With the Sinquefield Cup, which is being held at Saint Louis, USA, crossing its midway mark and entering the crucial last stretch of the event, caution seems to be the reason behind the low number of decisive games in the tournament, so far.
This is the last qualification event of the Grand Chess Tour. The top four players of the overall standings of the tour qualify for the final event to be held at London in December, 2018. Hence, it is obvious that no one would play recklessly in the initial phase and bow out of the leading pack, thus ruling themselves out of the race. That explains why just five games have produced results so far, out of the total 25.
When we look at the current standings of the Grand Chess Tour at the of the recent Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz, it is obvious that Hikaru Nakamura (33 points) enjoys a big lead over the next three — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (25), Sergey Karjakin (24) and Wesley So (23), who are separated from each other by just a single point. Levon Aronian (19) and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (15) too have good chances, as their relative finish in comparison to those placed above them in the league standings, is more important than how high they themselves have finished in the Sinquefield Cup.
This is where the difference in points, awarded in the current event, is significant compared to the previous three events. The events at Leuven, Paris and Saint Louis (Rapid & Blitz) were a combination of speed chess events. The Sinquefield Cup is the only event in the Tour that is conducted under the classical time control with a game theoretically capable to last a maximum or even more than six hours. Hence, the points awarded are much higher than the previous tournaments. Anyone who wins the event outright without any ties, will even pick up 2 bonus points.
A careful calculation of the points system for the Sinquefield Cup will thus reveal that the competition is liberally open even now for a ticket to London, given that most of the players in the leader board, up to Alexander Grischuk, are in with a chance.
However, a standing of the current tournament will also reveal that it is a completely chaotic scenario right now. Starting with Nakamura, all the leaders of the Grand Chess Tour occupy the bottom of the points table at the Sinquefield Cup! In this scenario, the presence of Magnus Carlsen as the ‘wild card’ for the event is an even bigger factor, as he is capable of winning the tournament, though not part of the Grand Chess Tour at all.
In the overall scenario, it can be established that the last four rounds are going to be crucial for all those in the race for a berth in the final. For example, though Nakamura occupies the last place in the tournament right now, he cannot be ruled out to stage a comeback though he needs to win at least two more games to be able to finish at least fourth in the Grand Chess Tour standings. Such a task is cut out for him as he is scheduled to play world champion, Carlsen, in the final round.
Another significant factor of the current tournament is that, there is a pack of five players leading the event with just 3 points from five games. This means that it is almost not significant to be in the lead now, as even the pack of these five players can be overtaken by those below them, if anyone scores heavily in the remaining rounds. Considering the average strength of the tournament, that looks highly unlikely.
It is a fact for Viswanathan Anand that he has remote chances to make the cut for the final four, but that is also a positive factor for him to concentrate only on the remaining rounds to aim for a good finish. As he has played relatively better in classical chess compared to the rapid events in the past few months, a good finish from Anand cannot be ruled out, in spite of his poor standing in the Grand Chess Tour rankings.
He is scheduled to play So (with Anand having black pieces), Alexander Grischuk (White), Fabiano Caruana (Black) and Mamedyarov (White) in the remaining rounds.
Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 23:15:28 IST