He was the only one to win a game on Tuesday and he now has a half-point lead on his nearest rivals in the Sinquefield Cup.
There could easily have been a few decisive games in Round 5 of the Sinquefield Cup. But in the end, only Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria was able to take advantage of the chances that were offered him. With his victory, he is now the sole leader with 3.5 points. Three other players, Levon Aronian of Armenia, Wesley So of the United States and Viswanathan Anand of India, trail Topalov by half a point.
Topalov’s victory was over Ding Liren of China, who had Black and employed the Zaitsev Variation in the Spanish opening. Ding has started playing this variation only recently and he didn’t seem at ease in the opening after Topalov chose a somewhat unusual sideline. Ding sacrificed a pawn to try to gain some counterplay but he never seemed to have quite enough compensation. Once he was down and in trouble, he fought back creatively and, combined with some inaccuracies by Topalov, almost saved it:
Topalov, V. vs. Ding Liren
4th Sinquefield Cup 2016 |Saint Louis USA |Round 5 |09 Aug 2016 |ECO: C92 |1-0
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bb5a64. Ba4Nf65. O-OBe76. Re1b57. Bb3d68. c3O-O9. h3Re810. d4Bb711. Nbd2Bf812. a3h613. Bc2Nb814. b3This is not the most uncommon continuation for White in this opening, but it is understandable that Ding probably never looked into too carefully as it does not seem to be particularly dangerous for Black. 14... Nbd715. Bb2Rc8?Black prepares a typical pawn sacrifice to gain counterplay, but it usually occurs in games arising out of the Breyer Variation, not the Zaitsev. Dings idea is not a fatal mistake, but clearly it is the wrong plan. 16. a4b4A natural continuation after Rc8, but it is really a mystery to me what Black was hoping to achieve. I guess Ding just felt uncomfortable with the typical but passive positions after c6. 17. cxb4exd418. Bxd4c519. bxc5Nxc520. Qb1White is up a pawn up and Black has no real compensation. 20... a521. b4axb422. Qxb4Ba8White had many ways to preserve his advantage. The next moves weren't particularly interesting: 23. a5d524. Bxf6Qxf625. e5Qa626. Qg4Ne627. Bf5Rc528. Bxe6Rxe629. Nb3Rc430. Nfd4Bb731. Qf5Re732. e6Bc8!Black's position seems to be on the verge of collapse, but giving up a second pawn to gain activity allows him to keep fighting. 33. exf7+Rxf734. Qxd5Bb735. Qe6Rb4!?In an endgame the two bishops can cause White some headaches. Both players were probably also in time pressure as they approached the first time control, so Ill hold my
comments here: 36. Re3Qa837. Rc1Bd538. Rc8Bxe639. Rxa8Bc4!40. Rc8Kh7Again, the two bishops are a nuisance. Topalov struggles to create much play in the next few moves while Ding defends excellently: 41. Rc3Ba642. Rd8Ra443. Ne6Bb444. Rc6Bb545. Rc1Ra246. f3Ba447. Nbd4Bxa548. Ra8Bb649. Kh1Bb350. Rb8Bxe651. Rxb6Bf552. Rd6Finally things have calmed down. The endgame should be a long, hard defense for Black because of the knight vs bishop balance, but it is definitely not easy to win. I would have expected White to try to slowly make progress, but Topalov goes for a knockout by aiming to trying to create mating nets for the Black king. 52... Bg653. Rd8Bf554. Rd6Bg655. Rc8Rb7Seeking counterplay. 56. Rdd8Bd3!Black wants to play Bf1, but that turns out to be a mistake! 57. Ne6Bf1?!it was really
hard for Black to calculate the consequences of this move, so the decision is understandable.
( 57... Bf5!was more logical as exchanging the bishop for the knight would lead to a drawn rook-and-pawn ending and it would not be easy for White to avoid. Ding did not
anticipate Whites plan of attack. 58. Nf8+Kg8the king is safe )
Fabiano Caruana of the United States was probably disappointed after the round as he a chance to join Topalov in the winner’s circle, but he let Maxime Vachier Lagrave of France off the hook. Caruana employed an unusual opening setup and in the middlegame, he slowly improved his position and put Vachier-Lagrave under pressure:
Caruana, F. vs. Vachier Lagrave, M.
4th Sinquefield Cup 2016 |Saint Louis USA |Round 5 |09 Aug 2016 |ECO: B54 |1/2-1/2
Nac5Black seemed to be doing fine, but... 20. Kf1!the advantage of this move over castling is that after fxg3, Whites rook would be perfectly placed. And fxg3 is a move that Black wants to play to create space for his pieces. 20... Qe821. Re1Another nice idea. Caruana is preparing a devilish response against e4 21... e4
( 21... Qh522. Kg2 )
22. Bxc5Nxc523. Nxe4!Nxe424. Bd3!fxg325. Bxe4Qh5?I am surprised that Vachier-Lagrave didn't try
( 25... g2+!26. Kxg2Qh5 )
26. Kg2!gxh227. Rxh2Bh428. Bxh7+!Kh8
( 28... Qxh729. Qxh7+Kxh730. Rxh4+Kg831. Re7is too unpleasant. )
29. Be4Black's position looks as if it is on the verge of collapse, but Vachier-Lagrave finds a very stubborn defensive setup to block up the kingside. 29... Rf4!30. Kh1Qe531. Rg1
( 31. c5!was the best way to proceed. Opening the queenside would have been unpleasant for Black because his bishop is permanently stuck on the kingside. And with more open files and diagonals, the Black King would be very uncomfortable. )
31... g5!Black's defensive setup on the kingside is surprisingly robust. For now, everything is blocked.
Vachier-Lagrave’s defense, particularly the setup with g5(!) was very commendable, but it probably shouldn’t have been enough to save the game. But Caruana tried to play a bit too technically by converting to an endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops in which White would have a clear edge. The problem was that endgames with only opposite-color bishops are often drawn and Caruana missed Vachier-Lagrave’s nice defensive resource which forced a trade of rooks:
Caruana, F. vs. Vachier Lagrave, M.
4th Sinquefield Cup 2016 |Saint Louis USA |Round 5 |09 Aug 2016 |ECO: B56 |1/2-1/2
32. Qc3I can understand why this move looks tempting. After bxc3, White can double his rooks on the b-file, which looks dangerous for Black. But I think Caruana overlooked a really nice defensive trick that Vachier-Lagrave finds. 32... Qxc333. bxc3Kg734. Rb1Rf735. Rb6the pressure on the pawn on d6 is the key. If Black defends passively with Rd8-Rd7, then at some point White will play c5 and create a passed d-pawn, building the pressure on Black.
( 35. Rhb2Rc8! )
35... Ra6!36. Rhb2Rxb637. Rxb6Bf2!The defensive resource that Caruana missed. 38. Rxd6Rf6!White can't avoid the rook exchange and the opposite-colored bishop endgame is a draw. 39. Rd8Rf840. Rd6Rf641. Rd8Rf842. Rxf8Kxf843. d6Bc544. d7Ke745. Bf5Be346. Kg2Bd247. Kf2
Anish Giri prior to the start of Round 5 of the Sinquefield Cup
Anish Giri of the Netherlands had a short draw against Aronian after playing two marathon draws in the previous two rounds, but the game had a very interesting middlegame. In a fairly typical position, Giri played f4, which was fascinating and double-edged. His follow-up was too ambitious and almost gave Aronian a huge advantage:
Giri, A. vs. Aronian, L.
4th Sinquefield Cup 2016 |Saint Louis USA |Round 5 |09 Aug 2016 |ECO: A29 |1/2-1/2
c614. f4!?It is very interesting how White generates pressure in this position. If he can play f5 and f6 then Black's kingside starts looking dodgy. 14... f515. e4Rf716. Bh3Very ambitious, but it doesn't seem sound to move the perfectly placed bishop on g2. White's idea is that after the light-squared bishop exchange, Black's position looks more vulnerable, and White can develop quickly with moves like Qb3, Rd1, etc. But White had a clear edge if he had continued more traditionally, so this was a strange plan coming from a player like Giri who is very strategically sound player.
Aronian finds a very good way to create counterplay. The key idea is that the rook on f7 can swing over to d7 to create pressure along the d-file.
( 16. exf5Bxf517. Ne4 )
16... Bb4!17. Bxf5Bxf518. exf5Nc4!and Rd7 will be next
( 18... Rd719. Qb3+ )
( 18... Rxf519. Qb3+Kh820. Rbd1 )
( 19. a3Rd7! )
19... c5settling for equality.
( 19... b5was more ambitious, but the position would have been crazy )
The game between Peter Svidler of Russia and Hikaru Nakamura of the United States was also very interesting. Svidler achieved a slight edge, which he nursed for a long time, but it wasn’t clear how to take advantage of it. Nakamura fought back and managed to almost turn the tables. The game ended with some crazy complications that seem impossible to assess, but were entertaining to watch:
Svidler, P. vs. Nakamura, Hi
4th Sinquefield Cup 2016 |Saint Louis USA |Round 5 |09 Aug 2016 |ECO: E63 |1/2-1/2
Rb624. b5With hindsight
( 24. Nc4!Rb725. b5would have been a lot more difficult for Black as now c6 is not possible. Black's position would be a little worse, though nothing disastrous. )
24... c6!25. Nc4White could have kept a slightly better position in some other ways but after the pawn exchange his advantage disappears. 25... Rxb5!26. Rxb5
( 26. Bxd6is the criticial line. Now Black would have some nice possibilities: 26... Rxb127. Qxb1Bxd4!if Bxf8, White is ahead in material, but then after Qf8-c5-Nf4, etc., Black would completely
control the dark squares! 28. Rd1c5!29. Bxc5Bxc530. Rxd8Rxd8and the compensation is probably enough for a draw. )
26... cxb527. Nxd6b4The position begins to look tricky for White as well. 28. e5Nc629. Bc4Qb630. d5!White is just in time to create complications, muddying the situation. 30... Bxe531. Bxe5Ncxe532. dxe6fxe633. Bxe6+Kh834. Bf5I have no idea how to assess this position. The computer's evaluation that chances are equal isn't very helpful. 34... b3!?the next few moves were among the best according to the engine. There seem many other interesting moves as well, but the position is very hard to play for both players. 35. Qd5b236. Rb1Qc737. Bxg6Qc1+38. Kg2Nxg639. Qd4+Kg840. Qd5+Kh841. Qd4+Kg8
The last game of the day between Anand and So was comparatively tamer. The key here was So’s creative play in the opening, which eventually led to a double pawn sacrifice for long-term compensation:
Anand, V. vs. So, W.
4th Sinquefield Cup 2016 |Saint Louis USA |Round 5 |09 Aug 2016 |ECO: C50 |1/2-1/2
16. Na3b4!One pawn sacrifice isn't enough of course! 17. cxb4Accepting the pawn makes sense. But now White's pawn structure is broken and Black's two bishops and better positioned pieces provide him adequate compensation.
( 17. Nc2bxc318. bxc3Ng619. Nxg6hxg6 )
17... Qd5The game could have become more exciting, but Anand accepts that Black has compensation for his material deficit and decides to force exchanges in order to reach an equal position. 18. Nec4
( 18. d4Rd819. Nf3Ng6 )
18... Bxd319. Rxe7Bxc420. Qxd5Bxd5White is still up a pawn, but it isn't very impressive. And White's pieces are too passive to cause Black any problems. 21. Rd7Bc622. Rd1Ba423. Rd3Bc724. b3Bc625. f3Rd826. Rxd8+Bxd827. b5Bd728. Kf2Be729. Ke2Bxa330. Bxa3Bxb5+
Despite the many draws in the tournament, the games continue to be very exciting. Wednesday is a rest day and then the tournament begins its home-stretch on Thursday with Round 6.
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 90 in the world, he just finished his sophomore year at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.