Round 5 of the Sinquefield Cup saw loads of action. Only one of the games was a "correct" draw, and even it was a good fight with some interesting moments.
Entering the round Levon Aronian and Veselin Topalov were tied for first; exiting the round it's Aronian and Magnus Carlsen who share the lead. (Just like the good old days!) Topalov had the white pieces against Fabiano Caruana, and obtained a very pleasant advantage in a 4.d3 Berlin. After the game Topalov said that he lacked the energy to play, and should have bailed out with a draw (24.Rc1 Na2 25.Ra1 Nb4 26.Rc1 etc.) while he had the chance. Instead, he went down, bit by bit, and after 35.Ng2? f4 the game was Caruana's to win, and he did.
Aronian also had White, against Alexander Grischuk, and also got into trouble. Playing an English that turned into a Panov-Botvinnik Attack against the Caro-Kann, Aronian played the very unusual 7.Bg5, and his idea a couple of moves later to double Black's pawns with 9.Qe2+ Be6 10.Bxf6 didn't turn out very well. Later he was clearly worse, but it's a rare game when Grischuk doesn't get into time trouble. A series of inaccuracies from moves 24-26 (he was already below six minutes by that point) squandered his advantage, and the players shook hands on move 31.
This gave Carlsen the chance to catch up, and he did with a nice but imperfect win over Wesley So. Carlsen played a known pawn sac in the Byrne Attack of the Najdorf, obtaining the bishop pair and a strong grip on d5 in return. Carlsen worked his positional magic, but made some serious errors along the way. The first was the worst, when 33.Nc4? (??) could have been met by the sham exchange sac 33...Rxc4!, after which White's advantage is gone in its entirety. So missed that, and then Carlsen blundered again with 40.Nd4; 40.Nxc5 won on the spot. Instead, Carlsen had to fight hard to prove the win, but he rose to the challenge and finally collected the point. Carlsen still isn't playing great, but a combination of good-enough play and some luck (vs. Caruana in round 2, So missing a fairly simple tactic here) has him tied for first with 3.5/5.
The game between Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri was very exciting, possibly made even more exciting when Nakamura forgot his preparation and got into some trouble. He was resourceful after that, and his counterattacking play came close to delivering the full point in his favor. Giri found the defensive moves he needed, however, and the game finished in a well-earned draw.
Finally, Viswanathan Anand managed to win a pawn in a complicated game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but in the end there weren't any real chances to exploit it in the resulting rook ending and the game ended peacefully.
The players are now enjoying a well-deserved rest day, and will resume play on Saturday. You can tide yourselves over with my annotations to yesterday's games, and on Saturday we'll see the following games - including the battle of the leaders:
- Grischuk (2) - Caruana (2)
- Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Topalov (3)
- Giri (3) - Anand (1.5)
- So (1.5) - Nakamura (2.5)
- Aronian (3.5) - Carlsen (3.5)