Can You Calculate Like the 2018 Sinquefield Cup Co-champions?

2018 Sinquefield Cup Co-Champions, Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, and Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Austin Fuller
For the first time, the Sinquefield Cup has finished without a clear champion. In addition, the event has finally had its first repeat winners. Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, and Levon Aronian, the winners of the first three Sinquefield Cups in 2013, 2014, and 2015 respectively, have tied for the 2018 title. Let's take a look at the critical moments of tactics, intuition, and endgame determination that led to their victories.

Puzzle #1

Fabiano Caruana vs. Sergey Karjakin

White to move and win.
Level: Warm-Up
Show Solution

[Event "6th Sinquefield Cup"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2018.08.24"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Fabiano Caruana"]
[Black "Sergey Karjakin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E20"]
[WhiteElo "2822"]
[BlackElo "2773"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1n1r2k1/6pp/1Q3p2/2rqp3/p1N5/P3P1P1/5P1P/1RR3K1 w - - 0 28"]
[PlyCount "9"]
[EventDate "2018.08.18"]
[SourceDate "2015.11.12"]

28. Rd1 {The black queen is overworked.} (28. e4 $1 {also wins.}) 28... Qxd1+
29. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 30. Kg2 {and Karjakin resigned. If} Nd7 (30... Rc8 31. Qe6+) 31.
Qe6+ Kf8 32. Nd6 1-0[/pgn]

Puzzle #2

Levon Aronian vs. Alex Grischuk

Levon Aronian is known for his creative and energetic play. Although his move choice here is not the top computer move (in fact, Stockfish is rather skeptical), it certainly is in an interesting and dynamic idea. Can you guess what he played?
White to move.
Level: Advanced
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "6th Sinquefield Cup"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2018.08.27"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Levon Aronian"]
[Black "Alexander Grischuk"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A54"]
[WhiteElo "2767"]
[BlackElo "2766"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1b1r1k1/pp3ppp/8/3q4/2pPn3/B1P3P1/P1Q1P1BP/R4RK1 w - - 0 18"]
[PlyCount "33"]
[EventDate "2018.08.18"]18. Rxf7 Kxf7 19. Rf1+ Bf5 (19... Kg8 20. Bxe4 Qh5 21. Rf4 Bg4 22. Bxb7 $16)
20. g4 g6 21. Qc1 Kg7 22. gxf5 gxf5 23. Bxe4 fxe4 24. Qf4 h6 {Aronian went on
to turn his compensation into a victory with:} 25. Qc7+ Kh8 26. Bd6 Rg8+ 27.
Kf2 Rg6 28. Be5+ Kg8 29. Ke3 Rd8 30. Qe7 (30. h4) 30... b5 (30... b6 31. h4 Rg2
) 31. h4 a5 32. h5 Rg5 33. Rf6 Rxe5 34. Rg6+ 1-0[/pgn]

Puzzle #3

Magnus Carlsen vs. Hikaru Nakamura

What plan did Carlsen use to gradually grind his endgame edge into a victory and a share of 1st?
White to move. 
Level: Advanced
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "6th Sinquefield Cup"]
[Site "St Louis, MO USA"]
[Date "2018.08.27"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Magnus Carlsen"]
[Black "Hikaru Nakamura"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D37"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/6k1/5p2/4p1pP/4P1P1/r4PK1/5R2/8 w - - 0 74"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[EventDate "2018.08.17"]74. Rd2 {Making room for the white king to take a long journey through the
center to the queenside and finally into Black's camp on the kingside.} Ra7 75.
Kf2 Kf7 76. Ke2 Rb7 77. Rd3 Ra7 78. Kd2 Ke6 79. Kc3 Ke7 80. Kc4 Rc7+ 81. Kb5
Rc1 82. Rb3 {The white king is temporarily cut off on the queenside, and it is
instructive to see how Carlsen carefully gets his king through to the kingside.
} Kf7 83. Kb6 Rc2 84. Kb7 Rc1 85. Kb8 Kg8 86. Rb6 Kg7 87. Rb7+ Kg8 88. Rc7 Rb1+
89. Kc8 Rb3 90. Kd7 Rxf3 91. Ke6 Rf4 92. h6 Kh8 93. Rb7 Kg8 94. Rg7+ Kh8 95.
Kf7 Rxe4 96. Kg6 Ra4 97. Rh7+ {and Black resigned. If} Kg8 98. Re7 Ra8 99. Kxf6
e4 100. Kxg5 e3 101. Kh5 e2 102. Rxe2 {wins.} 1-0[/pgn]
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Vanessa West is a regular writer and digital assistant for US Chess News. She won the 2017 Chess Journalist of the Year award. You can follow her on Twitter: @Vanessa__West