The Cream is Rising in Saint Louis

It turns out that ratings might be worth something after all.

While there’s good evidence that amateur ratings might be volatile after a long, pandemic-induced over-the-board shutdown, the highest rated players at the 2021 Sinquefield Cup are showing their mettle after three rounds.

Three of the five top-rated players in the field – GMs Fabiano Caruana (2806), Wesley So (2772), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2751) – are tied for first place at 2½/3, while the remaining two, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2782)and GM Leinier Dominguez (2758), are a half-point behind at 2/3.

Rd 3 results
Image Caption
courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

Thursday’s third round was an all-action affair, with four decisive games on tap. The shortest was a neat positional crush by So over GM Peter Svidler.

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.19"] [Round "3.1"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A37"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2714"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] 1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 c5 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 Nc6 5. Nf3 e5 {A "reverse Botvinnik-structure."} 6. a3 a5 $5 {Committal, and criticized by Grischuk.} ({ Svidler is trying to counteract this type of idea:} 6... Nge7 7. b4 {but then Black has the fully equalizing} d5 $1 {with the idea that} 8. bxc5 $6 O-O 9. cxd5 Nxd5 {is very nice for Black.}) 7. d3 Nge7 8. Nd2 $1 {A nice move-order nuance by So, starting the knight's long march to d5 before castling.} d6 9. Nf1 O-O 10. Ne3 Rb8 11. Rb1 Nd4 {The battle for two outposts - d4 and d5 - continues. (But note that White fundamentally owns d5, while Black can always be kicked back from d4 with an e2-e3 pawn push.) Meanwhile, White continues to organize the b2-b4 break.} 12. Bd2 Bd7 (12... b5 {seems a radical approach to the position, but the computer doesn't hate it:} 13. Nxb5 Nxb5 14. cxb5 Rxb5 15. Nc4 {[%csl Ga5]} (15. a4 Rb8 16. Nc4 Be6 {transposes}) 15... Be6 $5 16. a4 $140 Rb8 17. Nxa5 Ba2 (17... e4 $5)) 13. O-O Bc6 ({Known to theory is} 13... a4 $5 14. Nxa4 Nxe2+ 15. Qxe2 Bxa4 16. b4 Bc6 17. bxc5 (17. Bxc6 Nxc6 18. Nd5) 17... dxc5 18. Bxc6 Nxc6 19. Bc3 {1/2-1/2 (30) Loginov,V (2525)-Sher,M (2510) Ljubljana 1995}) 14. b4 axb4 15. axb4 cxb4 {Perhaps inaccurate, although it's hard to suggest anything dramatically better!} (15... b6 16. Bxc6 Ndxc6 17. b5 Nd4 18. Ned5 Nxd5 19. Nxd5 {was very pleasant for White in Eljanov-Krivenko, St. Petersburg 2012.}) (15... h5 $5) (15... Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Qd7) 16. Rxb4 Bxg2 ({ After the game So explained that} 16... b5 $2 17. Ned5 Nxd5 18. Nxd5 bxc4 $2 ( 18... Kh8 $1) 19. Rxb8 Qxb8 20. Ne7+ {was perhaps what Svidler missed.}) 17. Kxg2 Qd7 {[#]} ({The computer thinks that} 17... b5 {is required to resolve the queenside tension, and after} 18. Nxb5 (18. cxb5 d5) 18... d5 19. Nxd4 exd4 20. Rxb8 Qxb8 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. cxd5 Qb7 {White will be up a pawn, but Black might hold.}) 18. Ned5 $1 {With control of d5 and the b-file, White is cruising.} Nec6 19. Rb6 f5 20. f3 Rf7 {Perhaps a bit slow according to So.} ({ Not} 20... f4 21. Ne4) ({So thought that Svidler had to try to get his pawns moving with something like} 20... Ne6 21. Be3 g5) 21. Be3 h5 22. Qd2 Ne6 23. Rfb1 Kh7 24. h4 f4 {A desperate attempt at counterplay.} 25. gxf4 exf4 26. Bf2 $1 Ncd4 27. Bxd4 Bxd4 28. Ne4 ({After} 28. Ne4 {Black can't play} Be5 {to save the d-pawn as White has} 29. Rxd6 $1 Bxd6 30. Ndf6+ $1 {winning massive material.}) 1-0 [/pgn]

Afterwards the typically modest So talked to Yaz and the gang about his win, and about his wins in recent online events.

