Sin­que­field Cup 2014 Half way

| Chess
| St. Louis, USA

In the first half we saw 10 deci­sive games out of the 15 excit­ing games, and Caru­ana cruis­ing through the field with a highly impres­sive 5/5.

In round one as black against Vachier-Lagrave I accepted his invi­ta­tion to play a sharp line. Unfor­tu­nately he seemed bet­ter pre­pared, but I man­aged to find the right con­tin­u­a­tion. The ensu­ing bat­tle was tense and sharp all through the game. He found a per­pet­ual at the end. If felt great to play in St.Louis once again!

I was black again against Naka­mura in round two, where I went for an unusual side­line. My oppo­nent chose the safe rather than risky con­tin­u­a­tion both in the open­ing and in the mid­dle game. I allowed the awk­ward look­ing pawn struc­ture in the cen­tre with my pawns on d4 and d6, with just enough time to cre­ate a king side attack before he could round up my d4-pawn. He wisely allowed a per­pet­ual, and in lack of any bet­ter alter­na­tive for me, we drew well before the time con­trol. Caru­ana won against Vachier-Lagrave with a nov­elty in a sharp Caro-kann and Aronian’s bish­ops came alive to fin­ish off Topalov after the lat­ter won an exchange out of the opening.

With white against Caru­ana I made sev­eral mis­takes in the open­ing, and by the time I under­stood I was worse I was already in trou­ble. When he allowed the inter­est­ing bishop sac­ri­fice on f7 I felt the game could go either way. Despite the ensu­ing com­pli­ca­tions, he played the rest of the game very accu­rately. Hav­ing missed his great Nd3 resource I ended up a pawn down with­out much hope of sal­va­tion, when I even blun­dered hor­ri­bly just before the time con­trol los­ing immediately.

In round 4 with white against Topalov I had a strong ini­tia­tive in the mid­dle game with ample com­pen­sa­tion for the sac­ri­ficed pawn. My e4-plan was dubi­ous as he could sac­ri­fice back a pawn to reach an equal end­ing. I seem­ingly tried very hard to lose the game, over-pressing well beyond being in con­trol. If he had seen Rc5 I would have had to find some really accu­rate defen­sive moves to save the draw. He didn’t, and we swapped all pieces and drew with kings and one knight left each.

Despite play­ing below par in round 3 and 4, it didn’t feel as if I was doing as bad over­all as the mea­ger 1.5/4 would indi­cate, and it felt great to win with black in round 5 against Aron­ian. A fairly decent game by me, but win­ning with black usu­ally requires some assis­tance from your oppo­nent as well. A pawn down he seemed to be defend­ing. His Nb3 was a mis­take, and maybe the 5 against 4 pawn-ending can be held for white but it is pretty dif­fi­cult. Instead of push­ing g6 he could have cho­sen the 3 ver­sus 2 pawn end­ing where I would have had a passed pawn in the e-file. That might also be a the­o­ret­i­cal draw, but in prac­tice it is very dif­fi­cult to defend. Finally I got my first vic­tory in this event, and Topalov and I are an ocean of points (2.5) behind Caru­ana with 5 rounds to go.

On the rest day today we played golf at the excel­lent 1904 Olympic course at Glen Echo, and later there was The Burn­ing Boards event at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the evening. Tues­day at 2 pm local time I’m white against Vachier-Lagrave