Sinquefield kicks off with lots of decisive games
An entertaining opening to this grand tournament as 3 of the 5 games were decisive. The players often take it easy in the first round in order to “feel out” their opponents but not today.
After floating on the edge of the top 10 for a long time Ian Nepomniachtchi finally received an invitation to play in the Grand Chess Tour and made his Sinquefield debut today. Unfortunately for him it did not go as well as he would have liked. After mis-remembering a bit of preparation he was in serious trouble against Levon Aronian right out of the gate and already launching into a 40 minute think after 13 Qxb7. Aronian did not take his foot off the gas and claimed the victory in under 30 moves. After the game “Nepo” said he had meticulously prepared this line...for white! On the other side of the board he was apparently not as well versed.
The opening from this game is sometimes referred to as “the Spanish torture,” After watching this game it’s unclear who is being tortured; white, black, or the spectators. In all seriousness it’s understandable why neither side wanted to risk much in this game. A draw as black against a former world champ is just fine for Nakamura and far from a disaster for Anand.
"It was a draw, and that's ok" - Carlsen
Another “Spanish Torture,” this one with perhaps a bit more fight in it. To the player's credit they played until there weren’t any chess pieces left to play with. Magnus in particular is of course known for sucking the marrow out of every game he plays. Caruana revealed after the game that at one point he saw a small smile on Magnus’ face and immediately went to work trying to figure out what variation he had seen. The line he saw 24. Bxg7? d3 25. Qg4 Bxf2+ 26. Kh1 Rf4 27. Qg5 Bh4 (available as a variation in the game viewer) will mean this game can’t finish in last for the round 1 brilliancy prize.
This game was not a Spanish, it was the Spanish’s little brother the Italian. But, it demonstrates the sort of thing that Spanish players hope for when they play it with white. Black was fine for a long time and then suddenly he wasn’t. Svidler snarled on the kingside but the 3 passers were always going to be too much.
Wesley So has been a wrecking ball lately, winning in Leon and taking second in Leuven. Vachier-Lagrave meanwhile has slipped below 2800 and had fallen to 8th in the worldwide rankings which is about the number where you start to worry about not getting invited to big tournaments anymore. So….of course Vachier-Lagrave won. Another “Italian torture” as a slightly better opening led to a slightly better middlegame and you know the rest.