Vachier-Lagrave defeated GM Sam Shankland after the American miscalculated the transition to a king and pawn endgame.

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.19"] [Round "3.3"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Shankland, Sam"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C53"] [WhiteElo "2751"] [BlackElo "2709"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. O-O a6 7. a4 h6 8. Re1 Ba7 9. Nbd2 Be6 {Quite uncommon in this precise position.} (9... O-O 10. h3 { leads to a key tabiya, where Black usually has three main options:} Re8 (10... Be6) (10... Ne7)) 10. Bxe6 fxe6 11. Nf1 a5 $5 {A new move, trying to shut down White's queenside pawns and perhaps castle queenside.} (11... O-O {would transpose to known theory, but Shankland decides his king might be safer elsewhere.}) 12. Ng3 Qd7 13. Be3 Bxe3 14. Rxe3 g5 15. d4 O-O-O 16. d5 exd5 17. exd5 Ne7 18. c4 {So far, so good for Black. Now Shankland, perhaps on the edge of his preparation, makes a bit of an error.} Ng4 $6 ({The computer prefers} 18... g4 {which makes me wonder if Sam remembered the square, but not the piece that was to move to it!} 19. Nh4 ({one key point:} 19. Nd2 {takes away the d2-square, and the e1-a5 diagonal, from the queen, which safeguards the a5-pawn even if only temporarily. It also allows for a pushing of the h-pawn with} h5) 19... h5 20. Rb3 (20. Qd2 c6 $1) 20... c6 $1 21. Qd2 cxd5 22. cxd5 Kb8 $15) 19. Rb3 Rdf8 20. Qe1 b6 {With the pressure on the queenside pawns stymied a bit, White needs to decide how to proceed. Here he may have underestimated Black's idea as played in the game.} 21. Rb5 $6 ({One alternative:} 21. Ne4 Nf6 (21... Nf5 22. Rc1 Nf6 23. c5) 22. c5 $1 dxc5 23. d6 Ned5 24. Rd1 {and White is getting a lot of pressure for the slight material investment.}) 21... Nxf2 $1 22. Qxf2 g4 23. Nxe5 Qxb5 {(forced)} 24. axb5 Rxf2 25. Kxf2 dxe5 26. Ke3 Rf8 27. Rf1 Rxf1 28. Nxf1 Nf5+ 29. Kd3 Kd7 30. Nd2 Nd6 31. Ne4 {[#]} Ke7 $2 {With plenty of time on his clock, Shankland misevaluates the king and pawn ending. Now MVL wins, although he has to be very accurate to convert.} 32. Nxd6 cxd6 ({In the post-game interview MVL showed off his analytical chops with this line:} 32... Kxd6 33. b3 Kc5 34. Ke4 Kb4 35. Kf5 $1 Kxb3 36. c5 a4 37. d6 cxd6 38. cxb6 a3 39. b7 a2 40. b8=Q a1=Q 41. Qxd6 Qf1+ 42. Ke6 {with the idea} Qxg2 43. Qd5+) 33. Ke4 Kf6 34. b3 Kg6 35. c5 dxc5 36. d6 Kf7 37. Kd5 ({Shankland thought that MVL had a better path in their quick post-mortem:} 37. Kxe5 Ke8 38. Ke6 Kd8 39. d7 a4 40. bxa4 c4 41. a5 {etc}) 37... e4 38. Kc6 e3 39. d7 e2 40. d8=Q e1=Q 41. Kxb6 Qe6+ 42. Ka7 c4 43. bxc4 a4 44. b6 a3 45. b7 a2 46. Qc7+ Kg6 47. Qa5 1-0 [/pgn]

Watching MVL in the post-game interview, one is both amazed and absolutely humbled by the calculation required at elite levels of chess.

