Sinquefield 05: Is he human!?

by Alejandro Ramirez
9/1/2014 – He must be, because Caruana finally made his first mistake of the tournament - but not one that mattered. His position was so crushing against Nakamura that the Italian won his fifth game in a row anyways and goes into half-time with a 2.5 point lead, +25 rating points, and an incalculable performance. Topalov beat MVL to join Carlsen in second as he beat Aronian.

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2014 Sinquefield Cup

This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.

The players – Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Fabiano Caruana (Italy), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) – are the world's number 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9, the average rating is 2801, making this the first ever Category XXIII tournament!

The prize fund is US $315,000 in total, with the winner getting $100,000, the runner up $75,00, and the rest $50,000 – $20,000. The venue is the Chess Club and Scholastic Center at 4657 Maryland Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63108. Tickets cost $15 per round, $65 for five rounds and $100 for all ten rounds.

Round Five

Round 05 - August 31, 2014
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Aronian, Levon 2805
Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768

It is almost unprecedented. Fabiano Caruana's spectacular start to the tournament has attracted the attention of every person in the chess world. When asked about Caruana's start on the event, the sponsor of the tournament, Rex Sinquefield, commented that "Had you bet on that, somebody would have taken you away and locked you up, because you'd be certifiably insane.". And that was before today's round.

Karjakin started 4-0 in the 2013 edition of Norway's super tournament in Stavanger, but was unable to win the fifth game. Shirov started 5-0 in the 2010 edition of Wijk Aan Zee, but his opposition was far below what Caruana has faced here.

A big crowd gather just before the start of the game

The Internet Broadcast provided by Maurice Ashley, Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan have been asking the player's if the tournament "was over" after Caruana started with a 3.0/3 start. Almost unanimously people said it was too early to tell.

After 4.0/4 the answers did not change much. But after today both Topalov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave admitted that the tournament was probably over in terms of fighting for first place. A massive 2.5 point advantage going into the second half of the tournament, combined with Caruana's fine play so far, just seems to make the Italian player unreachable. Oh, and he did it by playing with one more black than white.

Nakamura, Hikaru 0-1 Caruana, Fabiano
The line chosen against Caruana's Slav was not the most testing, but somehow Caruana made a slight error and Nakamura's pair of bishops must have given him some pressure. However in the middlegame things went wrong for the American: he underestimated Caruana's counterplay and swiftly Black's pieces jumped into action. White found himself against the ropes, jettisoned a pawn to save the ship but it was too late.

Nakamura's calculation has been off in this tournament,
not what the American has us used to

The combined power of Black's extra pawn and his excellently placed pieces plus the awkwardness of White's dark-squared bishop was sufficient to give Black a decisive advantage. Caruana missed a shot at one point to finish the game swiftly, but his advantage was still good enough to win a very long game.

Caruana actually made a mistake today, but his position was still good enough to win

This has become Caruana's typical thinking pose, with his ears covered pressing on his eyeglasses

Nakamura meanwhile tends to cover his eyes when he senses that he is in trouble

Aronian, Levon 0-1 Carlsen, Magnus
Something else unheard of has happened in Saint Louis: Aronian has lost a third time in a row. He has been reportedly complaining of problems with his nose (he had an operation recently) and we can only hope that he finds swift recovery on the rest day.

Carlsen played a good game, but it is more accurate
to say that Aronian lost rather than Carlsen won

In today's game Aronian obtained very little from the opening, and Carlsen equalized quite comfortably. When the Armenian sensed that he was in danger of falling into a worse position he cleverly sacrificed a weak pawn to gain some counterplay, and it should have been sufficient for a draw. However he lost his way and kept giving Carlsen more and more chances. A complicated rook endgame was reached, one in which Topalov (who joined us in the live commentary at Lester's Sports Bar next to the Chess Club) assessed as "probably drawn".

Aronian will need to find his shape back for the second half of the event

Yet an inexplicable and fatal mistake allowed Carlsen to win a second pawn thanks to a basic skewer, and the game was simply over after that.

Topalov, Veselin 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
MVL returned to his Najdorf after the disastrous result with the Caro-Kann against Caruana. He obtained decent counter-chances in a topical line of this opening, and a complex middlegame was reached.

MVL made the strange decision to go for a position with opposite colored bishops, but one in which Black simply did not have any activity. Even trading queens was not a viable option; Topalov explained how the endgame should be technically winning due to Black's weak queenside pawns.

Topalov had a risk-free advantage after the opening, a dream position to push for a win

The Frenchman made it even easier for the Bulgarian as he underestimated a strong rook maneuver that installed White's rook on the seventh rank. MVL resigned in a position that many would have played on, but to be fair the result would not have changed.

MVL's choice of defensive set-up was not the best today. He must have
underestimated how weak his position became in the endgames.

Select from the dropdown menu to replay the games

Commentary provided by Grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian, who is doing live commentary for the Saint Louis Chess Club at the World Chess Hall of Fame, across the street from the Chess Club.


