy when he blundered on the 40th move and lost to Vachier-Lagrave from a difficult position. | Photos: Lennart Ootes (Grand Chess Tour)

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Sinquefield Cup

Round 1

Aronian’s inspired play starting 7.h4 and followed up by 10.Rh4 earned the praise of Garry Kasparov himself, as he gushed with appreciation on twitter:

Indeed, Aronian’s win looked so smooth that, it left one wondering where exactly Nepomniachtchi went wrong, especially as he seemed to play quite fast in the opening. After the game, on the live webcast with GM Maurice Ashley, he explained that he had prepared this line extensively from the white side:

"Everything is written down from the other side...Bd7 I believe is the strongest move according to analysis."

"I couldn't believe that castles short would not work...It's a little bit annoying that I'm losing the game in such a little bit moronic way."

Nepomniachtchi underestimated White's Qxb7, thinking that Black should be fine because he was sure that 11.Qb3 was not the main line. Only after Aronian quickly grabbed a pawn did Ian settle into a 47 minute think, as it dawned on him that he was in trouble.


Nepomniachtchi, which means "he who forgets" in Russian, couldn't remember exactly how to deal with Aronian's curious rook lift | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Aronian for his part was very satisfied with his opening idea, but noted, "such ideas you cannot prepare in detail because black has many options in this particular opening when you play h4. So I thought it was interesting to develop the rook [like this] — you don't get to do it everyday." See his further thoughts in his post-game interview:

Asked about his resurgence in 2017, he said "I think I always play well! It’s just that, I used to play well and spoil [the games], now I convert some of it! I think I can do better. Let’s see."

Karjakin – Svidler was a very complicated affair, where White at one moment had five pawns on the 4th rank in the transition from opening to middlegame.


Karjakin and Svidler

The Russian teammates discuss after the game | Photo: Lennart Ootes

A key move that's easily overlooked was Karjakin’s 22.Ra3! which ultimately held Svidler’s threats on the kingside allowing Sergey to nurse his pawn phalanx on the queenside smoothly.


Karjakin later clinched the issue with the impressive Ra3-g3-g4xe4 manoeuvre, sacrificing the exchange and sealing the game in his favour.


Anand – Nakamura was a comparatively quieter affair, where one got the impression that Black could have continued playing in the final position | Photos: Lennart Ootes

So Wesley fell for the time immemorial classic zeitnot tragedy when he blundered on the 40th move and lost to Vachier-Lagrave from a difficult position.


After 41.Be4 Nxb3+ 42.Kc3 Nd4 43.Bh2, he resigned. The question is could he have offered better resistance with 40…Kf6 instead?


A great start for "MVL", while a slow start for So | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Finally, the heavyweight clash between Caruana and Carlsen was a perpetually balanced affair, leaving one wondering where Caruana was going with his preparation, as he didn’t seem to get much out of it. The most exciting detail of the game came much later, when Carlsen unleashed 30…b3 and 31…d3! to secure the draw.

Position after 30...b3


Position after 31...d3!




The heavyweight game that failed to live up to its billing this time | Photo: Austin Fuller

Current standings 


Round 1 - Games and commentary


Commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley, and WGM Jennifer Shahade

Additional reporting by Macauley Peterson

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Saravanan is an IM from Chennai, the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu, India. He has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, turning complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second to strong Indian players. He has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s and is a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels.


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WillScarlett WillScarlett 8/5/2017 05:22
@KevinC: Despite suffering the quite possible deficiency of having limited intelligence regarding the policy of posting incomplete articles and the universally known lag before ensuing, fully-detailed updated versions of the same, I will venture to guess that you meant to write "expand" rather than "expound" in your admonishing post. If my guess happens to be correct, please do not feel that you must forsake chess for checkers. It is curious, if not funny, how things on the internet can become needlessly condescending, if not gratuitously snotty.
KevinC KevinC 8/4/2017 12:25
@WillScarlett, if you are not intelligent to realize that they always start with a brief report, and expound upon it the next day, you are either new to the site, or really need to give up chess for checkers. Funny how things on the Internet can be easily updated...who knew??
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 8/4/2017 12:12
@ Chanakyan : I think that Aighearach was in fact speaking of leonin's comment who clearly criticized (wether it was rightly or wrongly is another matter...) the Caruana - Carlsen game...
Chanakyan Chanakyan 8/3/2017 11:52
@jimijr Hi! Nope, it was a namesake, who used to play chess at that time, but dropped out from the scene subsequently

@Aighearach No, I wasn't criticising Caruana - Carlsen, I just pointed out that after 17 moves of following known paths, Caruana didn't seem to have much. In fact, I have praised the spirit of the fight that subsequently produced 30...b3 & 31...d3! And, I have only echoed what you say about Anand - Naka: that black could indeed have carried on instead of repeating moves
Aighearach Aighearach 8/3/2017 07:23
I don't understand the criticism of Caruana-Carlsen, they played it out to a dead drawn endgame in over 40 moves.
Compare that to Anand-Nakamura who effectively agreed a draw after 30 moves in an equal position with most of the pieces left on the board. There was no serious threat forcing the repetition, they just decided to repeat because black was slightly better and neither player had any ambition.
macauley macauley 8/3/2017 07:03
@WillScarlett ... You may have seen an early "express" version of this round's coverage. Some discussion of the World Champion's game was subsequently added. Not to worry, we won't ignore Magnus. Thanks for the snark. Amusing, if a bit rude. ;) @ChessHulk - There are other variants. For further discussion of "Nepo's" name, check the comments in this thread from 2010:
leonin leonin 8/3/2017 05:48
@WillScarlett Frankly, I'm somewhat glad I didn't lose 30 precious seconds of my life for reading about that game. Maybe that's kind of a boycott protest?
ChessHulk ChessHulk 8/3/2017 03:29
With the full power of google at mt disposal, I couldn't get Nepomniachtchi to translate to "he who forgets" in Russian. I think Nepomniachtchi just has a sense of humor. ha ha.
truthadjustr truthadjustr 8/3/2017 03:28
Wesley So seems to be having problem with Lagrave ever since for a long time now...
jimijr jimijr 8/3/2017 03:24
Hello Mr. Saravanan. In the summer of 1985 I visited Madras/Chennai and spent a lot of time at the Tal Chess Club. I recorded many games there with a young man named J. Saravanan, big smile, lots of enthusiasm. You? Your brother?
WillScarlett WillScarlett 8/3/2017 03:12
I enjoyed Venkatachalam Saravanan's innovative idea in his article to exclude any mention whatsoever of Magnus Carlsen's round one experience. It was refreshing to encounter an author ( who has been producing chess articles for some 30 years ?! ) who can write about a major tournament without the need to mention the World Champion at all. Other writers would most certainly have fallen for the " time immemorial classic" temptation to make at least an allusion to the world's top player. It's too bad Saravanan's idea was marred by the inadvertent inclusion of the Caruana-Carlsen annotated game score. Perfection is elusive .