Sinquefield Cup 2015 – Round 1 – 5/5!

The second tournament of the Grand Chess Tour started with no less of a bang than the first one. All 5 games were decisive, quite a rare sight on this level.

Let’s start with the Carlsen. He lost to Topalov, with white, again. Topalov was Carlsen’s “customer” but two losses in a row with white against a customer speak volumes of one’s nerves. If the first loss was a bit unfortunate, then the second one was fully deserved. Instead of his usual water-squeezing Carlsen remembered his youth (!) and went for an irrational piece sacrifice. I am referring to his game with Topalov from Wijk 2012, where he also went berserk and sacrificed a lot of material, only that back then Topalov had more difficult problems to solve and failed to do so (you can see the game in the comments below). Today it was much easier for him. Strange chess from Carlsen, who by now should have recovered and regained his confidence and composure. He was complaining that he was blundering during the game, another bad sign, but sometimes these things go away once the player warms up. We will see if that will be the case with him.

The first game to finish was the game Aronian-Caruana. Just before the tournament Aronian was invited by Carlsen for a joint training camp and it seems it has done him a lot of good. He played confident chess and duly punished Caruana’s risky opening set-up. If Caruana wanted to play solid when choosing the QGD, then I don’t understand why he repeated the line from his game with Giri from Wijk this year, when it is obvious even to the untrained eye that black’s position is full of holes and weaknesses. Computers may be able to defend it, but once the human is forced to find the moves for himself, it becomes an impossible task. That is what happened in the game, which can serve as a scholarly example of how to exploit development advantage and a weak king.

If you still have the idea of Nakamura being a crazy katana-wielding samurai, you should banish that idea immediately. Nakamura has evolved and now he’s a dull, technical player. This change in style brought him stability and consistency and a steady 2800+ level. To play this kind of technical chess you need to be a superb calculator and we already know that Nakamura is one of those. So instead of trying to outplay his opponents in wild positions, where he can also go wrong and lose, he now plays dry and simple positions and there he tries to take advantage of their mistakes and his superior calculation skills. It is much less risky, as the worst that can happen to him is a draw. It is not really surprising though that Anand fell victim of this strategy – as Nakamura pointed out himself, at 45 Anand doesn’t have the same stamina (another important prerequisite for the good technical player) as his younger opponents. So sitting their hour after hour and solving all sorts of small problems is very unpleasant and eventually he succumbed. If this last sentence sounds like it was written before Anand’s match with Carlsen, that is another compliment for Nakamura!

It is difficult to write originally about Grischuk’s games. It’s always the same, thinking a lot, time-trouble, and then most probably a loss. The only difference in his game with Giri was that his position was also bad, as a result of a single mistake. From a Catalan the game transposed to the QID with 4 g3 and it is curious that Giri played this with black almost a year ago against Sargissian. Playing white this time Giri improved on Anand’s blitz game with Leko and won quickly.

So has a reputation of a well-prepared player, so it was surprising to see him lost with white in 15 moves against Vachier. I cannot see what he wanted to achieve in the opening, as the line he chose was known to be bad since the game Tatai-Karpov from 1977. Perhaps these young guys don’t check games older than themselves?

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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