MVL Takes Clear Lead in St. Louis, Chased by American pack of Three

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GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
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French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave became the 2021 Sinquefield Cup's first clear leader with his win over GM Jeffery Xiong in the seventh round. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

 

A clear leader has emerged in St. Louis after seven rounds in the 2021 Sinquefield Cup. French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored a win over GM Jeffery Xiong in a Berlin, while American GMs Wesley So and Leinier Dominguez both lost pace with draws on Tuesday afternoon. 

Also trailing MVL by a half point is GM Fabiano Caruana, who scored a nice win as Black against Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round seven to join the chasing pack.  

Wednesday’s penultimate round 8 in the final event of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour begins at 3:00 p.m. St. Louis time, featuring an important pairing between MVL and So with the tournament lead at stake. Pairings and results may be found on the Grand Chess Tour website, and Wednesday’s action may be viewed live alongside the commentary team of GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and Alejandro Ramirez on the Kasparov Chess Twitch channel. 

 

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2021 Sinquefield Cup R7 standings
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courtesy Grand Chess Tour

 

MVL as White was enjoying his early edge in a Berlin when Xiong erred with 20. … Rf8?, leaving his king in the middle of the board and his rooks awkwardly cramped. The invitation was left open for White’s rooks to connect and invade down the h-file, though Xiong did not wait around to see it, resigning before his 29th move. 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.24"] [Round "7.5"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2751"] [BlackElo "2710"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 16,57,50,44,64,56,58,56,67,36,43,43,43,26,29,22,38,33,47,13,0,-17,25,30, 34,47,221,205,221,221,275,275,310,310,362,334,388,391,463,464,1002,1029,1026, 1026]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 {seems to push 9.Nc3 aside.} Bd7 {C67: Ruy Lopez: Berlin Defence: 4 0-0 Nxe4.} 10. Rd1 Be7 11. Nc3 Ke8 {White is slightly better. } 12. g4 {Threatens to win with Rxd7.} Nh4 13. Nxh4 Bxh4 14. Bf4 Rd8 $146 ({ Predecessor:} 14... Be7 15. Kg2 Be6 16. f3 Rd8 17. b3 h6 18. Ne2 Bc5 19. Bg3 Ke7 20. Bh4+ g5 {1/2-1/2 (32) Ernst,T (2347)-Aronsson,M (2300) Sweden 2016}) 15. Kg2 Be7 16. Be3 a5 17. f4 h5 18. f5 hxg4 {[%eval 25,17]} (18... g6 $1 { [%eval -17,17] deserves consideration.}) 19. hxg4 $11 g6 $1 {[%cal Rg6f5]} 20. Rh1 $1 $36 {[%cal Rh1h8][%mdl 2048] Black is under pressure.} Rf8 {[%eval 221, 17] [#] This costs Black the game.} ({Black should play} 20... Rg8 $1 $14 { [%eval 47,18]}) 21. f6 $1 $18 {[%cal Rf6e7]} Bb4 {[#]} 22. Ne4 Be6 {White should prevent ...Rd5.} 23. c3 Bd5 24. Kf3 Bd6 25. c4 Bxe4+ 26. Kxe4 Bb4 { If only Black now had time for ...b6....} 27. a3 {White is clearly winning.} Bd2 {[%eval 1002,15]} (27... Bd6 $142 {[%eval 464,19]} 28. exd6 cxd6) 28. Bc5 Rg8 29. e6 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.08/Black=0.39} 1-0 [/pgn]

Mamedyarov surprised with his decision to capture with 11. exd5 instead of the c-pawn, giving Black the edge early in a Nimzo. Caruana revealed a nice discovery on the White queen with 26. … Nf6! and Mamedyarov’s response under time pressure was sub-optimal, eventually dropping the exchange. 

