Fabiano Caruana took advantage of a zeitnot-induced error to defeat Levon Aronian, claiming his first win of the 2019 Sinquefield Cup. He joins Viswanathan Anand in shared first place at 2.5/4 after four rounds of play.
Round 3 saw draws across the board, although it wasn’t for a lack of effort, especially on the part of Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura tried every trick in the book, and invented a few along the way, to find a breakthrough in his third round game against Sergey Karjakin. But it was all for naught, and after 104 moves, he acquiesced to the shared point.
Round 4 felt a bit spicier from the get-go, especially with Fabiano Caruana’s opening surprise against Levon Aronian. After plunking down the rare 7.d4, Caruana’s next moves were played quickly, giving the distinct impression that Aronian had wandered into some unpleasant preparation.
Aronian and Caruana (photo Lennart Ootes)
Fabiano Caruana (photo Justin Kellar)
Levon Aronian (photo Justin Kellar)
The final moments of Caruana-Aronian (photo Lennart Ootes)
A victorious Fabiano Caruana (photo Lennart Ootes)
Aronian survived the opening, which was tricky but perhaps not objectively dangerous, and got into a slightly worse middlegame where he appeared to be holding without great difficulties. The immense time spent wandering through the complications, however, came back to haunt him, and this blunder on move 46 gave Caruana the win.
For a few moments it appeared that Viswanathan Anand might also win his game against Wesley So. Anand had solid preparation against So’s sideline in the Petroff, extending through move 18. Here So erred, allowing Anand a chance at a heavy-duty advantage with 19.Bd2 Nb4 and then another Dvoretsky-esque move, 20.Qf1!.
Anand spent 11 minutes on his 19th move, finding 19.Bd2, and another 15 minutes on move 20. But after looking at numerous queen moves, including 20.Qf1!, Anand played the “also (but not quite as) winning” 20.Qf3!?. He missed a small nuance on move 22, and while getting a pawn-up queen ending that looked promising, the game was drawn after 42 moves.
Yasser Seirawan thought that Anand should perhaps have found 20.Qf1 in his live commentary, sketching a plausible thought-process that might have allowed Anand to discover its hidden ideas. For his part, Wesley So was adamant in the post-game interview that the whole line was “impossible” for any of the players in the event to find over-the-board.
Standings after four rounds of play:
It’s the Heat
Anand and Caruana have been victorious in the only two decisive results of the tournament thus far, with 22 of 24 games drawn heading into today’s Round 5. Commentators around the world have not shied away from this fact, offering all kinds of theories to make sense of it.
Perhaps the time control is too long. Perhaps the players are too familiar with one another. Everyone has an answer. But if you have been in Saint Louis in the summer, you may find Anish Giri’s explanation convincing: