Going into the round, So was leading by half a point. He played a very solid game with Black to easily hold a draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, the top seed, who is ranked No. 2 in the world. To win the tournament, though, So needed help, as three players trailed him by only half a point prior to the last round. If any of them won, there would be a playoff for the title.
Two of those players, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Levon Aronian of Armenia, were playing each other. After a long struggle, Topalov eached a technically winning position, but he choked just as victory was in his grasp:
Topalov, Veselin vs. Aronian, Levon
Sinquefield Cup |St. Louis |Round 9 |15 Aug 2016 |1/2-1/2
54. a5Rb8+55. Ka3?After nursing a small advantage all game, Topalov finally reached a winning position. But his last move threw away the win.
( 55. Kc3!This was correct. White will play Ra4 and advance the a-pawn, then invade with his king in the center. For example: 55... Ra856. Ra4Kc557. a6Kb558. Ra1e559. a7Kb660. Kc4 )
55... Ra856. Ka4?
( 56. Kb4Even this was good enough. White could still win by repeating the position and correcting his error. )
( 56. Ra4!Would have still won, even with the lousy king position of the king on a3 56... Kc557. a6Kb558. a7Kb659. Kb4 )
56... Ra7!57. Rd4+?
( 57. Kb4White could still have found the right plan )
57... Kc5!And Blacks pieces are active enough to save the game. 58. Rd8Rb759. Rc8+Kd460. a6Re761. Kb5Kxe462. Rc4+Kd363. Ra4e564. Ra3+Kd465. a7Rb7+66. Kc6Rxa767. Rxa7e468. Ra4+Kd369. Kd5e370. Ra3+Kd271. Kd4e272. Ra2+Kd173. Kd3e1=N+74. Kc3Nf375. Rf2Ne176. Rd2+Kc177. Rh2Kd178. Rf2Kc179. Rd2Nf380. Rd5Ne181. Rd8Nf3
Since Viswanathan Anand of India, the other player trailing So, drew against Peter Svidler of Russia, the title belonged to So.
While the critical games to determine the title were all drawn, there were also two decisive games. Hikaru Nakamura of the United States had the most impressive win over Ding Liren of China. As far as I know, this was the first game between these two players — who are also two of my favorite competitors. The game was a bit one-sided, though I commend both players for playing in such a dynamic and uncompromising style.
Nakamura, Hikaru vs. Ding Liren
Sinquefield Cup |St. Louis |Round 9 |15 Aug 2016 |1-0
17. O-ONh5?This was asking for trouble
( 17... Rc8Something like this looks better to me, and is a good prophylaxis move. I'd still prefer White, but Black would have a fighting chance. )
18. d5!White wastes no time opening up the position. 18... Qxh4
19. g3!White has to play this move to slow Black's attack.
( 19. dxc6?g3And Black wins because he has a check on c5. )
19... Qg5Now the blows start raining down on Black. 20. dxc6!Qxe5
( 20... Qxc121. cxb7! )
21. cxb7Rb822. Nd5!exd523. Qc8+Ke724. Rxa6Black is obviously busted. The engine is reading +6 for White. A few accurate moves from Hikaru brought the game to an abrupt conclusion 24... Nxg325. Bxb5!Ne2+26. Bxe2f627. Re6+Qxe628. Qxb8White will soon be able to promote his b-pawn to a queen.
For Anish Giri of the Netherlands, things went from bad to worse as he had his second consecutive tournament in which he lost three games and won none. His final loss of this tournament was to Fabiano Caruana of the United States — which pushed Giri’s rating down to 2755, a drop of over 40 points in his last 20 games. Still, the young Dutchman has had plenty of setbacks in his career and always overcame them, and I expect that he will bounce back from this recent rough patch.
Caruana, Fabiano vs. Giri, Anish
Sinquefield Cup |St. Louis |Round 9 |15 Aug 2016 |1-0
Nxb311. cxb3!?An unusual recapture, but not a bad one. White is hoping to use the half open c-file 11... Be712. Nc3O-O13. Be3Qd714. h3Rad8?!
( 14... f6!In light of how the game continued, it made more sense to start with f6 after which White does not have time to double his rooks on the d-file 15. exf6Rxf6 )
15. Rd2!f616. Rad1!White correctly evaluates the queen vs. two rooks position to be in his favor. 16... Nxe517. Nxe5fxe518. Nxd5Bxd519. Rxd5Qxd520. Rxd5Rxd521. Qc2!c522. g3White is better here because of Black's numerous weaknesses and the well-anchored White bishop on e3. 22... Kh823. h4Rfd824. Qe4h6
( 24... Bf6I would prefer leaving the pawn on h7, but White would still have a lot pressure. )
25. Kg2Bf626. Kh3h5Not a move Black was happy to play, but what else? The threat was g4 and g5. 27. a4Rd328. axb5axb529. Qg6e430. Qxh5+Kg831. Qf5Bxb232. Qxe4c433. bxc4bxc434. Qxc4+White now wins easily. 34... R3d535. g4Kh836. g5Bd437. Bxd4Rxd438. Qf7R8d739. Qe8+Kh740. Qh5+Kg841. g6Re442. Qh7+Kf843. Qh8+Ke744. Qxg7+Ke645. Qh8Rd3+46. Kh2
Top level players will now have a couple weeks off before they head to Baku for the Chess Olympiad, which begins Sept. 1.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 5 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players