Photos by Lennart Ootes and Kevin Duggin


Round 01 - August 27, 2014
Aronian, Levon 2805
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Round 02 - August 28, 2014
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Aronian, Levon 2805
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Round 03 - August 29, 2014
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Aronian, Levon 2805
Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Round 04 - August 30, 2014
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Aronian, Levon 2805
Round 05 - August 31, 2014
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Aronian, Levon 2805
Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Round 06 - September 02, 2014
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787   Aronian, Levon 2805
Caruana, Fabiano 2801   Topalov, Veselin 2772
Carlsen, Magnus 2877   Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Round 07 - September 03, 2014
Carlsen, Magnus 2877   Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768   Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Topalov, Veselin 2772   Aronian, Levon 2805
Round 08 - September 04, 2014
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787   Topalov, Veselin 2772
Aronian, Levon 2805   Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Caruana, Fabiano 2801   Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Round 09 - September 05, 2014
Caruana, Fabiano 2801   Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Carlsen, Magnus 2877   Aronian, Levon 2805
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768   Topalov, Veselin 2772
Round 10 - September 06, 2014
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787   Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Topalov, Veselin 2772   Carlsen, Magnus 2877
Aronian, Levon 2805   Caruana, Fabiano 2801

Games start at 2 p.m. local time (21:00h CEST, 23:00h Moscow, Thursday 0:30 New Delhi, 04:00h Tokyo, 05:00 Canberra – check your location here).

Playoffs, if necessary, will be on the 7th at noon.

The games will be broadcast live on Playchess, with expert analysis (see schedule below).

Broadcast Schedule

Day Date Time Event
Playchess commentary
Wednesday Aug. 27 2 PM Round 1
Simon Williams
Thursday Aug. 28 2 PM Round 2
Simon Williams
Friday Aug. 29 2 PM Round 3
Simon Williams
Saturday Aug. 30 2 PM Round 4
Simon Williams
Sunday Aug. 31 2 PM Round 5
Simon Williams
Monday Sept. 1 Rest Day
Tuesday Sept. 2 2 PM Round 6
Daniel King
Wednesday Sept. 3 2 PM Round 7
Simon Williams
Thursday Sept. 4 2 PM Round 8
Daniel King
Friday Sept. 5 2 PM Round 9
Simon Williams
Saturday Sept. 6 2 PM Round 10
Chris Ward
Sunday Sept. 7 12 PM Playoffs


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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lighttpd lighttpd 9/3/2014 04:54
... we the guys @ predicted that mr. Fabulous will lead in the early rounds,
.... we heard Carlsen in the interviews cracked a joke " ... someone has a history of crash & burns "
..... haha @ sesiamedream ... good day guys
VincentM VincentM 9/2/2014 07:54
If Godwin was a chess player, his law would have read: As an online discussion about chess grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Fischer approaches 1
mentel83 mentel83 9/2/2014 01:45
Bostonian... I fully agree! Fischer was a genious, but talents like Capablanca, Botvinik, Kasparov are often put aside!
Bostonian Bostonian 9/2/2014 12:05
Caruana's performance so far has been superlative and out of the world and he deserves the accolades. It will be interesting to see his approach in the later half. On a side note, I always notice that everytime there is an article about a players supreme performance in a certain tournament, in no time invariably some posters pull Bobby Fischer into the equation. I am not going to second guess where these posters come from but Bobby always gets a lot more hype than he deserves. No doubt he was an exemplary player and had his golden period but to rate him as the best ever is a joke. His body of work over time is just not extensive enough. But a lot of folks including some chess players pay lip service to his achievements perhaps because he is American. You can keep comparing him to all the current players and speculate how he would beat the crap out of everyone if he was still playing but doing so just says a lot about your wisdom than his.
Michael Ogunnira Michael Ogunnira 9/1/2014 09:42
You cannot compare Fabiano's performance here with any other achievement in the past

1) Bobby Fischer's winning 20 consecutive games, including two unprecedented 6–0 sweeps in the Candidates Matches in 1970-1971. The winning streak started at the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal where he won the last 7 games; 6-0 against Mark Taimanov in the QF and 6-0 against Bent Larsen in semis and 1-0 against Petrosian in the first game of the Candidates Superfinal. This winning stream ended with a loss in the second game to Petrosian.
NB: None of the 7 players at the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal were among Top 7 players by unofficial rating of 1970. Taimanov was not among Top 9 in the FIDE first official rating relesed in January 1971 and also July 1971. Bent Larsen was just World No 5 according to FIDE first Offical rating of January 1971 and World No 4 in July 1971.

2) Karpov performance at Linares in 1994 where he scored 9 wins and 4 draws with 11/13 score against top players. Karpov 2740 was World No 2. The 4 draws came from Kasparov 2805 World No 1; Shirov 2715 World No 3; Anand 2715 World No 4; and Kamsky 2695 World No 7. He beats Ivanchuk 2710 World No 5; Kramnik 2710 World No 6; Bareev 2685 World No 9; Gelfand 2685 World No 10; and ... Only Salov 2685 World No 8 did not participate among Top 10. Karpov won the first 6 games in that tournament.