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GM Fabiano Caruana
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GM Fabiano Caruana // photo Bryan Adams, Grand Chess Tour

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.24"] [Round "7.3"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E20"] [WhiteElo "2782"] [BlackElo "2806"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 10,76,-41,-46,36,0,-8,4,6,6,9,-15,-15,-85,0,-1,8,-63,25,20,14,16,44,17, 17,-23,0,0,73,89,88,88,68,85,114,48,46,6,39,39,37,29,24,-25,-25,-157,-156,-156, -162,-156,-156,-156,-145,-289,-321,-289,-277,-274,-251,-310,-305,-305,-222, -225,-222,-221,-210,-258,-250]} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 c5 5. d5 d6 6. e4 b5 {[%eval 36,15] E20: Nimzo-Indian: 4 g3 and 4 f3.} (6... O-O $15 { [%eval -46,16]}) 7. Bd2 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 b4 {The position is equal.} 9. Bd2 O-O 10. Ne2 exd5 $146 ({Predecessor:} 10... Nh5 11. Be3 f5 12. dxe6 Bxe6 13. exf5 Rxf5 14. Qd2 Nd7 15. O-O-O Qa5 16. Kb1 Bxc4 {0-1 (52) Caruana,F (2828)-Aronian,L (2767) Stavanger 2020}) 11. exd5 {[%eval -85,15]} (11. cxd5 $11 {[%eval -15,17] remains equal.} Nbd7 12. Bf4) 11... Nh5 {[%eval 0,17]} (11... Re8 $17 {[%eval -85,15]}) 12. Kf2 (12. Qb3 {keeps more tension.} a5 13. g4 Qh4+ 14. Kd1 Nf6 15. Be1) 12... f5 (12... Nd7 {is interesting.} 13. g4 Qh4+ 14. Kg1 Ne5 15. Bg2 Nxc4 16. gxh5 Re8) 13. Nf4 {[%eval -63,18]} ({White should try} 13. a3 $11 {[%eval 8,16]}) 13... Nxf4 {[%eval 25,13]} (13... Qh4+ $15 {[%eval -63,18]} 14. g3 Nxg3 $1 {[%mdl 512]} 15. hxg3 Qxh1) 14. Bxf4 $11 g5 15. Bc1 $36 {[%mdl 2048] White is pushing.} Nd7 {[%cal Bb8d7,Bd7f6,Bf6e4][%mdl 32]} 16. f4 Nf6 17. Kg1 Ne4 18. fxg5 f4 {[%eval 73,18]} (18... Nxg5 $11 {[%eval 0,17]} 19. Bf4 Qf6) 19. Bd3 $16 Qe7 20. Qe2 Bf5 21. Bxf4 Qg7 22. Rf1 {[%eval 48,17]} (22. Bxe4 $16 {[%eval 114, 19]} Bxe4 23. Bg3 (23. Qxe4 Rae8 $11) 23... Qd4+ 24. Bf2) 22... Bg6 $14 { Threatens to win with ...Rae8.} 23. h3 Rae8 24. Qc2 Qd4+ 25. Kh2 {Black must now prevent b3.} Rf7 $1 {Black wants to play ...Ref8.} 26. Qe2 {[%eval -25,18] [#]} (26. Qd1 $142 {[%eval 24,17]}) 26... Nf6 $1 $11 27. Qd1 {[%eval -157,17]} (27. Qf2 $1 $11 {[%eval -25,20]} Bxd3 28. gxf6 Bxf1 29. Qg3+ Kh8 30. Rxf1) 27... Bxd3 $17 28. gxf6 Bxf1 29. Qg4+ Kh8 30. Rxf1 Rxf6 {And now ...Ref8 would win.} ({Don't play} 30... Qxf6 31. Qh5 $15) 31. Rf3 {[%eval -289,17]} (31. b3 $17 {[%eval -145,19]}) 31... Rg8 $19 ({Avoid the trap} 31... Qxc4 $2 32. Rg3 $1 $18) 32. Qh4 {Now Qf2 and White clings on.} Qxb2 {[%csl Gg8][%cal Rb2g2]} 33. Rg3 Rxg3 34. Bxg3 Qd4 {[%cal Rd4h4] aiming for ...Qxh4.} 35. Qh5 Qe4 {Hoping for ...h6.} ({And not} 35... Qxc4 36. Bxd6 Rxd6 37. Qe8+ Kg7 38. Qe7+ Kg8 39. Qxd6 $11) 36. Qg5 {[#]} Qg6 {[%cal Rg6g5]} 37. Qe3 {[#] If only White now had time for Qe7....} Qf7 38. Qb3 Rg6 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.29/Black=0.21} 0-1 [/pgn]

