Sinquefield Cup: Viswanathan Anand remains unbeaten after playing draw with Levon Aronian in fifth round

Viswanathan Anand comfortably drew his game against Levon Aronian with black pieces in the 5th round of the Sinquefield Cup held at Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, to maintain his even score in the tournament. He has played steadily in the tournament so far, drawing all his games and remaining unbeaten. All the other games ended in a draw too, making the leaderboard unchanged, with five players on lead with 3 points each.

Anand is now tied for 6th – 7th places in the standings with 2.5 points out of 5 rounds.

Anand's 5th round game, though comparatively void of colour and thus not seemingly attractive for an average spectator, also allows a glimpse into opening preparation at topmost levels of chess, the difficulty in playing the black pieces, and the level of memory necessary to play openings successfully to stay at the elite levels.

 Sinquefield Cup: Viswanathan Anand remains unbeaten after playing draw with Levon Aronian in fifth round

Vishwanathan Anand in action against Armenian Levon Aronian. V Saravanan

Being a top tournament for the best of the world, the rounds do not offer any 'easy pairings' in an event like the Sinquefield Cup. All the players are of the highest calibre, and thus safely assumed to possess precise opening knowledge, and top quality and up-to-date opening preparation. Thus, in such a tournament, the luck of the draw is of some significance, as half the players will get an 'extra white' against the other half with an 'extra black'. That is, five of the players will play the tournament with 5 whites and 4 blacks, and others vice versa.

This doesn't look all that significant – probably it isn't! – but the difference cannot be dismissed lightly. At top round-robin chess tournaments, due to the strength of the players, most try to create winning chances while playing white pieces and are generally satisfied with a draw with black. At least, players tend to strive to equalize out of the opening when playing black pieces to nullify the disadvantage of following white who makes the first move. Playing for a win with black pieces tend to backfire most of the time, as a player will be left with weaknesses in his position if he throws caution to the winds in being aggressive.

The advent of multi-core computers has changed the landscape of opening preparation and chess itself in the last decade. As all the players are extremely well-prepared using computer databases and many have narrow opening repertoires – with not much of a variety – with black pieces, it becomes difficult to find an area in the opponent's arsenal where one can probe with a worked out concept at home. This is the reason for a high percentage of draws in top tournaments.

In the 5th round, Anand played the Queens Gambit Declined with black pieces against Levon Aronian, a solid opening but not threatening enough to pose any difficulties for white. Why did Anand choose such an opening?

"The Queen's Gambit is working well (for me), and I was happy to get an easy draw against Levon, as he is quite formidable with white.


I am trying (to play for wins), but you still have to play by the rules of the position. It is not even a question of playing sharp (variations), it is a question of finding the weak spots of the opponent.

It's not that I am trying to be solid, you have to play the move that is called for. Nonetheless, five draws still keep me in the race, which is important. If you are reckless, you might find yourself without a tournament to play!" were the words of wisdom from Anand on his opening choices.

So, Anand's famed opening preparation was once again on display against Aronian, as he introduced an improvement on the 16th move for black, equalized quickly and the game fizzled out into a draw in 36 moves.

Just as in the previous rounds, many games promised much only to deceive later and fizzle out into draws. Nakamura – Mamedyarov looked like a sharp tactical battle but liquidated into simplification, while Magnus Carlsen couldn’t make much headway even though he had two rooks and a dangerous passed pawn on the 7th rank against So Wesley’s lone queen.

Thursday will be a rest day and the tournament will resume on Friday (24  August). Four more games remain to be played.

Results (5th Round):

Aronian (3) Drew Anand (2.5)

Karjakin (1.5) Drew Grischuk (3)

Carlsen (3) Drew So (2)

Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) Drew Caruana (3)

Nakamura (1.5) Drew Mamedyarov (3)


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Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 13:59:28 IST