Sinquefield Cup starts with a Splash!

by Alejandro Ramirez
8/28/2014 – You could not have asked for more exciting games to kick off the Sinquefield Cup, the strongest chess tournament in history! One solid draw between Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura was more than compensated by a wild and indescribable game between MVL and Magnus Carlsen. However, the early leader is Caruana, after taking the Ice Bucket challenge and crushing Veselin Topalov!

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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.

Opening Ceremony

It is a hot week here in Saint Louis! The bright sun welcome the players in the opening day of the 2014 edition of the Sinquefield Cup, the strongest tournament ever held. Things kicked off early as Fabiano Caruano took the Ice Bucket challenge!

Unless you are living under a rock, the Internet has lately been flooded with celebrities and commoners doing the Ice Bucket challenge to raise awareness on ALS. The Saint Louis Chess Club challenged the participants, and Caruana, who was also challenged by Anish Giri, was up to the task:

He challenged Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan and Levon Aronian. Maurice did not waste any time:

It was a hot day, so two buckets seemed appropiate

Look how refreshed he looks! He in turn challenged US Women's Championship veteran Alisa Melekhina, Organizer of the Sinquefield Cup Tony Rich, and local chess fan Jiejia Wang.

Yasser Seirawan giving a pre-tournament lecture. Can you guess which game he is showing?

Beautiful commentator Jennifer Shahade playing against the tournament sponsor, Rex Sinquefield

The opening ceremony was short and sweet. The Sinquefields, the patrons of the Saint Louis Chess Club and the sponsors of this tournament, took their turns at the microphone, as did mayor of the city Francis Slay.

Carlsen was the first to draw his number from a small gift box containing a watch. His pairing number of four makes him start with two blacks.

Aronian, in turn, got number one... starts with two whites!

The players were of course given a tour of the World Chess Hall of Fame, which has wonderfully interesting and beautiful exhibits, while in the top floor there is a permanent collection of the hall of famers, both American and from the World.

Round One

The production of the Sinquefield Cup is very professional

Round 01 - August 27, 2014
Aronian, Levon 2805
Nakamura, Hikaru 2787
Topalov, Veselin 2772
Caruana, Fabiano 2801
Vachier-Lagrave, M 2768
Carlsen, Magnus 2877

Just as the day before was hot and sunny, today saw a thunderstorm. Hail and thunder were audibly heard in the playing hall, but that did not bring down the quality of chess one bit. Despite there only being three games the chess was full of action.

The players arrived well before the round, pacing around the playing hall as they waited for the opening bell.

Round one of the 2801 average tournament under way!

Aronian, Levon ½-½ Nakamura, Hikaru
Nakamura is known to be a very aggressive player, one that is famous for his do-or-die approach to chess. His fearless King's Indian Defense and his wacky Dutch openings have catapulted him to this fame. However, recently, he has taken a more pragmatic approach to chess; he has incorporated more solid defenses to his repertoire and he has learned perfectly how to hold positions where he is minimally worse.

Aronian examining his play in the post-game interview with Maurice Ashley

This is exactly what he did today as he used a main line of the Slav defense to obtain a position in which he was just a tiny bit worse, but very solid. Despite some tactics at the end the game was not terribly exciting, but certainly well played.

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime ½-½ Carlsen, Magnus
What a game! This extremely sharp Scotch confused everyone in the audience, and in the commentary room. Carlsen's wild approach with 7...a5!? was not new, it had been played in an obscure game between Volokitin and Eljanov, but that was the one and only time. And yet it was MVL that came with interesting preparation, blitzing his next few moves in a very sharp situation.

Carlsen came with a sharp idea, but was certainly out-prepared

Carlsen took a thirty minute think before playing the intriguing 13...Nb4!? Vachier-Lagrave responded as best as he could and the game continued to take crazy turns. Both players played fabulously in aggressive style, not giving each other any chance to solidify their positions. Finally an inaccuracy occurred when the Frenchman played 23. Rac1?!, but Carlsen was low on time and was unable to accurately assess the situation. He played the natural continuation but this allowed a well calculated perpetual check from MVL, and the game ended in peace.

The players doing a mental post-mortem before going for their post-game interviews

Topalov, Veselin 0-1 Caruana, Fabiano
Caruana played a very precise game today. His approach to the opening was nothing out of the ordinary, simply obtaining a position that he likes to play - he had already employed this system against Malakhov in the tiebreaks of the World Cup last year in Tromso.

Topalov was not as cool-headed as Caruana was after the Ice Bucket challenge

Topalov did not maneuver as quietly as the position probably demanded, and instead lunged forward with a crazy 17.g4!? that was not nearly as bad as it looked. However soon afterward he started to extend and extend... until it was simply too much! Caruana's fabulously placed bishop on e5 dominated the board and created irresistible threats, and by move 23 White's position was collapsing. Topalov could not hold on much longer and Caruana finished in style. Arguably perfect play from the Italian!

Select from the dropdown menu to replay the games

Annotations provided by Ben Finegold - American Grandmaster and commentator for the live audience at the Sinquefield Cup - and taken from the Official Website.

Photos by Lennart Ootes


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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