Russian GM Peter Svidler won his first game and pulled himself out of the cellar of the 2021 Sinquefield Cup, knocking down GM Dariusz Swiercz in a Ruy Lopez. 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.24"] [Round "7.4"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Swiercz, Dariusz"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2714"] [BlackElo "2655"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 25,69,13,13,12,36,32,35,34,34,35,44,18,66,59,112,61,166,158,162,161,158, 161,169,146,265,265,367,363,360,369,347,354,462,439,469,464,463,459,513,404, 405,405,512,516,514,516]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 Bb7 9. d3 d6 10. Nbd2 Nd7 11. c3 Nc5 12. axb5 axb5 13. Rxa8 Qxa8 14. Bc2 {C88: Closed Ruy Lopez: Anti-Marshall Systems.} b4 15. d4 bxc3 16. bxc3 {White is slightly better.} Nd7 17. Nf1 Qa1 18. Ne3 $1 $146 { [%mdl 8] A relevant novelty.} ({Predecessor:} 18. Bd2 Qxd1 19. Rxd1 Bf6 20. Be3 Ra8 21. Rb1 Bc8 22. N1d2 g6 23. h3 Rb8 24. Rxb8 Ndxb8 {0-1 (51) Dominguez Perez,L (2763)-Abdusattorov,N (2608) chess24.com INT 2020}) 18... Qxc3 { [%eval 66,16]} (18... Bf6 $11 {[%eval 18,15] was preferrable.}) 19. Nd5 $1 $14 {[%cal Rd5c3]} Qa1 {[%eval 112,17]} (19... Qa5 $14 {[%eval 59,17]}) 20. Re3 { [%eval 61,16]} (20. Ba4 $16 {[%eval 112,17] Black must now prevent Bxc6.} Bf6 21. Re3 Nxd4 22. Bxd7 Bxd5 23. exd5) 20... Qa7 {[%eval 166,17]} ({Wrong is} 20... exd4 $2 21. Ra3 $18) (20... Qa8 $1 $14 {[%eval 61,16]}) 21. Ba4 $1 $18 { [%cal Ra4c6][%mdl 1024] White has strong compensation.} Bd8 {[%cal Re5d4]} 22. Ra3 $1 {Threatens to win with Bxc6.} Qa6 23. Bc2 $1 Na5 24. Bd2 $36 {[%mdl 2048] White is really pushing.} c6 {[%eval 265,17] [#]} (24... c5 $16 {[%eval 146,17]} 25. dxe5 Nxe5) 25. Ne3 $1 Qb5 26. Bxa5 Bxa5 {[#]} 27. Bd3 $1 {[%cal Rd3b5]} Qb6 28. Nc4 $1 {[%csl LRa5,LRb6,LRd6,LRe5][%mdl 64] Double Attack} Qb4 29. Rb3 ({Don't go for} 29. Nxa5 $2 Qxa3 30. Nxb7 Rb8 $19) 29... Qa4 30. Nb2 ({ Don't do} 30. Nxa5 Bc8 $18) 30... Qa2 31. Rxb7 Nb6 32. Qb1 Qxb1+ 33. Bxb1 exd4 34. Nxd4 Bc3 35. Nxc6 {Black got outplayed after the opening. Weighted Error Value: White=0.08/Black=0.37} 1-0 [/pgn]

