The 2015 Sinquefield Cup has concluded, and with a comfortable last-round draw Levon Aronian has taken clear first. None of his main rivals managed to win their games, so Aronian's draw with Topalov left him a point ahead of his closest competitors. He had Black in a Ragozin System, and despite that was never worse and could have pushed for more if he had needed to. Spotting a moment where he could force a draw (or more precisely, could force Topalov to force a draw) he took it, guaranteeing himself victory in the tournament.
Entering the round Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri and Alexander Grischuk were all a point behind Aronian and theoretically still in the race for first. As noted above (at least by implication), none of them managed to win. Carlsen had Black against Viswanathan Anand, and went for a Berlin ending. He drew easily, but a win was never going to happen. Vachier-Lagrave and Giri played each other and although Vachier-Lagrave managed to obtain a little pull through much of the game, Giri kept things under control and drew a double rook ending without too much exertion.
The big game of the day was the battle between Grischuk and Hikaru Nakamura. With a win, Nakamura would join the tie for second (and take second in the overall Grand Tour standings and regain second place on the live rating list), and he pushed long and hard, taking plenty of risks along the way. He was better at first, enjoying a normal opening advantage with White. A pair of dubious, related decisions on move 26 and move 27 left him worse, but thanks to Grischuk's mistaken decision to give up his dark squared bishop for White's knight on f2 Nakamura was again in control by the end of the first time control. From there Nakamura played very well and energetically, but with victory in sight made a couple of slips that endangered the win. Fortunately for him he kept pushing and finally managed to break down the Russian's resistance.
The final game was of no relevance to the race for first, but it was an interesting game in its own right. Fabiano Caruana came close to a win against Wesley So, but the wrong capture on d6 on move 21 allowed So to survive, albeit only after a lot of hard work.
(The games, with my comments, are here.)
Here are the final standings, given in tiebreak order. The tiebreakers are in fact very important, because points for the Grand Chess Tour standings are allocated based on those tiebreaks. Carlsen wound up getting second place on tiebreaks with 10 GCT points, putting him in the mix for overall Tour victory, while Giri only received six points for fifth, with the same score. So although Giri went a combined +3 in Norway and St. Louis while Carlsen is still -1 overall, Carlsen has 14 total points while Giri has 13. Brilliant.
- Aronian 6
- Carlsen 5
- Nakamura 5
- Vachier-Lagrave 5
- Giri 5
- Grischuk 4.5
- Topalov 4.5
- Caruana 3.5
- Anand 3.5
- So 3
And these are the overall Grand Chess Tour Standings, with the points they earned from Norway and St. Louis, respectively:
- Topalov 17 (13, 4)
- Nakamura 16 (8, 8)
- Aronian 15 (2, 13)
- Carlsen 14 (4, 10)
- Giri 13 (7, 6)
- Anand 12 (10, 2)
- Vachier-Lagrave 12 (5, 7)
- Caruana 9 (6, 3)
- Grischuk 8 (3, 5)
- Hammer 1 (1, N/A)
- So 1 (N/A, 1)
The last stop for this year's Grand Chess Tour is the London Chess Classic, which begins December 3, while the next major event is the World Cup in Baku. That starts September 10, and practically every player over 2700 (and more besides) except for Carlsen and Anand will be there. The top two finishers qualify for next year's Candidates' event (Carlsen and Anand were the world championship finalists last year and thus needn't play; Carlsen because he's the world champion and Anand because he's automatically seeded into the Candidates').
Unfortunately, even though the World Cup is a colossally important event that eight of the Sinquefield Cup participants are playing in and that could be a career-changer for six of them (Nakamura and Caruana have already qualified for the Candidates' through the Grand Prix, but are still required to play in the World Cup to secure their eligibility), the players are forced to stay in St. Louis through at least tomorrow. Why, when they could be headed to Baku to acclimate, get over jet lag before the tournament starts and to engage in further opening preparation?
The answer: it's for the sake of the so-called Ultimate Moves "competition" and a screening of what will likely be Hollywood's latest "chess players are crazy" offering, a.k.a. "Pawn Sacrifice". The former will consist of rapid and blitz tandem and consultation games that are basically an opportunity for Rex Sinquefield and his son Randy to participate with and against the world's best players; the latter is a movie about Bobby Fischer with Tobey Maguire in the lead role.
The juxtaposition of the two events is fascinating, because Fischer, for better and worse, would quite possibly have balked at the idea of playing in the Ultimate Moves event, refusing to play the clown in exchange for a sponsor's money - especially if it got in the way of performing his best in a real event. But what do you think? Is the Ultimate Moves competition nothing more than a harmless indulgence for a rich and very generous sponsor? Or perhaps it's a demonstration of the power of money, one that takes no account of the players' dignity and schedules? Maybe to some degree it's both, or something in between, or...?