After some draw-heavy rounds, today's Sinquefield Cup action was a pleasant change with three decisive games out of five. The most important game for the standings was Wesley So-Veselin Topalov. Topalov entered the round in sole first, and when it was over So was alone in the lead.
By So's account, his preparation extended to move 20, but Topalov was up to the challenge and maintained equality. In fact, Topalov was doing fine until move 32, when he misjudged the strength of his counterplay based on White's weak e-pawn. He should have grabbed the c-pawn with 32...Qxc5; instead, he regained his material by winning the e-pawn, and that came at the cost of surrendering the center and giving White a monster passed c-pawn. Topalov made it to the time control, only to resign on the very next move.
Topalov is thus tied for second with Viswanathan Anand, who drew with great difficulty against Anish Giri. Had Giri won, he would have been tied for second instead of his opponent. It isn't clear that Giri was ever actually winning, but 40.Ke3 (40...Nxe5 41.Kd4 and the king breaks to the b-file to escort the a-pawn up the board) would have given him good chances.
The other draw was an excellent fight between Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. Nakamura had an edge on the white side of a Modern Benoni, and Caruana had to play well for a long time to hold the balance.
Back to the wins. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got back to 50% with a win with Black against Levon Aronian. Aronian sacrificed material in an English, and whether he miscalculated or misassessed the position the result was that he was down a pawn for nothing early in the middlegame. The game reached a bishop vs. knight ending and went into the second time control, but the result was clear from early on.
Finally, Ding Liren also got back to 50% with a win over tournament tailender Peter Svidler. The game was an odd Benoni in which White was able to recapture on d5 with a knight, and Svidler never managed to neutralize White's positional pluses.
Half of the field is on 50%, and with three rounds to go eight players still have a fair chance at winning the tournament. Here are the pairings for tomorrow's round 7:
- Svidler (1.5) - So (4)
- Anand (3.5) - Aronian (3)
- Topalov (3.5) - Giri (2.5)
- Vachier-Lagrave (3) - Nakamura (3)
- Caruana (3) - Ding Liren (3)