Sinquefield Cup: Fighting draws

by André Schulz
8/24/2021 – For the first time in this year’s tournament, all the games in the Sinquefield Cup at the Saint Louis Chess Club ended drawn, with Peter Svidler missing a ‘hidden’ winning opportunity against Leinier Dominguez. With three rounds to go, Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Leinier Dominguez are sharing the lead with 4 points each, while Fabiano Caruana remains half a point behind. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Five draws

In the sixth round of the Sinquefield Cup, all five games ended drawn for the first time this year. Particular attention was paid to the game between Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. With a win, the US grandmaster could have overtaken his French colleague in the standings table.

Fabiano Caruana takes off his mask to take a sip of his beverage | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The game was a Najdorf Sicilian, and Caruana was extremely well-prepared to go for an English Attack on the kingside. After 30 moves, Caruana had more time on the clock than at the start of the game, while Vachier-Lagrave had to find the best replies one by one over the board. In a difficult position, however, the Frenchman found the right defence.


With attacks on opposite flanks, White seems to be closer to the goal, but here Black found a good defensive recourse.

28...Rg7 Deals with the threat of fxg6.

29.f6 Rf7 Now the white attack on the kingside has been neutralized. Black, however, still has a cramped position.

30.Qd2 Qd7 31.Qd5 Be2 32.Rc1 Rxc1+ 33.Rxc1 h5 34.Nc4 Bxc4 35.Rxc4 h4 The black passed pawn offers sufficient counterplay.

36.Rc2 h3 37.Ka2 Kh8 38.Rd2 Rh7


39.Bxd6 Forces the draw.

39...Qxd6 [The critical variation is 39...h2 40.Bxf8 Qxd5+ 41.Rxd5 h1Q 42.Rd8 Kg8 43.Bh6+ Kf7 44.Rd7+ Ke6 45.Rxh7 Qxe4 46.f7 Qd5+ 47.Ka1 Qd1+ with a perpetual check.]

40.Qxd6 Bxd6 41.Rxd6 Kg8 42.Rd8+ Kf7 43.Rd7+ Kg8 44.Rd8+ Kf7 45.Rd7+ Kg8 46.Rd8+ ½–½

Leinier Domiguez and Peter Svidler played a very sharp game out of an Italian Opening.

Leinier Dominguez vs Peter Svidler | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Black did not castle and went for an attack on the kingside. In the critical position, he missed a difficult-to-find attacking opportunity.

Dominguez Perez, Leinier (2758) - Svidler, Peter (2714) 
8th Sinquefield Cup 2021 Saint Louis USA (6.2), 23.08.2021

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 Qe7 8.0–0 a6 9.b4 Ba7 10.Nbd2 g5


Modern Italian. Black keeps his king in the centre and advances on the kingside.

11.Bg3 Nh7 12.a4 h5 [12...Nf8 13.d4 Ng6 14.b5 Na5 15.h3 h5 16.Bd5 Bb6 17.Qb1 g4 with an attack in Firouzja,A (2759)-So,W (2770) Paris 2021, ½–½ (72)]

13.h4 g4 14.Ne1 Nf8 Object of attack: the h4-pawn.

15.Nc2 Ng6 16.Ne3 Be6 [16...Nxh4 17.Nd5 Qd8 18.Nxc7+ is favourable for White.]

17.b5 Nd8 18.d4 With the black king in the centre, White wants to open lines.


18...Nxh4 19.dxe5 [Stronger seems to be 19.bxa6 bxa6 20.Bd5 and after 20...c6 21.Bxe6 fxe6 22.dxe5 dxe5 23.Bxe5 0–0 White has 24.Nxg4 with a complicated position: 24...Qg5 (24...hxg4 25.Qxg4+ Kf7 26.Nc4+–) 25.Bf6 Rxf6 26.Nxf6+ Qxf6 27.Qxh5]

19...dxe5 20.Bxe5 0–0 21.Bxe6 The exchange opens the f-file, but also somewhat the 7th rank for Black.

21...fxe6 22.Bd4 c5 [22...Ng6!?] 23.bxc6 [23.Be5 Ng6 24.Nxg4!?]


23...Nxc6 24.Bxa7 Rxa7 25.Ndc4? The knight guarded the f3-square.

25...Rd8 [25...Ng6 26.Qd6=]



26... Raa8?! [The machine finds here 26...b5! which opens the seventh rank and brings the a7-rook into play. 27.axb5 Nf3+! 28.gxf3 (28.Kh1 Qh4#) 28...gxf3 29.Ng4 (29.bxc6 Qg5+ 30.Kh1 Qh4+ 31.Kg1 Rg7+ and mate.) Black must now find 29...Re8 to cover the e6-pawn...


...with a decisive advantage, e.g. 30.Qd1 hxg4 31.Qd6 Qh4 32.Qg3 Qh5 and 33.-- Rh7]. 

After moves other than 29...Re8 White keeps the balance:

a) 29...Qh4 30.Nce3 hxg4 (30...Re8 31.Nh2) 31.Qxe6+;

b) 29...Qg5 30.Nce3 Re8 31.bxc6 hxg4 32.c7 Rxc7 33.Rxa6 and the attack on e6 is enough for White to hold on.

27.Rfd1 The players soon found a repetition.

27...Kh8 28.Rab1 Rxd1+ 29.Qxd1 Rd8 30.Qb3 Ng6 31.Rb2 Rd7 32.Nb6 Rd8 33.Nbc4 Rd7 34.Nb6 Rd8 35.Nbc4 Rd7 ½–½

Standings after round 6


All games



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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