Sinquefield Cup: Four draws

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/7/2022 – Following Magnus Carlsen’s intriguing withdrawal, the Sinquefield Cup continued in Saint Louis, now as a 9-player single round-robin. All four games finished drawn in round 5, with Wesley So keeping the sole lead after splitting the point with Levon Aronian. Wendesday is a much-needed rest day, as we look forward to impressive chess games regaining centre stage as soon as possible. | Photo: Grand Chess Tour / Lennart Ootes

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Quiet after the storm?

As it could not have been otherwise, Magnus Carlsen’s withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup had a ripple effect in the chess world, especially since no explanation was given by the world champion. It has become all but universally accepted that Carlsen withdrew because he suspects Hans Niemann somehow cheated. The pervasive danger related to the absolute effectiveness of cheating in chess made its way back into the forefront of public discussion.

Niemann’s incredible results combined with his strange, at times socially awkward behaviour prompted many to side with the hypothesis that he did cheat. However, even people belonging to this group believe that sufficient evidence must be provided to punish the youngster for his alleged misbehaviour. Meanwhile, others have turned their eyes to the moves themselves, like did Swiss GM Noël Studer.

A more detailed analysis of the situation was shared by famed author and trainer Jacob Aagaard, who has worked with Niemann in the past.

Leaving opinions aside, there are a few facts that were confirmed by Niemann himself in a lengthy interview conducted by Alejandro Ramirez:

  • He admits to having cheated on chess.com in the past (at 12 and 16 years old).
  • He has been uninvited from participating at chess.com’s Global Chess Championship following Carlsen’s withdrawal — a measure which already affects his career directly.

Niemann emphatically denied having ever cheated in over-the-board chess.

Eight-time Russian chess champion Peter Svidler noted that there is at least one positive that can be taken away from this mess.

The show must go on

While we did get to see Carlsen facing Ian Nepomniachtchi — the latest challenger to the world crown — before his withdrawal, the unfortunate circumstance resulted in a cancellation of the much-anticipated clash between Carlsen and the strongest junior in the world, Alireza Firouzja, a game which was supposed to take place in round 5.

Firouzja thus got two rest days in a row (all participants will rest on Wednesday). The remaining eight contenders did play their round-5 encounters though, and all the games finished drawn. 

Fabiano Caruana pushed his g-pawn early on in his game with black against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, following a line played by Nodirbek Abdusattorov against Levon Aronian at the 2021 San Fermín Masters.

 

Mamedyarov was apparently out of book, as he spent over 17 minutes on his previous move, 11.e3. However, he is no stranger to early pawn advances, which helped him find an effective plan in the sequence that followed — 11...g5 12.Bg3 f5 13.Be5 Nc6 14.f4, and White prevents his opponent from simply rolling his army down the board without making concessions.

 

Caruana insisted on looking for ways to keep Shakh’s king in the centre, and he managed. However, the Azerbaijani was also able to force simplifications which led to a drawn endgame with bishops of opposite colours.

Mamedyarov rejected grabbing a queen on move 23, noting that it was clear Caruana knew what he was doing. It turned out to be a correct decision, despite the fact that both that capture and the move seen in the game led to drawn positions according to the engines — but the more ambitious alternative was certainly too risky under the circumstances.

 

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The player who got closer to scoring a full point was Leinier Dominguez, who managed to get a clear space advantage in his game with white against Hans Niemann. A fateful decision by Dominguez on move 37 eased Niemann’s defensive task.

 

Dominugez spent over 5 minutes here, and finally went for 37.Nxb5 simplifying into a rook endgame which was still favourable but with more drawing chances for Black. Niemann defended correctly and went on to get the half point.

Instead, 37.Ne6+ is much more trying. What Dominguez might have missed is that after 37...Kf6 38.Rf3+ Black cannot play 38...Ke5 due to the nice trick 39.Nf8, a move that Niemann looked at with Ramirez after the game.

It was a nice game by Dominguez, but he could not find the killer blow as he had to deal with a tough defender once he got an advantage.

 

Leinier Dominugez

Leinier Dominguez | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Hans Niemann

Hans Niemann | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 5 results

 

Standings after round 5

Grand Chess Tour 2022

All games

 

Links


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.
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