Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Chess: Viswanathan Anand ends tournament with a bottom finish; Hikaru Nakamura wins event

American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura emerged as the winner of the Saint Louis leg of the Grand Chess Tour event, while Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave reigned supreme in the Blitz leg which concluded on Wednesday.

Former world champion Viswanathan Anand performed a shade better than the initial day of the Blitz, but continued his indifferent form at Missouri, USA. He scored 4 points from nine games on the last day of the blitz event, thereby finishing the leg with a total of 7.5 points from 18 games.

 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Chess: Viswanathan Anand ends tournament with a bottom finish; Hikaru Nakamura wins event

Vishwanathan Anand with Polish Grandmaster Grzegorz Gajewski at Saint Louis. Image courtesy: V.Saravanan

With this victory, Nakamura leapfrogged to the top of the leaderboard of the Grand Chess Tour with a total of 33 points. He is followed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (25), Sergei Karjakin (24) and Wesley So (23). With this finish Anand now languishes at the last place in the tour standings, and is virtually out of contention to qualify for the knockout final event that will be held in London in December 2018.

Unlike the first day of the event, on Wednesday, Anand started on a better note, with two draws against Vachier-Lagrave and Karjakin. He had lost to both of them on the previous day.

By design, the blitz event is a double round robin event with all the participants playing each other twice, with reversed colours on the second day, in the same order of pairings.

Anand followed up these two draws with a win over Wesley So, his manner of play was more impressive than his earlier games. Though he was down an exchange and fighting a difficult position, he cleverly outwitted his opponent, by applying relentless pressure in an inferior position. It was followed by an uneventful draw against Nakamura in the 13th round.

In a crucial game in the 14th round against World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana, Anand held his own for the length of the game, but blundered in a Queen and pawn ending to lose the game in the final minute of play, which subsequently weakened Anand’s resolve in the tournament. He ended his tournament with three further draws and a loss to Levon Aronian.


American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, winner of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz event, with his trophy. Photo - Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Though he struggled in the event, it was only a follow-up of his poor form in the Grand Chess Tour events this year. Though he was the winner of the World Rapid Championship and finished third in the World Blitz Championship in December 2017, he has been unable to reproduce that performance in faster time controls, besides winning the Rapid section of the Tal Memorial tournament in March 2018.

It emphasizes the need for Anand to reinvent himself in the faster formats of the game, an area where he excelled for the first two decades of his career, distinguishing himself as one of the best in the world ever with his natural talents and instincts for the game.

Final standings of the Blitz event:

1: Vachier-Lagrave – 13.5 points out of a possible 18 games
2: Nakamura – 10.5
3: Aronian – 9.5
4 – 6: Grischuk, Mamedyarov & Caruana – 9
7: Karjakin – 8
8: Anand – 7.5
9-10: So & Dominguez – 7

Combined final standings of Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz event:

1: Nakamura – 22.5 points of a total possible 36 points
2: Vachier-Lagrave – 21.5
3: Mamedyarov – 21
4: Caruana – 20
5: Aronian – 18
6: Karjakin – 17
7: Dominguez – 16
8: Grischuk – 15.5
9: So – 15
10: Anand – 13.5

Updated Date: Aug 17, 2018 08:50:57 IST