Meanwhile Caruana was able to exert pressure across the board in his game with GM Dariusz Swiercz, forcing cracks in Swiercz’s kingside before blowing open the center for an impressive win.

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.19"] [Round "3.5"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Swiercz, Dariusz"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2806"] [BlackElo "2655"] [ECO "B30"] [Opening "Sicilian"] [Variation "Nimzovich-Rossolimo attack (without ...d6)"] [WhiteFideId "2020009"] [BlackFideId "1126881"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. O-O Nge7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Qb6 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Be2 Ng6 9. c4 Be7 10. Nc3 O-O 11. Rb1 c5 12. Be3 Qc7 13. f4 Bb7 14. g3 Rfe8 15. h4 Nf8 16. Bf3 d6 17. Qd2 a6 18. b3 Rad8 19. Qf2 Nd7 20. Rbd1 Bf6 21. Ne2 Nb6 22. g4 d5 23. g5 Be7 24. f5 exf5 25. Bf4 Bd6 26. Bxd6 Qxd6 27. exd5 Nd7 28. Bg2 Bc8 29. Nf4 Ne5 30. b4 cxb4 31. c5 Qb8 32. Rfe1 b3 33. axb3 Qb4 34. Re2 Ng4 35. Qd4 Qxb3 36. Nh5 f6 37. Rxe8+ Rxe8 38. gxf6 gxf6 39. d6 Be6 40. d7 Rd8 41. c6 Qc2 42. Re1 Kf7 43. Nf4 Bb3 44. c7 Qxc7 45. Bd5+ Bxd5 46. Qxd5+ Kg7 47. Ne6+ 1-0 [/pgn]

Mamedyarov won the longest game of the day, a true back-and-forth battle with GM Richard Rapport where the mercurial Azeri GM held fast against all of Rapport’s tricks to take the full point.

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.19"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Rapport, Richard"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2782"] [BlackElo "2763"] [ECO "D49"] [Opening "QGD semi-Slav"] [Variation "Meran, Blumenfeld variation"] [WhiteFideId "13401319"] [BlackFideId "738590"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6 9. e4 c5 10. e5 cxd4 11. Nxb5 axb5 12. exf6 Qb6 13. O-O Nxf6 14. Nxd4 Bd7 15. Nf3 Bd6 16. Be3 Qb8 17. Bd4 O-O 18. Re1 Rd8 19. Rc1 Rxa2 20. Bb1 Ra6 21. Bxf6 gxf6 22. Qd4 Kg7 23. Qg4+ Kf8 24. Qh4 Ke7 25. g3 Ra4 26. Qxh7 Rh8 27. Qd3 Qb6 28. Rcd1 Bc8 29. Bc2 Rg4 30. Nd4 Be5 31. Nxb5 Qc5 32. Nc3 Kf8 33. Ne4 Qc6 34. b4 Ba6 35. Qf3 f5 36. Nd2 Qxc2 37. Rxe5 Bb7 38. Qb3 Qc7 39. Qb2 Rgg8 40. f3 f6 41. Rxe6 Rxg3+ 42. Kf1 Rxh2 43. Qxf6+ Qf7 44. Qe5 f4 45. Rf6 Ba6+ 46. Rxa6 Rh1+ 47. Kf2 Rh2+ 48. Ke1 Rh1+ 49. Nf1 Rxf1+ 50. Kxf1 Qc4+ 51. Ke1 Rg1+ 52. Kf2 Qc2+ 53. Kxg1 Qxd1+ 54. Kf2 1-0 [/pgn]

GMs Jeffery Xiong and Leinier Dominguez played a relatively tame draw to round out the day’s action.

