Sinquefield Cup 2018 - Conclusion

What an exciting last round of the Sinquefield Cup yesterday. Before the last round Caruana was at +2. I was shared second (with a bunch of others) and had to win with white against Nakamura. The other players also had the overall Grand Chess Tour standing to think about, as the top four qualified for the final in London in December.

Wesley So didn’t show much ambition against Caruana and they drew relatively quickly. An hour or so later Aronian won against Grischuk after a really hard-fought game that could have gone either way. Aronian bravely sacrificed an exchange in a slightly worse position to benefit from Grischuks mounting time trouble in a complex middlegame.

I started 1.Nf3 but the game soon transposed to a Queens Gambit. It is a topical line slightly more pleasant for white. I was somewhat better when I spotted the Bxh6 variation played, and I thought it was more or less winning. Nakamura found the good defense Re8 and later I regretted my impatience. The doubling of rooks in the d-file wasn’t useful, and I should have just kept the rooks in the c-file and chosen the less ambitious Be5.

Anyhow, in a must win situation I had to keep pushing and just not give up. With four against three on the kingside and his a-pawn stuck on a7 white was better, but I did not  see how to make progress with both queen and a rook left, and was very relieved after his Qf7 allowing Qa2 to trade queens. Then I had something to work with although black was still far from losing. When he played g5, fixing his pawns on e5, f6 and g5, and allowing h5 the position became critical. He decided to just give up the a-pawn to activate his rook and probably thought he should hold. I thought it was just winning, and in the game continuation bringing the king to b8 and giving up the f3-pawn to get the king behind his pawns at e6 etc was a pretty straight forward win!

Having had two 2ndplaces this summer, I was thrilled to reach a three-way tie for first with Caruana and Aronian.

The Grand Chess Tour organizers had not changed the inadequate tie-break rules used last year of maximum two players in play-off. I did not intend to accept being part of a lottery drawing and discussed other options with Aronian (as Caruana was not present for the drawing). Caruana also had to play a rapid play-off against So for the qualification for the 4thspot in the London final, a play-off which he won today, and understandably didn‘t want a three-way play-off for the Sinquefield Cup in addition as well on the same day. But we all agreed that sharing first (and no play-off) was a viable option and the St.Louis Chess Club and arbiter magnanimously agreed.

The past five editions have seen five different winners (chronologically me, Caruana, Aronian, So and Vachier-Lagrave) and pointedly the three first of us all became repeat winners this yearJ

I had acclimatized well before the tournament, the openings went well and overall I’m satisfied with the result. Some of the challenges I’ve had with indecision and not having enough confidence in my own intuition earlier this year persisted throughout most of Sinquefield Cup as well, but I feel there has been significant progress compared to Norway Chess and especially Biel.

Tomorrow I’m returning to Norway and will probably only play the European Club Cup mid October prior to the World Championship Match in London in November.

I’d like to thank the organizer and the Sinquefield’s for this great event and hope to be back next year!