3) Topalov performance of 2005 at the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005 seems to be the closest to Fabiano's performance now. He scored 6.5/7 in the first phase of the tournament. Anand was able to escape with a draw in Round 2 in KQPP vs KQ which "human" Topalov could not convert the 2 pawn endgame advantage though engines through Nalimov Tablebases were shouting mate in 30, etc.
Anand 2788 World No 2; Topalov 2788 World No 3; Leko 2763 World No 4; Svidler 2738 World No 7; Polgar 2735 World No 8; Adams 2719 World No 13; Morozevich 2707 World No 14; and Kasimdzhanov 2670 World No 35
NB: Kasparov 2812 was still World No 1 retired earlier in the year and took 12 months to leave active players rating list.
ChiliBean ChiliBean 9/1/2014 08:39
Tired of playing chess with a faceless computer? Well there's Fabi! A human chess machine that is currently playing in the Sinquefield Cup. Get yours today and you'll get free shipping. Batteries not included.
Bill Alg Bill Alg 9/1/2014 07:11
dhochee his performance rating of 3601 might be wrong, but closer to the real one than your estimation of 3200. I guess his real performance is +∞, because at 100% "it is like playing against chess itself".
VincentM VincentM 9/1/2014 06:52
Don't forget Topalov's performance in the first leg @SanLuis 2005 (World Championship Tournament): 6,5/7 . He played for "draws" in the second leg...
ff2017 ff2017 9/1/2014 06:44
re: Dhochee When you are wining every single game in a tournament, the performance rating calculation is 800+ average of opponent ratings. One you get a non-wining effort then the normal performance math starts to kick in.
Victor Trifan Victor Trifan 9/1/2014 06:03
In the game Nakamura - Caruana, in the variation suggested in the commentary 57.Qb8+ Rb7 58.Qd6+ Ka7 59.Qxd5 Rg7+ 60.Kh3 Bb6 61.Qe6 I believe that Black has a forced win by playing 61.... Rf3+ (instead of 61.... Rf1). White can choose between 62. Kh2 Bg1+ 63.Kh1 Rh3# and 62. Kh4 Bf2+ 63. Kh5 Rh3#.
vandal vandal 9/1/2014 03:17
i think the reason for Caruana result was the Bxf7 move it seems he has some kind of complex from Magnus because he wants to be world champion and that game gave him confidence nevertheless he deserves to win this tournament the only true motivation i know is to beat yourself so it doesn't matter if you going to lose a game or win the tournament i am still enjoying watching this games
barbacot barbacot 9/1/2014 02:38
Ivanchuk has also won the first 5 games at the 2008 M-Tel Masters, against the following opposition: Topalov, Radjabov, Cheparinov, Bu Xiangzhi, Aronian
jidzior jidzior 9/1/2014 11:21
This is the second XXIII Category tournament. This is what you have written about Zürich 2014:

The «Zurich Chess Challenge 2014» will be the first encounter between the newly crowned World Champion, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, and the former title holder, India’s Viswanathan Anand after their recent match in Chennai. From Wednesday, 29 January to Tuesday, 4 February 2014, they will compete in the 3rd Zurich Chess Challenge along with four other great chess stars: Levon Aronian (Armenia), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Fabiano Caruana (Italy) and Boris Gelfand (Israel).

# Player Country


1 Magnus Carlsen Norway


2 Levon Aronian Armenia


3 Hikaru Nakamura USA


4 Fabiano Caruana Italy


5 Boris Gelfand Israel


6 Vishy Anand India


According to the January 2014 FIDE ratings these six players average 2800.83 points, which rounds to 2801. That makes the event a category 23, and the strongest tournament in chess history.
verticall verticall 9/1/2014 10:31
MG is reserving for next important WC, so I hope.
shatranjian shatranjian 9/1/2014 10:24
Killer Caruana. Fantastic play.
Iam very glad that a real challenger for Carlsen appeared and the chess world come out from monopolar champ.
Wallace Howard Wallace Howard 9/1/2014 09:53
Caruana had shown good preparation (vs. MVL), good clock management, and good old fashioned luck (vs Nakamura). This is probably the tournament of his life. Enjoy Fabi.
riviera riviera 9/1/2014 09:43
Caruana is the new 'Mozart of Chess'. He's risen to a level non of the others understand. I haven't seen
his kind of genius since Fisher (although Kasparov was close). I'm already calling for Kasparov to come out of retirement to play him!
Zirie Zirie 9/1/2014 08:03
I'm kind of hoping he goes 10 for 10.
dhochee dhochee 9/1/2014 07:09
Caruana's listed performance rating of 3601 is clearly wrong, and not even possible. His outstanding performance so far would give him a performance rating of about 3200, still very impressive.