General Aug 18, 2018 | 10:26 AMby Colin McGourty

Magnus is back as the 2018 Sinquefield Cup begins

World Champion Magnus Carlsen will play Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave today as the 2018 Sinquefield Cup starts in St. Louis. The Norwegian had already made it to the city for the Ultimate Moves exhibition, where the emphasis was all on fun, but at the opening ceremony for the main event there was tension as Caruana responded to what he perceived as trash talk with, “I think the last few months I’ve generally won tournaments in which Magnus is playing!” It’s clear the last classical event before their match means something to both players.

Magnus Carlsen joined the fun for the UItimate Moves exhibition match | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour 

The Sinquefield Cup and the Sinquefield Cup players need absolutely no introduction, so let’s just stick to the raw facts. The action starts today at 13:00 local time (20:00 CEST), and the pairings are as follows:

You can watch all the action live with commentary in English (Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley), Russian (Peter Svidler and Evgeny Miroshnichenko) and Spanish (David Martinez). For the best viewing experience (no ads, unrestricted chat, full access to the instant database and opening book, cloud engine analysis of any move you make on the live board) as well as access to hundreds of hours of exclusive videos and much more, now would be a great time to Go Premium. Only during the tournament if you use the voucher code SINQUEFIELD2018 while purchasing a $/€99 1-year Premium Membership you’ll get 3 months extra free – which works out at just 6.60 per month!     

Fighting talk at the Opening Ceremony

For the third time in a week most of the world’s best players sat in a long line for a ceremony in the St. Louis Hall of Fame. If you missed it live you can watch it all below:

The speeches came in the same order and some of the jokes were well-worn, so it was perhaps no surprise that not all of the audience members gave their undivided attention 

One difference was that our tweeter above, Chris Bird, was called up to receive the US Chess Federation’s Tournament Director of the Year award. He’ll be the Chief Arbiter for the Sinquefield Cup. The main difference from the previous two ceremonies, though, was that Magnus Carlsen was in the line-up. It changes things when he’s around, as Hikaru Nakamura explained:

Magnus is the World Champion and any tournament that he’s not in generally is not viewed in the same way as a tournament that he competes in. If you can play in a field with Magnus and win a tournament it’s very special, so I think it’s going to be a very interesting event and yes, Magnus is the best right now, so I think we’ll all just do our best and try and finish ahead of him!

Magnus himself commented of his chances of winning:

It’s been a long time coming. I won the first one and then I haven’t since, so I hope to do better this year, and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t!

It’s unlikely Magnus will later call a press conference to explain he meant to say “I should”, since false modesty has never been his thing! The list of Sinquefield Cup winners, meanwhile, is a curious one, as pointed out by many of the players:

  • 2013: Magnus Carlsen
  • 2014: Fabiano Caruana
  • 2015: Levon Aronian
  • 2016: Wesley So
  • 2017: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Vishy Anand:

As Jeanne and Rex have pointed out several times to me, there are no repeat winners so far, so I’d like to maintain that tradition, and hopefully it will be me!

Wesley So meanwhile hoped someone (i.e. himself) would manage to win a second time, while Levon Aronian pointed out he has experience there:

Last year I managed to be the first one to win the World Cup twice, so I think that’s a good tendency!

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave mused, “I have very sweet memories of last year, and they say the second time tastes even better than the first”. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov commented, “I don’t think about results because Carlsen’s here”, though that should be taken with more than a pinch of salt given Mamedyarov is fresh from winning Biel ahead of Magnus!

The most bland answer came from Sergey Karjakin, who began, “Of course I will try to do my best”. When Maurice Ashley then mentioned that Alexander Grischuk was, “not necessarily considered a favourite to win this event” it set up the perfect trolling opportunity!

Grischuk even got to do a literal mike drop at the end.