Xiong and Dominguez
Image Caption
Xiong and Dominguez (photo SLCC / Lennart Ootes)


[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.19"] [Round "3.4"] [White "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Black "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2710"] [BlackElo "2758"] [ECO "C47"] [Opening "Four knights"] [Variation "Scotch, 4...exd4"] [WhiteFideId "2047640"] [BlackFideId "3503240"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O d5 9. exd5 cxd5 10. h3 c6 11. Qf3 Bd6 12. Re1 Re8 13. Rxe8+ Qxe8 14. Bf4 Qe7 15. Na4 c5 16. Bxd6 Qxd6 17. c4 Bd7 18. Nc3 Rb8 19. Nxd5 Nxd5 20. Rd1 Rxb2 21. Be4 Bc6 22. g3 g6 23. Bxd5 Bxd5 24. Qxd5 Qxd5 25. Rxd5 Rxa2 26. Rxc5 a5 27. Rc7 Rc2 28. Ra7 Rxc4 29. Rxa5 Kg7 30. h4 h5 31. Kg2 Kg8 32. Kg1 Kg7 33. Kg2 Kg8 34. Kg1 Kg7 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Round 3 standings
Image Caption
courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios


Friday's fourth round features some key pairings, including a mouthwatering Caruana – So matchup:

Shankland – Mamedyarov
Rapport – Svidler
Dominguez – Vachier-Lagrave
Caruana – So
Swiercz – Xiong

Tune in to all the action at 3pm Central on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube Channel.

Quick Links:

Grand Chess Tour website

Sinquefield Cup Live Games

Twitch Commentary

Pairings and Results


Message to distinguished editor Mr.Hartmann -good to see feisty daily world class timely commentary like this..PERSONALLY check all computer analysis done on these incredible games...both world cup and these games have huge lemons from the computers..see it with your own eyes or do not print it at all.There is a lot going on with these great players and big money is bringing out the real beast in them... and you are EASILY able to figure it out on your own... In titanic clash world cup KARJAKIN - SHANKLAND GAMES COMPUTERS HAD BLACK TOTALLY WINNING WHEN IT WAS ALL OVER.
Jude Acers/ New Orleans

HAVE WE OVERLOOKED THIS?? wide broadcast statement from Sinquefield media team titan
MAURICE ASHLEY ......."ABSOLUTELY NO DRAW OFFER ALLOWED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE... NO OFFER EVER ALLOWED BEFORE MOVE 40"..period- end of case- that is all folks. It has happened and world chess is now changed forever by the marvelous million dollar plus Sinquefield Cup tourney system.,, every warning has already been given by terrific IRATE ANGRY write in online US Chess members long ago......this cannot go in a world title match .,..write in US CHESS critics WHO WERE NEVER CENSORED BY US CHESS FOR EVEN ONE DAY( I still do not know why this was wonderfully allowed)...blasted the last horrendous world chess championship mickey mouse 12 draws in a row slumberfest... making it crystal clear that kiss your cousin draw offers must end forever..THE KNIVES ARE COMING OUT IN EVERY ROUND NOW..THANK YOU MR.SINQUEFIELD AND YOU TOO JEAN...every game must be played to the bitter end for huge multi million dollar world chess championship sponsorship/ the pieces must fly around on the screen/the show must go on all the way and on air. The entire decent living of the worlds greatest players(AND US CHESS TEACHERS!!)directly or indirectly almost certainly depends on the coming November world title match and IT CANNOT BE A WORLDWIDE MAKE A JOKE DRAW LAUGHINGSTOCK MACHINE... It had better happen in a hurry. THE TREMENDOUS FIDE PRESIDENT Mr. A. Dvorkovic ( world chess federation) can still save the chess championship of the world from absolute disaster by declaring all draw offers before move 40 totally illegal .and losing the game by forfeit...even double forfeit with loss of prize money (at least one hundred thousand dollars per offense) if the arbiter even thinks there is make a deal phony draw fraud nonsense involved. World top 20( super grandmaster
for decades) L. Aronian startled the world on televised media years ago .. already pointed out that he should NEVER be able TO STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME to offer his opponent a draw..that it really is total public fraud with a wink-wink. Best of all hall of fame organizer FIDE chess grandmaster Susan Polgar went both vicious and worldwide ..called it 'CHICKEN CHESS" ..well gee kidding sherlock.
Jude Acers/ New Orleans

Again great coverage all the way down the line and like those video inserts. What a surprise.. Those who come last are chosen to be first. Jude Acers/ New Orleans

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Plain Text Comments


Share Your Feedback

We recently completed a website update. If you notice a formatting error on this page, please click here.