Can You Calculate Like a Sinquefield Cup Grandmaster?

The Sinquefield Cup Opening Ceremony. Photo: Austin FullerVishy Anand, Ding Liren, Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, Rex Sinquefield, and Wesley So at the Sinquefield Cup Opening Ceremony. Photo: Austin Fuller

Just like last year, Veselin Topalov has an early lead in the Sinquefield Cup.  He currently has 3.5 points out of 5 and is the only player to have won two games.

In fact, victories have been particularly sparse at this year's event. Rounds 3 and 4 featured draws on every board. In round 5, Topalov was the only victor.

Levon Aronian, Wesley So, and Vishy Anand are currently tied for second, trailing behind Topalov by half a point.

Veselin Topalov at last year's SInquefield Cup. Photo: St. Louis Chess ClubVeselin Topalov. Photo: St. Louis Chess Club

One particularly memorable duel was the game between two of the top Americans, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura. Using a two pawn sacrifice to gain the initiative, So was able to score his first ever victory against Nakamura in classical chess.

Wesley So at the opening ceremony. Photo: Spectrum StudiosWesley So at the Sinquefield Cup Opening Ceremony. Photo: Spectrum Studios

Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura are tied for fifth with an even score, although they have reached 2.5 points in very different ways. Caruana has drawn every game while Nakamura recovered from his first round loss by defeating Giri the very next day.

Here are some of the key tactical moments so far in the strongest tournament in the country.

Tactic #1

Veselin Topalov vs. Peter Svidler

Can you find the simple tactic that made Svidler resign against Topalov?

[pgn] [White "Veselin Topalov"] [Black "Peter Svidler"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2761"] [BlackElo "2751"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/2p3p1/p1n1p2p/P2q4/1r1P4/2Q2N1P/5PP1/2R3K1 b - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "5"] [EventDate "2016.08.04"] {Here, Svidler blundered with} 26... Nxd4 $4 {After} 27. Qxb4 Ne2+ 28. Kh1 { Svidler resigned. What tactic did he miss after} Nxc1 {?}*[/pgn]

White to move. 

Level: Warm-Up

Show Solution

[pgn] [White "Veselin Topalov"] [Black "Peter Svidler"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2761"] [BlackElo "2751"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/2p3p1/p3p2p/P2q4/1Q6/5N1P/5PP1/2n4K w - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "5"] [EventDate "2016.08.04"]29. Qb8+ Kh7 (29... Kf7 30. Qxc7+ Kg8 31. Qxc1) 30. Qb1+ $1 Nd3 31. Ne1 {and Black loses his knight.}*[/pgn]

Tactic #2

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Viswanathan Anand

What in-between move ended MVL's nearly 70 game undefeated streak?

[pgn] [White "Maxime Vachier-Lagrave"] [Black "Viswanathan Anand"] [ECO "B10"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1k1r4/pp1bq2p/3bpr2/P2n1p2/1PBNpP1Q/2P5/5BPP/3R1RK1 w - - 0 30"] [PlyCount "3"] [EventDate "2016.08.04"]{In this position, MVL tried} 30. Nxe6 $4 {opening up a discovered attack on the Black's knight and seemingly winning a pawn. However, he missed Anand's counterstrike. After} Bxe6 31. Bxd5 {what did the Sinquefield Cup top seed overlook?}*[/pgn]

Black to move. 

Level: Intermediate

Show Solution

[pgn] [White "Maxime Vachier-Lagrave"] [Black "Viswanathan Anand"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B10"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1k1r4/pp2q2p/3bbr2/P2B1p2/1P2pP1Q/2P5/5BPP/3R1RK1 b - - 0 31"] [PlyCount "31"] [EventDate "2016.08.04"]31... e3 $1 {Anand's surprising counterblow forces White's bishop to e3, allowing Black to create a discovered attack on the hanging piece.} 32. Bxe3 ( 32. Bg3 e2) 32... Bxd5 33. Bxa7+ (33. Rxd5 Qxe3+) 33... Kxa7 34. Qf2+ Bc5 35. Qxc5+ Qxc5+ 36. bxc5 {And Black has an extra bishop for three very weak White pawns. The game finished:} Rd7 37. Rfe1 h6 38. Kf2 Kb8 39. c4 Bc6 40. Rxd7 Bxd7 41. Rb1 Ra6 42. Rb6 Rxa5 43. Rxh6 Rxc5 44. h4 Rxc4 45. g3 Kc7 46. h5 b5 0-1[/pgn]

Tactic #3

Anish Giri vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

What clever tactic did Anish Giri have planned if MVL captured his c2-pawn?

[pgn] [White "Anish Giri"] [Black "Maxime Vachier-Lagrave"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2769"] [BlackElo "2819"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r3k1/6pp/p1rp4/Q3pb2/5n1q/4BP2/PPPR3P/1K1B2R1 w - - 0 27"] [PlyCount "2"] [EventDate "2016.08.04"]{With three Black pieces looming over his c2-pawn, Giri alleviated the pressure with} 27. Ka1 $1 {removing his king from the pin. Why can't MVL capture the pawn with} Bxc2 $4*[/pgn]

White to move. 

Level: Advanced

Show Solution

[pgn] [White "Anish Giri"] [Black "Maxime Vachier-Lagrave"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2769"] [BlackElo "2819"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r3k1/6pp/p1rp4/Q3p3/5n1q/4BP2/PPbR3P/K2B2R1 w - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "7"] [EventDate "2016.08.04"]28. Bxc2 Rxc2 29. Rxc2 Rxc2 30. Qa4 $1 {threatening both Qe8 checkmate and Black's rook} Rc8 31. Qd7 {with another double attack. The black rook is lost. MVL noticed this trap, avoided 27...Bxc2, and the players went on to draw.}*[/pgn]

Overall Standings

Standings After Round 5

Round 6 Pairings

Pairings Round 6

Watch the games live and enjoy engaging commentary by Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade, Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen and more on the Official Grand Chess Tour Website. Find updates, photos, and more on the US Chess Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook The Sinquefield Cup runs from August 5-15 with rounds everyday at 1 P.M. CST (except for August 10, the rest day).