Fabiano Caruana (please stay here!) is off to a great start, two for two, at the second Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri. While round 1 saw him take advantage of Veselin Topalov's self-destruction, today's victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took a completely different course. Yesterday Vachier-Lagrave was the speedier player in a fascinating theoretical battle against Magnus Carlsen, but today the Frenchman was the victim. Caruana blitzed out his first 17 moves, all prepared with his second Vladimir Chuchelov some months earlier for a game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He didn't get to use it then and didn't expect to use it today, but Vachier-Lagrave walked into it and paid the price. Caruana didn't have to think until his opponent erred with 17...Nh6, and it didn't take him too long to figure out the refutation. Black resigned after 30 moves, and really could have thrown in the towel at least six moves before that. It was a very impressive win by the world's #2 player, even if it was largely a result of superior homework.
While that result was clear very early in the round, it turned out that it was the second game to finish. Levon Aronian got curious at the board about an idea he "knew" wasn't very good, and when he played it his suspicions were confirmed. Topalov played well and forced Aronian to sac an exchange for some compensation, though it shouldn't have been enough. Having achieved the advantage, however, Topalov fell apart almost immediately, committing both tactical oversights and positional misjudgments (most notably making the self-destructive decision to castle queenside), and he was quickly crushed.
Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Carlsen drew their game. Carlsen met the Ruy with 3...g6, and while the succeeding play was always interesting neither player managed to achieve any advantage, and the world champion's attempts to sharpen the play at the end were smoothly neutralized by the American.
After two rounds, Caruana has 2 points, Aronian 1.5, Nakamura and Carlsen 1, Vachier-Lagrave half a point and Topalov has as many as the rest of the world put together. Here are the pairings for round 3, tomorrow: Topalov - Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian, Carlsen - Caruana.
Finally, here are the games, with my comments.