Sinquefield Cup: Viswanathan Anand shows trademark clarity to begin campaign with draw against Hikaru Nakamura

Viswanathan Anand began his campaign in the Sinquefield Cup on a satisfactory note, as he held the Grand Chess Tour leader and the winner of Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, Hikaru Nakamura to a draw in a positional game arising out of a Queens Gambit declined with black pieces. Conducting the game with trademark clarity, Anand was never in trouble throughout the game, and achieved equality in the opening stage itself and coasting to a draw in 29 moves.

Viswanathan Anand put up a solid performance to draw against Hikaru Nakamura in the first round of the Sinquefield Cup. Image Courtesy: Saint Louis Chess Club /Lennart Ootes

Viswanathan Anand put up a solid performance to draw against Hikaru Nakamura in the first round of the Sinquefield Cup. Image Courtesy: Saint Louis Chess Club/Lennart Ootes

For the past few years in top level chess, a novel concept is in practice named as ‘Confessional Booth’. During the game, the players are encouraged to enter the booth and ‘confess’, about their own game or any other topic shortly, which will remain secret from the other players at the time of play, but which will be seen live by online audience with video and audio. Though, Anand is not a frequent visitor to such booths in the past, he preferred to enter the booth towards the end of his game on Saturday and ‘confessed’ that he had in fact not anlaysed a move played by Nakamura in the middlegame stages. Hence, he admitted to playing moves which did not commit much in terms of own plan, but kept the position solid.

At the highest levels of chess, such a style of strategic play is branded as ‘Being instead of Doing’. To define, to play the middlegame not committing one’s pawns and pieces to any particular action or plan, but to simply keep all options for one’s own forces and keeping them in active squares. Which also means that it is only when one of the sides opts to formulate a plan and make active looking moves, there arise chances that the side will create weaknesses in his own camp and expose himself to the opponent’s probing. Instead, when he conducts the game with precise positional moves keeping strict vigil on the opponent’s plans, does he succeed in keeping his position free of weaknesses. However, such a strategy cannot exist in dynamic positions, when the pieces have to attain maximum activity and caution is thrown to the winds.

Ever since he became one of the best players of the world, Anand has been famous for his defensive technique when he plays black pieces, especially against the queen’s pawn opening setups. It was such a position that he achieved against Nakamura on Saturday.

Such a manner of play and result was admirable for Anand at the start of the tournament, as he had only two days to recover between the tournaments, and also played with black in the very round against Nakamura.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian scored smooth victories against Wesley So and Sergei Karjakin respectively, to emerge as the only winners in the first round. Fatigue and tiredness seemed to be the reasons behind the defeats of both So and Karjakin, known to be two of the finest positional players in the world currently. While So played inexplicably weak moves in the middlegame to enter a difficult endgame and lost, Karjakin entered an ending from the Berlin defence of the Ruy Lopez, where he lost his way towards the end of the game while defending a difficult position.

Talking about tiredness from the previous tournament and how a player can recover, Aronian came up with a curious explanation, “Your energy levels go up when you win, when you play well. When you win events or finish in the top three places you gain energy! It is kind of a strange thing, energy, it is always very random…” to explain a complex topic.

Vachier-lagrave and Carlsen drew their mutual encounter from a locked-up middlegame position arising out of an irregular Sicilian Defence opening, while Caruana drew his game against Grischuk unable to make progress in a favourable looking endgame arising out of the not-so-popular Hungarian Defence opening.

Results: (1st round)

Aronian (1) Beat Karjakin (0)
Mamedyarov (1) Beat So (0)
Vachier-Lagrave (1/2) Drew Carlsen (1/2)
Nakamura (1/2) Drew Anand (1/2)
Caruana (1/2) Drew Grischuk (1/2)

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Updated Date: Aug 19, 2018 16:43:20 IST

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