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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