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Sinquefield Cup: Viswanathan Anand in hunt for top four finish with draw; Alexander Grischuk bags only win of third round

Caution seemed to be the principle of the majority of players in the starting rounds of the Sinquefield Cup being held at Saint Louis in the USA, as the third round too ended with three games being drawn in just two hours. Since almost all the players are coming off playing the stressful Saint Louis Blitz & Rapid tournament which ended just 4 days ago, many seem to be not taking chances with their stamina and energy levels.

Also as this tournament is the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour which will decide the four players who will qualify for the final knockout tournament to be held at London in December 2018, many seem to be treading cautiously. Since more than half the players of the tournament have theoretical chances to still make the cut of top four, many do not seem ready to rush in with sharp strategies in the initial rounds.

Russian Alexander Grischuk was the only winner in the 3rd round of the Sinquefield Cup | Photo – Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Russian Alexander Grischuk was the only winner in the 3rd round of the Sinquefield Cup | Photo – Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

Just like the previous round, there was only one winner in Alexander Grischuk, who thus joined Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in lead on 2 points.

Comparatively speaking, since Viswanathan Anand was placed at the bottom of the tour points table, he seemed to be willing to take more risks to give his best shot at finishing in the top of his tournaments. His choice of opening for the 3rd round was a clear indication, as he adopted the sharp Open variation of the Ruy Lopez opening with black pieces. In modern chess, playing sharp opening variations with black pieces is a double-edged weapon exposing a player to risks, even if it increases the chance of creating possibilities to strive for the initiative.

But Anand has played such openings all through his career, being one of the best opening theoreticians of the modern era, being feared by his opponents for his famous ideas which have tilted crucial games in his favour. It was also a clever ploy by Anand to employ one such opening in the 3rd round, as Sergey Karjakin has suffered losses in the both the initial rounds, and was bound to be low on confidence.

It reflected in Karjakin's response to Anand's opening choice, as he steered clear of the main lines which pose serious problems for black, and employed a comparatively quieter system playing his Bishop to e3. This probably made Anand's job of equalising with black pieces much easier, as he made simple equalising moves and by the 18th move did not have much problems to solve. The game ended in a draw in 37 moves, when the players repeated the position thrice.

In fact, the number of moves played in the game could have been much lesser, but for a novel rule followed in this tournament. The Sinquefield Cup is enforcing the players not to agree for a draw by mutual consent in any position, which is a new practice. This means that, the players have to continue playing till they reach a 'dead drawn endgame' or if a particular position is repeated three times. Though the latter rule gets enforced regularly in competitive chess, the former clause might bring a new element towards Arbiters' chess playing abilities. Currently, Arbiters are only expected to have reasonable working knowledge of chess, their understanding levels of the game not stressed to be of any calibre. But to enforce this new rule, Arbiters of the game might have to be good at the playing aspects too.

Though only two of the games ended up being well fought, Fabiano Caruana once again settled for a draw with black pieces against Mamedyarov, in a game which seemed to hold much promise for him but still not enough to press for a win.

The clash of the day was between American Hikaru Nakamura and Russian Alexander Grischuk, where the latter was surprisingly dominating from the beginning, and ended up being the winner in a well-fought game in the 6th hour of play. Only, the end of the game proved to be thrilling, with both the players down to their final minute and playing with the 30-second time delay which gets added after every move, having exhausted their first 100 minutes for completing 40 moves and the further 30 minutes which are given for the rest of the game.

Results (3rd Round):

Aronian (2) drew Carlsen (2)

Karjakin (0.5) drew Anand (1.5)

Mamedyarov (2) drew Caruana (1.5)

Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) drew So (1)

Nakamura (1) lost to Grischuk (2)


Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 13:34 PM