The kid's come a long way | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour 

The moment that will most be remembered from the ceremony, though, was the commencement of hostilities before the World Championship in November. It was a curious moment, since what was taken by the largely US crowd, and Fabi, to be trash-talking from Magnus probably wasn’t, though it was at least mischievous that Magnus took Maurice to be talking about the Grand Chess Tour final in London, when he was obviously talking about the match:

Maurice Ashley: Does a victory here mean anything as far as London is concerned?

Magnus Carlsen: Well, not for me, but I think Fabi needs to win the tournament to get to London… being the Grand Chess Tour final, not the World Championship final.

Fabiano Caruana: Well, I think the last few months I’ve generally won tournaments in which Magnus is playing in, so…

Magnus Carlsen: I didn’t mean to trash talk, I meant to just state something factual. But no, obviously he’s proved many times that he can win tournaments with me in them, so that was not a point at all.

Judge for yourself:

The Grand Chess Tour standings are something of a sore point for Fabiano, by the way, since even the 20 points he would get for an outright win of the Sinquefield Cup might not place him in the top four that qualify for the Grand Chess Tour final in London:

The players also answered a question from Mike Klein on who they’d like to author their definitive games collection. Some answers included:

Grischuk: Either myself or no-one. I cannot envision anyone else starting on this job.

Karjakin: I want that Giri will write a book about me. That would be my dream… because he likes trash-talking very much and he would say so many funny things. It will be brilliant.

Carlsen: Nah, I mean, I don’t care… Like, I probably wouldn’t read it anyway!

MVL: I’m a bit of a sadist, so I think Magnus would be so pissed off having to work on something – I’ll pick him! (Magnus: How much would you pay? MVL: A lot!)

So (after Nakamura had already said Kasparov): If Garry ever writes a book about us it will be called, “My Great Successors”. Aronian: “I think if Garry would write a book it would be called ‘Inglourious Basterds’”!

Ultimate Moves

That awkward moment when you blunder mate-in-1 just after the World Champion has sat down opposite you... | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour 

Magnus only had to accept a handshake from Mamedyarov after Rex blundered his queen in another game | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour 

Maxime: "I'm not going to resign against you!" | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour 

Usually, as the name implies, the Ultimate Moves exhibition takes place after all the serious chess action is over in St. Louis, but this time it was sandwiched between the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz and the Sinquefield Cup. Fortunately, however, that didn’t make it any more serious. Rex Sinquefield and his son Randy again led teams that alternated moves in a 6-game match:

Team RandyTeam Rex
Randy SinquefieldRex Sinquefield
Magnus CarlsenFabiano Caruana
Levon AronianSergey Karjakin
Hikaru NakamuraMaxime Vachier-Lagrave
Alexander GrischukWesley So
Leinier DominguezShakhriyar Mamedyarov
Viswanathan AnandPeter Svidler

This time it was Team Randy who got off to a flying start and eventually sealed the match with a game to spare. You can replay the games using the selector below:

No-one watches the event for its chess content, though, so you really have to see the live show to relive the action!

When it came to trash-talk everyone was getting involved (Grischuk: “We have more time, more space, better players!”), but the show belonged to Levon Aronian, whose bon-mots included:

This is my opening. I’m just looking at them and the class that they’re producing, especially from the white side, is extraordinary. (on a bad position for the opposing team)

We want to make it clear that the score reflects the real difference in the quality of the teams.

Don’t let (your teammates) destroy your faith in humanity!  (Svidler: You’ve known me for a long time, I have no faith in humanity)

We’re lacking a pawn – the structure is generally better the less pawns you have!

Everyone turns to Levon for words of wisdom | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour 

An exchange between Peter Svidler and Maurice Ashley summed up the day:

Maurice: Levon’s trash-talking didn’t affect you?

Peter: I have met him before!

Magnus Carlsen, meanwhile, had the best tweet in the run-up to the Sinquefield Cup:

Will he play the Hippopotamus against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 1? We’ll soon find out. Watch all the action live here on chess24 from 13:00 local time (20:00 CEST)!

See also:

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