Sinquefield Cup: Caruana’s brilliant win

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/18/2021 – Exciting chess continues to be the norm in Saint Louis, as the Sinquefield Cup kicked off with a number of thrilling games on Tuesday. Fabiano Caruana, Leinier Dominguez and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won their first-round games and are the early leaders of the event. Caruana’s victory over Sam Shankland was particularly attractive. | Photo: Crystal 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.


Dominguez and Vachier-Lagrave also win

The Sinquefield Cup sees four of the participants not only fighting to win the tournament but also keeping an eye on the overall standings of the Grand Chess Tour, which grants an extra $175,000 prize fund for the three players who get the most points throughout the series. Wesley So is the clear leader in that competition; Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are almost tied in second and third places; while Fabiano Caruana has an outside chance of finishing second or third (see the full standings table in our preview).

Out of these four ‘tour regulars’, Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave had the best starts at the Sinquefield Cup, beating Sam Shankland and Peter Svidler respectively. They are joined in the early lead by Leinier Dominguez, who got the better of Dariusz Swiercz.

Sinquefield Cup 2021

Classical (elite) chess has returned to Saint Louis! | Photo: Crystal Fuller

The first result of the event was a draw, with Jeffery Xiong failing to get anything with white against Richard Rapport.

Not long after, Svidler resigned against MVL. Two of the strongest practitioners of the Grünfeld Defence, they entered a variation with 4.h4. Theory was followed until move 15, with Black giving up a pawn to get open lines on the queenside — à la Benko Gambit. Svidler eventually recovered the pawn, but by then White’s h-pawn had made it to the sixth rank.


After MVL’s 25.b4 came Svidler’s decisive mistake — 25...Ne8 (25...cxb4 or 25...Ke8 would have kept the game going). There followed 26.bxc5 dxc5 27.Bg7+ Kg8 28.Qa8


Black is completely stuck. Note that in the first diagrammed position the knight was protecting the a8-square. 28...c4 29.Qd8 Qa4 30.Kg2 Qb5 31.Bb2 and Svidler resigned. (You can try your own variations on our interactive diagrams).


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Peter Svidler

Grünfeld specialists — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler | Photo: Lennart Ootes

While MVL and Svidler opted for a deep theoretical variation, Caruana chose the more positionally oriented London System with white against Shankland. The world number 2 outmanoeuvred his opponent in the middlegame, focusing on improving his pieces on the kingside. The following position was reached after 27 moves.


Caruana found the stunning 28.Ng4, not only taking advantage of the fact that 28...Nxh4 runs into 29.Nh6#, but also planning to give up a piece for the attack after 28...h529.Qg5 hxg4 30.hxg4 Ng7. Notice how strong the unopposed dark-squared bishop is along the e5-h8 diagonal.


Black is doomed. After 31.Qh6, Shankland found nothing better than 31...Nef5, returning the material, but there was no defence already. Resignation came seven moves later.

The tournament offers an extra $5,000 brilliancy prize, and Caruana’s win will certainly be among the contenders.


Sam Shankland

Dealing with a tough position — Sam Shankland | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In a crucial game for the overall standings of the Grand Chess Tour, So failed to make the most of an advantageous queenless position against Mamedyarov. A common pandemic-related confusion occurred at the start of the game — handshake or fist bump?

In the last game to finish on Tuesday, Dominguez showed his class to defeat Swiercz with the black pieces. The Cuban-born grandmaster will play white against Caruana in Wednesday’s second round. 

Standings after round 1


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register