Sinquefield Cup 2016 – Round 9 – So Wins!
In the last round So chose the the most reliable of all weapons, the Berlin, to draw against Vachier. This draw secured him at least a tie break, had one (or more) of his immediate followers won. Vachier went for the endgame and in spite of his optimism during the game So was never really in any danger. In a tournament where wins were at a premium the dry pragmatic approach was by far the best strategy.
Of the immediate followers only Topalov had a chance to catch him, and he had a big one. He applied pressure on Aronian, who was uncharacteristically wobbly in defence. Topalov missed several winning chances and eventually had to concede the draw. I already wrote about Topalov’s algorithm for finding and playing moves and as I predicted this cannot get you far against the elite – you need to be precise, direct and forceful to win a winning position. Unfortunately for Topalov this happened in the most important game of the tournament for him. But he seemed well aware of all this, as he admitted that he missed tournament victory not only in this game, but also in some previous games. This is all result of his approach not to try to play the best move at all times, so being a conscious decision he cannot really blame anyone but himself.
Nakamura seemed to overcome his illness quickly as he dispatched of Ding Liren in a spectacular fashion. A sweet ending of the tournament for him, although finishing on 50% is nothing to write home about. Worth noting though is his mental toughness as he managed to score wins immediately after his losses.
As for the Chinese, finishing on -1 probably means that he won’t be invited again. Wei Yi is the exciting new prospect and I expect to see him to become the regular Chinese guy at these supertournaments.
Anish Giri. Second last place in a row. The guy talks too much and even though I enjoy his nonsense immensely I think that perhaps he should be reminded that silence is golden. He was trolling Caruana for making 8 draws in a row, but the 9th game was between them and guess what – Caruana beat Giri, shutting him up both literally and figuratively. Giri won’t suffer the fate of the Chinese, he will still get a lot of invitations to elite events (the advantage of being a western star), so I expect him to be back, sooner or later. As for Caruana, he’s been inconspicuous lately, but always near the top, never a disastrous tournament (like Giri, for example), always keeping at least the minimum level. That is a sign of true class and I expect him to come to a new level in the near future.
Svidler and Anand drew a Spanish with d3 (Svidler has never been too fond of the Berlin endgame) to mutual satisfaction. Anand finished on shared second, another great result for him, while Svidler finished his mission in this tournament in the previous round, when he finally won a game.
To conclude I can only say what I already wrote about in my post on Round 5 – the players are incredibly strong and the elite is tightly packed with no one a clear favourite when Carlsen isn’t playing. In such events wins are very hard to get so people play conservatively, first and foremost trying to avoid a loss. Hence a lot of draws and solid play. When a player is out of form, like Giri and Svidler in this tournament, the other players try to pounce and take advantage of that. Before the tournament starts we have 10 favourites and the race being “slow and steady” the winner is usually decided in the last round (or a tie break). At least that is a positive for the spectators, keeping the intrigue until the end. Although, to be honest, I prefer a tournament where Carlsen is playing and wins with 2 rounds to spare!