The remaining games of Round 7 were drawn, including this Queen’s Gambit Accepted between Hungarian GM Richard Rapport and Dominguez. 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.24"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Rapport, Richard"] [Black "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D23"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2758"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 9,89,-34,36,29,79,79,79,-1,-1,-1,16,-1,55,0,2,-12,-12,-52,0,0,0,0,40,0, 0,6,40,20,41,44,45,21,20,53,53,9,8,10,8,8,11,8,10,10,8,8,11,-9,-9,-9,-9,-9,-2, -9,-14,-18,-17,-30,-30,-30,-30,-30,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21,-21, -21,-21,-21,-11,-21,-11,-21,0,-21]} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qa4+ Nc6 5. Qxc4 e5 {[%eval 36,18]} (5... Bf5 $15 {[%eval -34,16]}) 6. Nxe5 $14 { D23: Queen's Gambit Accepted: 3 Nf3 Nf6 sidelines.} Nxe5 {[%eval 79,15]} (6... Be6 $11 {[%eval 29,18]} 7. Qb5 a6 8. Nxc6 axb5 9. Nxd8 Kxd8) 7. dxe5 $16 Ng4 8. Bf4 {[%eval -1,17]} (8. Nc3 $16 {[%eval 79,16]}) 8... c6 $1 $11 9. e3 g5 $146 ( {Predecessor:} 9... Qa5+ 10. Nc3 Nxe5 11. Qd4 f6 12. a3 Qc5 13. b4 Qxd4 14. exd4 Ng6 15. Be3 Be6 {1/2-1/2 (33) Laczay,I-De Paus,P LSS email 2007}) 10. Bg3 Qa5+ {[%eval 55,18]} (10... Be6 $11 {[%eval -1,16]} 11. Qc3 Qb6) 11. Nd2 { [%eval 0,18]} ({Better is} 11. Nc3 $1 $14 {[%eval 55,18]}) 11... Be6 12. Qc2 O-O-O {[#] Hoping for ...Rxd2!} 13. O-O-O {aiming for Bc4.} Bb4 {[%eval 0,18]} ({Don't play} 13... Qxa2 $6 14. Bc4 $14) (13... Nxe5 $15 {[%eval -52,15]} 14. Be2 h5) 14. a3 Bxd2+ 15. Rxd2 Bb3 16. Qf5+ Be6 17. Qc2 Bb3 18. Qc3 Qxc3+ 19. bxc3 Rxd2 20. Kxd2 {Threatens to win with Bd3.} Rd8+ 21. Ke2 Rd5 22. h4 { [%eval 9,19]} (22. e4 $1 $14 {[%eval 53,19]} Ra5 23. h4) 22... Bc4+ 23. Kf3 Nxe5+ 24. Bxe5 Bxf1 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRB-KRB} 25. Bd4 Rf5+ 26. Kg3 gxh4+ 27. Rxh4 Rg5+ 28. Rg4 Rxg4+ 29. Kxg4 Bxg2 30. Bxa7 {KB-KB} b5 31. Kg5 Kd7 32. Kh6 Be4 33. f3 Bxf3 34. Kxh7 Ke6 35. Kg7 f5 36. Kf8 {The position is equal.} Kd5 37. Ke7 Kc4 38. Kd6 Kxc3 39. Bb6 Kb3 40. Bc5 Be4 41. Ke5 Kc4 42. Kd6 Kb3 43. Ke5 Kc4 44. Kd6 Kb3 45. Ke5 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.11/Black=0.12} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

The 2021 Sinquefield Cup’s penultimate Round 8 begins Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. St. Louis time, with live games and commentary offered here

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GMs Wesley So and Sam Shankland
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American GMs Wesley So and Sam Shankland played to a draw in Round 7 of the 2021 Sinquefield Cup. // photo Austin Fuller, Grand Chess Tour

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