It still isn't as long a delay as Magnus Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein wants, as it coincides with the duration of the Sinquefield Cup and must therefore weigh on him and take his attentional resources, but it at least gives him another week to decide. More here. (HT: Thomas Richter)
For the fourth time since 2012, Fabiano Caruana has defeated Magnus Carlsen. His win today with the black pieces was impressive, and his 3-0 score has him a point and a half clear of the field and two points ahead of Carlsen in the 2nd Sinquefield Cup. (It also has him at a very clear #2 on the Live Rating List, where he is now "only" 45 points behind the world champion.) All fantastic news for the young American-Italian, who really should scrap the second part of that hyphen.
Still, there are seven tough rounds to go, so it's too soon to crown him the winner of this week's strongest tournament ever. In the other games Maxime Vachier-Lagrave bounced back from yesterday's loss to beat Levon Aronian pretty handily. Aronian made some dubious decisions early in the game and missed a couple of nice ideas by his opponent, and went down in a hurry. They are now both at 50%.
In the last game to finish Veselin Topalov finally got on the scoreboard with a win over Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura missed a winning opportunity early in the game and a second, later chance that could also have resulted in a win. In the end it was Topalov who took his opportunities in their very sharp game, and they are tied with Carlsen for 4th-6th (last) at 1-2.
Tomorrow's pairings: Vachier-Lagrave - Nakamura, Carlsen - Topalov, Caruana - Aronian
Update: A small addition: here are the games, with comments to Carlsen-Caruana.
That is, Hou Yifan leads Humpy Koneru by a point and a half, not the rest of the field at the final Women's Grand Prix event of the 2013-2014 cycle. Hou's countrywoman Ju Wenjun is the current leader of the tournament in Sharjah with 3.5/4, half a point ahead of Hou and three other players. But none of that matters for the world championship cycle, as only Hou Yifan and Humpy Koneru can win the overall Grand Prix. As long as Hou finishes ahead of her rival she wins the Grand Prix, and with a point and a half lead with seven rounds to go she's in good shape.
(For a more detailed background, see this post and the links therein.)
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.
All three games from round 1 of this year's Sinquefield Cup were interesting, but only one had a winner. Veselin Topalov played very aggressively, as is his wont, and in this case it was more self-destructive than anything else. Fabiano Caruana played very well and took advantage of Topalov's concessions to start the event with a win, and with the black pieces at that.
The world champion (at least for now; will he be a lame duck in four days?) had Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a very exciting game. Magnus Carlsen used an idea against Vachier-Lagrave's Scotch that seems to have come from Garry Kasparov's notebook, and it looks like it's good enough for a very exciting equality. It seems to me that both players only made one inaccuracy apiece in the game, and although Carlsen could have shown an advantage at one moment the talk I've read that he may have missed a win is mistaken. He should have played 25...Qd3, that's true, but instead of playing as in the game 26.Qc3 would have kept the disadvantage to manageable proportions. I'd add that for Carlsen to have worked out all the fine tactical details between 25...Qd3 and 25...Qd2 in fairly significant time trouble is asking a bit much of him (you'll see when you replay the game and my analysis).
Finally, Levon Aronian had a small advantage at times against Hikaru Nakamura's Classical Slav, but couldn't manage to turn it into something significant.
The games, with my notes (heavy-ish notes to the MVL-Carlsen game), are here.
Round 2 Pairings: Nakamura - Carlsen, Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian - Topalov
The full pairings are here; as for round 1, this is what we have to look forward to tomorrow (Wednesday):
- Levon Aronian - Hikaru Nakamura
- Veselin Topalov - Fabiano Caruana
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Magnus Carlsen
Rather than ask for predictions (though you're all welcome to give them, especially if you think someone other than the champ will take first), I'll ask this: would you take Carlsen or the rest of the field?
Will Magnus Carlsen sign his contract for the world championship match slated to begin in Sochi on November 7? He has until September 7, the final day of the Sinquefield Cup (which starts tomorrow/today/Wednesday) to do so. This article offers a good summary of where things stand, and notes that it Carlsen doesn't play there will be a world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Sergei Karjakin. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
The opening ceremonies and such begin tomorrow (Tuesday), but the real action begins on Wednesday. It's a double round-robin with six great players:
- Magnus Carlsen
- Levon Aronian
- Fabiano Caruana
- Hikaru Nakamura
- Veselin Topalov
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
The average rating is over 2800! More info about the Sinquefield Cup here.