Reports Sep 11, 2014 | 5:05 PMby Macauley Peterson

Sinquefield Cup: Ultimate Moves, Ultimate Showdown

Following the historic Sinquefield Cup, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis organized two additional exhibition events with the same top grandmasters who partook in the main tournament. On Monday, "Ultimate Moves" featured a lively series of rapid and blitz games with all six players plus Yasser Seirawan and special guest Garry Kasparov! The novel format saw the players divided into two teams to assist either CCSCSL founder Rex Sinquefield or his son Randy.

First, two rapid games were played during which each player on a team alternated making groups of five moves.

Rex and Randy began and then, after five moves, the first pair of GMs provided a rare photo opportunity: Garry Kasparov was playing Magnus Carlsen!

Magnus Carlsen faces his former trainer Garry Kasparov over the board, albeit just for show | photo: Lennart Ootes

Levon Aronian followed Carlsen, and Maurice Ashley, providing color commentary from upstairs with the players for a change, asked Magnus if he was confident about his team's position:

I thought I'd put the pieces in kind of strange positions because I know Levon enjoys improving bad pieces. He enjoys playing instructive chess to teach — especially Maxime — but also the rest of us a bit about the basics of chess.

Part of the interest in an event of this kind comes from the players being allowed to talk — even trash talk — during an ongoing game.

The first game unfortunately ended abruptly after Rex hung his queen in his second opportunity at the board. The start of the second game offered a chance for Veselin Topalov to drop a wonderfully dry bit of sarcasm, when asked for his team's strategy in game two:

We just have to be solid, and then Randy will find some way to win.

The game ended in a draw, giving "Team Randy" the win in the rapid portion, 1.5 to 0.5. You can watch both games with live commentary below:


For the second half of the show, each Sinquefield played tandem blitz with one member of their "bench" per game, alternating moves. If one side won, the opposing team's GM was eliminated from play. The match continued until one side no longer had any GMs left.

This time "Team Rex" emerged victorious 3.5 to 2.5. The ninth and final game of the day was an all-Sinquefield affair, but one in which the grandmasters were encouraged to kibitz .

Replay all the games in our Watch Live Tournaments area. We've also extracted all seven individual videos of the blitz games for your enjoyment on our Livestream event and Facebook pages. The one that has attracted the most interest by far is the blitz game with Carlsen and Kasparov as partners:

Kasparov showed no mercy, and demonstrated his famous ruthlessness and ambition at the chessboard, even in a event that was just for fun. He and Rex took down Carlsen and Aronian before falling to the Randy / Hikaru Nakamura tandem team when Rex made an illegal move (resulting in a loss under blitz rules).

13th World Champion Garry Kasparov, still fearsome at the board | photo: Lennart Ootes


After the game Kasparov praised the trajectory of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in helping revive a sense of fun in the game.

I'm leaving the Saint Louis Chess Club with great satisfaction. I made quite a contribution to the overall victory of our team... It's not so much the result as it's a huge celebration for the game of chess and that's why I'm very proud to be a part of it.


Ultimate Moves was followed the next day by Ultimate Showdown, a Chess960 match between Nakamura and Aronian. The two had faced off in the last edition of the Chess960 "World Championship" in 2009, as part of the Mainz Chess Classic which, over a decade long run, brought to international prominence the variant developed by Bobby Fischer as "Fischer Random Chess ".

In 2009, Nakamura won handily, taking the first three games, and he started well in St. Louis as well, going up 2.5 to 0.5. But this time Aronian battled back in Game 4. In the following position after Black's 30th move, Nakamura allowed an unusual mating motif to appear on the board:

31. ♗d4??

White could hang on with (e.g.) 31. ♖e4 ♖a2 32. ♗g1 ♘f3+ 33. ♔h1 ♘e5 34. ♖d4

31... ♘xg4+ 32. ♔h3 ♖f1!  and Nakamura resigned in view of 33. ♔xg4

Or 33. ♗g1 ♔h5 34. ♖xg4 ♖xg1 35. ♔h2 ♔xg4 36. ♔xg1 ♔xg3 with a winning pawn ending.♔xg3

33... f5+ 34. ♔h3 ♖h1#

Aronian won the fifth game as well to draw even in the match. The last game was extremely close until it reached this position:


Sinquefield Cup: Ultimate Showdown, Game 6

Here, with just seconds on the clock, Aronian played 60.Ra6?, and after 60...Kf5, found himself in zugzwang !

The rook can't move because of Rb1+ winning the knight, and either Ka5 or Ka4 is met by Rb1 as well. The knight will still fall or else it's checkmate!

Although sharing the "Ultimate" moniker, Ultimate Showdown was decidedly low-key, with no webcast live commentary, and just a small in-person audience. A video account of the match is forthcoming, however, from Spectrum Studios, the co-producers of the live commentary webcast during the Sinquefield Cup.

The CCSCSL are planning a further match that will include classical and rapid games between Nakamura and Aronian for November.


Were you watching this event? What was your favorite moment of GM banter?


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