This year's Sinquefield Cup has given us quite a bit:
However, it's all over now. Back to real life.
Here's what happened in Round 10, in chronological order:
The fight for best player not named Fabiano (and the $75,000 second prize) was over before it began. With Carlsen half a point ahead of Topalov, he played it safe:
1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 ♘c6 3. ♗b5 ♘f6 4. 0-0 ♘xe4 Brr, another Berlin. I don't get these endings! However, Carlsen clearly does. With a draw guaranteeing him clear second place, it is no surprise he returns to his solid main weapon.
14... ♗xd2! Of course!
15... ♘d4! Still nothing new. However, Black already looks totally fine to me. With Nd4 he seizes his chance to reroute the tradtional Berlin problem horse on f5 to a nice post on e6. Get in h5-h4 now to restrict White's standard plan of g4, f4, f5 and Black can start thinking about more than equality.
a) 17... h5 was mentioned by Carlsen after the game. Only Black can be better. 18. f4 ♗d3 And a light-square blockade is in the making. 19. g4 (19. ♔f2 ♔e7 20. ♘f3 h4=/+ Zhigalko,S (2587)-Mastrovasilis,A (2486), Budva 2009 1/2-1/2 (35)) 19... hxg4 20. hxg4 ♖h4! is no good
b) 17... ♗d3
I don't blame them. Topalov got lost in the Berlin jungle of lines and could only avoid the repetition by getting a slightly worse position against the World Champion.
He has good reasons to be happy with his result, let's not forget that 0/2 start! As a natural fighter, the brutal pace of the event seemed right up his street. The Olympiad and this one pretty much confirm there is still plenty of great chess left in the 39-year-old Bulgarian.
It even looks like Silvio has forgiven him for the move repetition!
Carlsen probably had less reasons to be excited about the final result, but he was not playing for more than second place (which he got) in this one either.
Then there are the added storylines:
Speaking of human, in Caruana's case we weren't all that sure at some point. After 7/7, rumours began to spread, ranging from Jor-El being his biological father to his adopting a new diet.
None of those were true, of course. And most of them were started by us. The streak is over, the glory remains. 9/9 was certainly on the boards, but going into the last round on 8/9 can hardly be called a disaster either. He is human, humans get tired, but even tired humans can still play chess pretty well:
1. ♘f3 No 1. d4 from Levon this time around. No 1. e4 either - his one recent outing with it didn't go well for him as a last-round weapon in the Candidates Tournament. However, 1. Nf3/1. c4 have been more en vogue than ever in top-level chess. We haven't seen it all that much in this tournament, but that might have been due to the higher proportion of 1. e4 guys (MVL, Topalov, Nakamura) than in some others. Yeah, I know they can all go 1. d4/1. Nf3 too, but e4 guys are less dependent on the English than pure closed game players like Levon.
1... c5 Not afraid of 2. e4!?
7... ♗e7 has been the main line here, but defending the resulting IQP pawn positions is not to everybody's liking either. Caruana chooses a more concrete line.
8. ♘xd4 ♘xc3 9. bxc3 ♘xd4 10. cxd4⁉ But that is a surprise, at least to me. White keeps queens on the board and is willing to give up his rights to castle in return. I used to think that the endgame after
12... ♗d6 A natural enough novelty, played after some thought. Do central control and active pieces outweigh a king on f1? We shall see.
12... ♗e7 had been seen before, but d6 is just a better square, controlling and potentially preparing e5.
13. h4⁉ Multi-purpose! The king might gain a future home at h2 - don't blunder Qxh4+! - at the same time both Bg5 and h5-h6 could feature in Aronian's plans.
14... h6 15. e4⁈ This move reeks a little bit of overextension. White seizes the center, but with his king on f1 and the rook therefore out of play on h1, he is not fully ready to do battle in it. The quiet
15. ♖h4⁉ looks odd, but it could be a way to include this guy into the game. As I read in some old book, people are obsessed with open files for the rooks, but we tend to forget about open ranks! 15... b6 16. ♕d3 ♗b7 17. d5 would be a scenario where the rook gets a nice view on the 4th floor.
15. ♗f3 , planning Kg2, would keep the position balanced.
15... b6 preparing Bb7 or Ba6 while making sure this pawn is safe once and for all.
15... e5 came into consideration as well 16. ♗b2 (16. d5 looks like a bad idea. The passer is safely blockaded and Black can choose between mobilising his queenside and looking for a timely f5 ; 16. ♗e3 exd4 17. ♕xd4 ♗e6 ) 16... ♕a5! when only Black can be better.
16... e5! Now White was ready to go e5 followed by Qg4, but Caruana nips the attack in the bud.
17. dxe5 Pretty much forced.
22... ♗d1 23. ♔f2 ♖fd8⁉ might be good too, but it looks a tad artificial. And surely finishing the tournament without a loss must be somewhere in the back of Caruana's head. Bxh3 makes sure he can never be worse.
23. ♖xh3 ♖bc8 This endgame is pretty much a Grünfeld player's dream. Queenside majority, lead in development and the open c-file for the rooks. Here it's even the open c and d-files. In the Grünfeld White tends to have at least a passed pawn on d5 for his troubles. Still, if Black can win this is very much an open question.
24. ♖h2! Keeping an eye on c2.
24... ♖fd8⁈ This might be a tiny inaccuracy, but what could be more natural? Don't rooks belong on open files?
25. ♖b3! Aronian uses his rooks very well too. They look less pretty than their black counterparts and their open files, but they do a decent defensive job to cover the entry squares on c2 and d3. Oh, a3 is under attack, too.
25... ♗c1 Consistent - Caruana is still trying to create entry squares for his rook. He tries to clear c1. However, material is reduced further and a draw is the most likely result by now.
27... ♔f8 28. e5 ♖c5 29. ♔g2 ♔e7 I don't expect a lot of action ahead. Draws are only allowed after move 30 (unless you find a move repetition between moves 16 and 19). I would not expect this game to last much longer. White has consolidated, but Black has been solid from the start.
8.5/10. A 3098 performance. 2836 on the rating list.
A real discussion as to who's the strongest player in the world at this moment.
Congratulations, Fabiano Caruana!
As for Levon Aronian, I've no doubts he'll be back. He is pretty good at chess.
I have to admit I followed this game less closely. A 6.h3 Najdorf turned into a Sveshnikov structure. The black bishop pair compensated for his weakness on d6 and the strong squares for the white knights.
MVL played great chess at the start of the event but ran out of steam near the end. He did achieve his goal of avoiding a collapse by finishing with two draws. He'll be back.
The US number 1 Hikaru Nakamura has already said he can't wait for 2014 to end. Less than 4 months to go!
2014 Sinquefield Cup Final Standings
Caruana maintained his 3(!) point lead.
All that was left was a final press conference with all six players.
The greatest laugh was generated by a certain Magnus Carlsen when Fabiano's rivals were asked to describe his performance in a single word:
Can you do any better in the comments below? In any case, the Sinquefield Cup has been a blast!
Time for one last recap:
Thanks to Rex Sinquefield and the team at the St. Louis Chess Club for putting together this fantastic event. We want more. Just start the rounds at 9am next year, please.
And thanks to Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan and Jen Shahade.
Great job guys!
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