Sinquefield Cup: Round 3 - Five Draws

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
8/5/2017 – It was a calmer day in St. Louis with all games in Round 3 ending in draws. Still plenty of interesting chess, as the tournament heads into the weekend. The main attention was on Anand-Carlsen. | Photo: Austin Fuller

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Sinquefield Cup

Wesley So

So is overtly religious, unusual at the elite level | Photo: Austin Fuller

Round 3

When trying to pinpoint Carlsen’s most effective winning tool over the board, his fifth game win against Anand from the 2013 World Championship Match in Chennai comes to mind. Liquidating into an endgame with a slight pull, Carlsen slowly pressured Anand in an endgame with two rooks and a bishop each, improving his own pieces while specifically tightening focus on his opponent’s pawn weaknesses. Ultimately the tension of defending rises to such a level that an opponent who is forced to find only moves over the board for hours on end, cracks and even blunders the game. This was the method which enabled him to dethrone Anand as the World Champion, and probably his main chess strength, in general.

By contrast, whenever Anand has prevailed over Carlsen — ignoring those games where Vishy’s feared opening preparation alone gave hime a huge edge — it has been through creating dynamism and chaos, invariably directed against the opponent’s king. A clear example is Vishy’s attacking win over Carlsen from the fourth round of Norway Chess 2015 in Stavanger.

When the third round game of the Sinquefield Cup did not produce any such chaos, after particularly sedate opening play seemed to favour neither side, it raised visions of a Carlsen speciality grind.


The previous and current World Champion have faced each other 57 times so far in classical games | Photo: Lennart Ootes

When Carlsen played 22...Rb5, it looked exactly the turning point when the world champion would turn the screws on Anand and start applying pressure.


Not facing any threats himself, Black has strategic weaknesses to attack: the weak pawn on a5 and the kingside in general. Almost all his pieces are in the maximum state of development they can enjoy, and the opponent is doomed to a long defence. 

Recent Grand Prix Geneva winner, Teimour Radjabov, has been kibitzing daily, and around here chimed in:

It was left to Anand to call forth one of his best strengths over the board: his ability to defend difficult positions. By 37.Rac4 he looked to have found a decent defensive construction, but missed the important 38.Nc4 after which his defence could have been easier.


And suddenly a blunder alert sounded when Anand seemed to be losing a pawn on the 40th move, seemingly overlooking a knight fork.


Carlsen continued 40...Rxb3 41.Rxb3 Nd4 and ultimately pocketing the a5-pawn. But the resultant endgame with an extra pawn turned out to be an anti-climax as Vishy held the draw without any fuss, after five and a half hours of play.

Carlsen would later remark, “I was a little bit disappointed that I couldn’t get more once he made this mistake and missed this little fork. He gets a good version of a rook ending keeping my king out. I can advance the (a-pawn) as much as possible but I never managed to get the king in the game. I was hoping that there would be more practical chances”.

And the surrealistic moment came after the game when Carlsen admitted in the post game chat that he was ‘fairly weak in both the practical and theoretical endgames’!!

Maurice Ashley: When were you weak in endgames?! (laughter all around)

Magnus Carlsen: When I was little.

Ashley: How little you are talking (about) - Eight?!

Carlsen: No, like, 10, 11...Even a little later. I still have very much to learn!

Watch the full exchange:



The Ruy Lopez represents one of the oldest and best openings for the first player, and everyone going for the Spanish game with Black faces the question of how he wants to tackle the white ideas. One of the more aggressive fighting methods is the move order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7, which was developed in the early sixties by players from the north Russian town of Archangelsk and has carried this name ever since.



Fairly weak in the endgames when he was little? | Photo: Austin Fuller

If any of the other games promised to produce a result at all, a leading candidate was Vachier-Lagrave vs Svidler, where the Frenchman pocketed a pawn sacrifice and looked to have a clear advantage.


Svidler went for 21...h6 here, but felt "the game was effectively over", whereas Vachier-Lagrave felt 21...f6 was still playable. Svidler considered 21...Bxe3 22.fxe3 f6 23.Rf3 followed by Rg3 and "I should eventually get mated!", whereas the engines considered to be the best choice for Black and not a disaster, yet.

However, Svidler kept fighting and found...


...the nasty blow 32...d5! after which Black created enough counterplay to draw the game. The point of the push was that, after 33.cxd5, Black’s rook joins the party with 33...Rb4, and after the forced 33.Qxd5, Svidler had an immediate draw in hand.


Dodging a bullet, digging himself in and fighting back when it mattered, Svidler (above) earned a draw with Vachier-Lagrave (below) | Photos: Lennart Ootes


"It looked like a matter of just consolidating, but Peter found resourceful defences", Maxime said afterward.

The other big fight of the day was Caruana — Nepomniachtchi featuring an offbeat line from the Closed Sicilian which has surprisingly been adopted a lot at the top levels. In a classic case of a race between White’s attack on the kingside and Black’s inroads into the queenside, it was Nepomniachtchi who appeared to be in some trouble after 22.g5.


White seems to be doing quite well here, as Black’s rook at a2 ultimately comes under threat rather than being an asset.

After further uneven play, White was poised to win the exchange but he captured it in the wrong way.


Here, rather than capturing the exchange with the straightforward 29.Rfd1, Caruana preferred 29.Nd4 Bd7 30.Rfd1 Qc5! and Nepo had messed up the position enough to force complications.


Allowing a complete mess was not the plan | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Compared to these three games, the other two games didn’t match up in terms of interest quotient. Even though the all-American clash of So - Nakamura was a long drawn out affair, Nakamura held his own to draw a pawn-down ending.

Comparatively, Karjakin - Aronian was even shorter, with a 23 move draw from a three-fold repetition. The result was probably understandable, considering the defeats suffered by both the players in the previous round may have lead them to take a breath today. Aronian’s shirt found an admirer in the commentator Yasser Seirawan, who assessed it worthy of a fashion designer’s attention! And Karjakin, when asked about his fitness, eluded to a knuckle pushup duel between Anish Giri and Maurice Ashley at last year's tournament. 

Aronian and Karjakin

London or Paris? | Karjakin made it clear to Ashley that he ‘was not good as you or Giri in ‘these’ things’ | Photo: Austin Fuller

Current standings 


Round 3 - Games and commentary


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


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register