Magnus arrives in Saint Louis for Ultimate Moves

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
8/17/2018 – The chess action continues in Saint Louis. After the Rapid & Blitz tournament and before the Sinquefield Cup, Team Randy and Team Rex came back for another version of the ‘Ultimate Moves’ event. The Sinquefields led their Grandmaster-packed teams in a fun exhibition match that was eventually won by Randy’s squad. Magnus Carlsen was already in the premises and was part of the winning team. V. SARAVANAN reports | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

The Reliable Petroff The Reliable Petroff

The Petroff (or Russian) Defence which is characterised by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 has been popular at the highest levels for many years and enjoys the reputation of being an extremely solid defence.


Light-hearted competitiveness

Having witnessed an unhealthy number of 145 games over 5 days, and before the exciting Sinquefield Cup starts on Saturday the 18th, the Saint Louis Chess Club had a breather of fresh air and laughter in the form of a fun event — ‘Ultimate Moves’. It also marked the day when World Champion Magnus Carlsen arrived at the venue, energetic and smiling, with his characteristic sense of humour and confidence in tow, while the large bunch of Grand Chess Tour players probably were already bored of each other after the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz. 

Magnus Carlsen arrives at Saint Louis, fit, confident and enjoying himself | Photo: V. Saravanan

‘Ultimate Moves’ has the same format every year – the sponsor Rex Sinquefield and his son Randy fight each other in a combined game by dividing the Grandmasters into their own teams. Rex and Randy always start the game and then the players switch after every five moves. A time control of five minutes for the whole game per team with five seconds gain per move is used.

Ultimate Moves — Randy Sinquefield versus Rex Sinquefield | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

For the record, Rex Sinquefield’s team had Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Peter Svidler, Wesley So, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin, while Randy Sinquefield had Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk, Leinier Dominguez and Levon Aronian.

The match ended in favour of Team Randy with a 3½ : 2½ score.

Most of the time, the Grandmasters get unconventional — even dubious — positions out of the openings, and what follows is a delightful game of chess and fun. Everyone is encouraged to trash-talk against the opposite team, so the comments and trolling gets much more enjoyable than the moves themselves.

To enjoy the whole fun, we have to go through the entire video along with all the games:

All Ultimate Moves games and commentary


The fun and laughter started right from the beginning, and there were many moments of pure hilarity.


By rotation, Randy Sinquefield had once again occupied the table here and he missed the immediate win with 40.Qf7. He continued instead with 40.Qg4?? and exited the board, giving way to Magnus Carlsen who took the seat. Rex Sinquefield took quite some time, thought well, and counter-blundered with 40…Qe5, which was met with the holler “Nooo!” from his own teammates, while the opponent team members started laughing.

Rex blunders into mate in one to the amusement of his just arrived opponent Magnus, and the reactions from around had to be seen to be believed | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Carlsen could not contain himself and gestured to his imminent opponent to take his seat to suffer the mate in one - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov! | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Carlsen brought the house down when he sat down to play an offbeat Sicilian transposing out of 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 in the fourth game:


Asked about the position, a chuckling Magnus said, “I have played (this) against Anish (Giri), he played 3...Nf6 4.d3 g6 5.e5 dxe5 6.Nxe5 e6 7.Qf3 and he was already losing a pawn”, fondly (!) remembering his mutual Twitter troll Anish Giri, inviting loud laughter across the aisle. Of course, he was referring to a blitz game he played against Anish Giri at the 2016 Paris Grand Chess Tour.

Magnus Carlsen recalls his winning a pawn from Anish Giri, provoking laughter all around

But my moment of thrill with Magnus came on the fifth game, when Team Randy seemed to have acquired a flawed opening setup from the opening. When the World Champion sat on the board across Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, he seemed to be in a spot of bother:


Magnus took a look at the position for a few seconds and unleashed 8…a6 9.Qc4 b5!?, as it took quite some time to work out 10.Qxc6 Bd7 11.Qb7 Rb8 12.Qxa6 Ra8 as a draw! Well, the World Champion had arrived indeed…

Without doubt, the best trash-talker among the lot was Levon Aronian, who delighted the audience with his wit | Photo: V. Saravanan

And someone who thoroughly enjoyed himself was Wesley So, the relative 'kid' on the block | Photo: V. Saravanan

Without a doubt, everyone let their hair down and enjoyed themselves…

Sergey Karjakin | Photo: V. Saravanan

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov | Photo: V. Saravanan

Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Team spirit | Photo: V. Saravanan

But the problem with chess players is that they will get serious with their chess, often…

A moment of bother? | Photo: V. Saravanan

All games - Saint Louis Blitz Tournament


All games - Saint Louis Rapid Tournament



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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