Here's a nice interview with Wesley So, with a look at some of his key games in the recently completed Sinquefield Cup.
Entries in 2016 Sinquefield Cup (8)
Big congratulations are in order to Wesley So, who took clear first in the 2016 Sinquefield Cup and also leads in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings to boot.
He finished the tournament with three draws, and that proved to be enough. Veselin Topalov and Viswanathan Anand were half a point back with three rounds to go, and they too drew their last three games.
In fact, all the games were drawn in round 7, while in round 8 Levon Aronian defeated Hikaru Nakamura to join the tie for second. (Peter Svidler was the day's other winner, defeating Anish Giri to drag the latter into a tie with him at the bottom of the tournament table.)
In the last round Fabiano Caruana defeated Giri to make it a four-way tie for second, while Nakamura bounced back with a win over Ding Liren. The game of the round was Topalov-Aronian. Had Topalov won - and he had a winning position in a rook endgame - he would have caught up to So and forced a playoff. The key decision Topalov had to make was which piece to use to support the a-pawn: the king or the rook. He chose the king, and it was the wrong decision.
Still, it was a good tournament for both of the "old" guys, Anand and Topalov, tying for second and gaining rating points. But of course, it was even better for So, who is still only 22 even though he seems to have been around forever. In fact, all the Americans did pretty well, so they should be in very good shape leading into the Olympiad on September 1. More good news for American fans: our fifth board, Sam Shankland, won the Master Tournament in Biel with a big score of 7.5/9 and saw his rating go up 18 points to 2679. (That puts him five points ahead of our fourth board, Ray Robson.) Look out, world!
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)
Wednesday was a rest day for the participants in the Sinquefield Cup, and before that was round 5. In the two previous rounds all the games were drawn, and the first four (of five) games to finish on Tuesday also finished peacefully. One game remained, between Veselin Topalov and Ding Liren, and although Topalov was winning earlier and still had some advantage, it seemed to be headed for a draw as well. But that's when it got interesting, as you can see for yourself.
Round 6 is today, with these pairings:
- So (3) - Topalov (3.5)
- Aronian (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
- Giri (2) - Anand (3)
- Nakamura (2.5) - Caruana (2.5)
- Ding Liren (2) - Svidler (1.5)
For the second straight round all the games were drawn, and it doesn't seem that anyone missed any big chances either. Round 5 is tomorrow, with the following pairings:
- Giri (1.5) - Aronian (2.5)
- Anand (2.5) - So (2.5)
- Topalov (2.5) - Ding (2)
- Svidler (1) - Nakamura (2)
- Caruana (2) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5)
I just finished playing in the U.S. Open, during which time blogging, sad to say, wasn't my top priority. It'll take me a little while to get caught back up with the rest of my life, but blogging will resume shortly.
A first and very important thing to note is that the Sinquefield Cup started on Friday. In round 1 Wesley So beat Hikaru Nakamura while Veselin Topalov defeated Peter Svidler; Svidler also lost in round 2 against Levon Aronian. Anyone can lose to anyone in such an elite competition, but as Svidler was a late replacement for Vladimir Kramnik (and had black in both games) it's not so surprising that he would get off to a bumpy start. Also in round 2: Nakamura bounced back with a win over Anish Giri, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's 70 game undefeated streak in classical chess finally came to an end thanks to Viswanathan Anand. Finally, all five games were drawn in round 3.
The Sinquefield Cup starts August 5, and it will start without Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik is suffering from back pain (been there, done that; I don't recommend it), so he's going to take the month off to try to get it under control. In the mid-2000s he suffered from a debilitating arthritis, and he thinks there's a chance that this might be a recurrence of the problem.
While Kramnik tries to recuperate in time for the Olympiad, Peter Svidler will take his place if he can secure a visa. The other participants will be Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, Veselin Topalov, and (the slumping) Ding Liren.
For those of you who might be planning a little chess tourism later in the year, the Grand Chess Tour announced yesterday that the Sinquefield Cup has been rescheduled. To avoid a conflict with the Olympiad, which was also rescheduled, the Sinquefield Cup will now run from August 4-16, with play commencing on the 5th. (Sadly, the Tour's front page still gives the old dates, but disregard that error.)