The Sinquefield Cup: Anything interesting happen so far?

What a first week for the 2022 Sinquefield Cup! Not only did chess once again appear in all the world’s major media, there were actually a lot of fascinating games played and the top places are completely up for grabs. An exciting finish is in the works.

Let’s start with the standings. It’s important to note that due to Magnus Carlsen’s withdrawal (see editor's note below), his results have been nullified and the remaining players will all have eight games that count towards the final standings. Each succeeding round will include a zero-point bye for Carlsen’s original opponent. This hurts Niemann (who beat Carlsen) and helps Nepomniachtchi (who lost to him), although those games are still rated.

The five players who didn’t face Carlsen over the board have five games that count towards the results and the other three four games. For example, Wesley So has 3-2 (3 points of 5), and Hans Niemann has 2½-1½ (2½ points from four games).


2022 Sinq table after five rounds


Every player still has a chance for a top prize and the 2022 Grand Chess Tour standings are still in flux.

In the first round, the only decisive result was Carlsen’s win over Nepomniachtchi, an instructive game which reflects the World Champion’s amazing skills in converting slight advantages into victory:



Controversies aside, Hans Niemann has certainly had the most exciting games, as well as some great success, achieving a winning position against Aronian (and drawing) in the first round, then beating Mamedyarov and Carlsen in consecutive rounds. In addition, his two draws versus Firouzja and Dominguez were anything but dull.

Here's his second-round win:



The other fascinating game in the second round was Caruana-Dominguez Perez, a very well-played but tragic game for Caruana, who managed to achieve a winning position by ingenious play but misplayed the complications and only managed a draw.



The two remaining games I feel are most worth showing came in the third round. One is Niemann’s historic win over Carlsen. The opening was only slightly in Black’s favor, and the fact that the 19-year-old Niemann outplayed Carlsen in the ending is surely the most remarkable occurrence of the tournament thus far:



Finally, we have a game that has been mentioned by several commentators as a possible brilliancy prize game. I’m not convinced that it deserves such high accolades, but it’s a terrific slugfest with some pretty ideas:


These players in this year’s tournament are not shying away from complex, double-edged positions. Enjoy the remainder of the games!

Editor’s note: we asked John Watson to write a relatively straightforward report on the first five rounds of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup for one simple reason: we know nothing more about Magnus Carlsen’s withdrawal than anyone else does.

Here are the basic facts: Carlsen did not show up for his round four game against Mamedyarov, instead tweeting out the fact of his withdrawal:


Tweet URL


Suddenly Twitch and Twitter lit up, with a number of theories about Carlsen’s withdrawal kicking up. Most focused on late replacement Hans Niemann, to whom he lost in round three. You can catch up with all the details here on the chess subreddit:

In one of the most extraordinary moments in recent chess history, Niemann offered a spirited self-defense in the aftermath of his round five draw with Leinier Dominguez Perez, admitting his being banned from when he was a minor but adamantly denying any chicanery in recent online or over-the-board play.



To date, Carlsen has not publicly responded, although his team of seconds discussed the whole affair on an emergency version of their Chicken Chess Podcast.

Carlsen’s chief second Peter Heine Nielsen reports being posed questions on the controversy in a most interesting setting.


Tweet URL


Further evidence of the ripple effects this event is having in the broader consciousness came when Elon Musk tweeted about it. (You can find the tweet yourself — it’s a bit... off-color.)

That’s the state of play as of Thursday morning. This is a fluid situation, but as of now, play continues this afternoon with the second half of the Sinquefield Cup, and we’ll have another report from John Watson at the end of the tournament.

Quick Links:

2022 Sinquefield Cup event page
Grand Chess Tour website
SLCC YouTube channel
SLCC Twitch channel

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