Sinquefield Cup: Round 5 - Carlsen back in the pack

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
8/8/2017 – Magnus Carlsen is back in the black! It was a day when Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen showcased brilliant calculating skills and self belief in order to win their games against Caruana and So respectively. When your opponent makes a move which you have thought was impossible, it is natural to doubt your own calculation. But great players go beyond that doubt and play confidently if they can find no refutation. Anand did just that, and so did Carlsen to score the only victories of the day. Blow by blow analysis of both the games. | Photos: Lennart Ootes

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The tiger bites

Anand-Caruana handshake

Anand seals his first win of the tournament | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Anand 1-0 Caruana

Viswanathan Anand displayed brilliant imagination and flawless calculation in outplaying the American Fabiano Caruana in a delightful mating attack in the 5th round of the Sinquefield Cup held at Saint Louis, US. This first victory for Anand in the tournament propelled him to a tie for 2nd-3rd place along with World Champion Magnus Carlsen on 3 / 5, behind the tournament leader, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, on 3½ points.

Anand showed nerves of steel in the Sunday encounter against Caruana, as deep calculation was required in calling his opponent’s bluff. In the end it worked.


Caruana looks to rebound with White against Vachier-Lagrave in Round 6 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Anand started off with a surprise in the opening when he employed the English Opening against Caruana, which he has only used sporadically in his career. Slightly hesitant play in the early middlegame saw him concede near equality to Caruana after 18 moves.

The positional laws governing play in the middlegame of chess often look simple and logical, but it takes courage to understand the risks and still go beyond them and create complications and chaos, if one can possess necessary tactical intuition and gumption for risk-taking. It is the trademark of tactical geniuses in the history of the game, who were able to create such complications ignoring strict positional laws. However, even in cases where the created complications are unsound in nature, it requires very steady nerves and crystal-clear calculating ability to defend against such attacks and repulse them, defensive abilities which are again not for the faint-hearted.

Caruana's misadventure on the 19th move — which Anand had dismissed as impossible — presents a case study of this dynamic. His 19...Bg4 started the tactical melee:


Anand went ahead boldly and took the knight on c6 and then captured the e5 pawn with 21.fxe5, which was met, after an eight minute think, by 21...f6


When a brilliant calculator like Caruana makes a move like this, you need tremendous self-belief to go ahead and take that pawn. 22.exf6 Rxe2

The rook came in on e2 and attacked not only the queen but also the h2 pawn with a mate. Anand was, of course, ready for this and played 23.f7+. After Kf8, he was the one who went on the offensive with...


Caruana had to take that bishop and now the queen popped out to c3 with a check. Black had two options. Block on e5 with the queen or with the rook. 25...Qe5 would have been much more tenacious (see the full game below) Fabiano went for Re5. It's now your turn to find out what Anand had planned.  Caruana chose 25...Re5 but had missed a clear refutation.


26.Qd4!! came like a bolt from the blue for Fabiano Caruana. The queen not only attacks the rook, but also vacates the c5 square for the rook! Caruana played 26...Qg5 and Anand went ahead with 27...Rc5! It was game over for Caruana who took the queen on d4 and allowed Anand to make another queen on the board, at which point it's mate in eight moves!

Anand about to restore his queen

Anand returns his queen to the board with mate coming | Source: CCSCSL YouTube

Players are generally required to pay a visit to the live webcast studio, win, lose or draw, but Caruana also analyzed the game after it was over with his opponent before both made a post-game interview with Maurice Ashley.


Discussing what exactly was overlooked | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Replay the full game with analysis

The English Opening Vol. 1

Williams main teaching method behind this set of two DVDs is to teach you some simple yet effective set ups, without the need to rely on memorising numerous complicated variations.

Caruana with Maurice Ashley

Anand with Maurice Ashley

Wesley So 0-1 Magnus Carlsen

World Champion Magnus Carlsen came back very strongly from Saturday’s defeat to play a flawless game on the black side of a Scotch Opening and defeat another of the world's elite, American Wesley So. Coming back immediately after tasting a defeat has always been one of Carlsen’s strong points, and the ability thus stood him in good stead in the fifth round.

Wesley So

Not So's day | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Magnus played his rook to b8 in order to attack the pawn on b2. Instead of defending the pawn with b3 and gaining a fine position, Wesley played the inaccurate 19.Bf4, which proved to be a big error. Carlsen thought for five minutes about why Wesley had given up the pawn. Finally he came to the conclusion that he couldn't live like this with self-doubt! He took the pawn on b2 and asked Wesley to show his cards.

After several exchanges on the d6 square, Carlsen's knight on d7 seemed to be in trouble. But Magnus had seen ahead a bit further. Can you find Black's move?


Thus, Anand and Carlsen are placed in a tie for the 2nd-3rd places with 3 points, behind the leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.


After the game, Magnus was all smiles | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Replay the full game with analysis

Carlsen with Maurice Ashley; Wesley So did not appear | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Current standings 


Round 5 - Games and commentary


Commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley, and WGM Jennifer Shahade


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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