So Joins Sinquefield Front Runners with Berlin Win

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GM Wesley So // photo Bryan Adams, Grand Chess Tour
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GM Wesley So // photo Bryan Adams, Grand Chess Tour

Grandmaster Wesley So was the only player to come away with a win in an All-American round of the Sinquefield Cup, rejoining the leaders’ pack in the final event of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. Six of US Chess’ top GMs squared off in round 2 on Wednesday afternoon, with all other boards producing draws on the day -- except for the reigning American chess champion, who dropped GM Dariusz Swiercz in a Berlin endgame. 

Round 3 of the Sinquefield Cup begins Thursday at 3:00 p.m. St. Louis time, broadcast online with the commentary team of GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and Alejandro Ramirez. Live Twitch broadcast may be found here

 

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2021 Sinquefield Cup R2 standings
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courtesy Grand Chess Tour

 

Swiercz, no slouch as one of the world’s top-100 Grandmasters and US Chess’ No. 8, has certainly found himself swimming in a different pool in St. Louis. Hitting the lottery while rotating in as the Saint Louis Chess Club’s current resident-GM, Swiercz was offered a dive into the $325,000 shark tank just before the bell rang on this year’s Sinquefield Cup, when several of the GCT’s intended international participants became hampered by the latest COVID travel restrictions. Through two rounds, though, his wildcard status has looked much like an uphill swim: two consecutive losses as White and no time to breath in Round 3 on Thursday, Black against World No. 2 GM Fabiano Caruana.

 

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GM Dariusz Swiercz
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GM Dariusz Swiercz // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

 

After missing his first-round shot, US Chess Champ So returned on Wednesday with a confident push into the Ruy Lopez Berlin Wall, already a rook-and-pawn endgame by 21. Nxe6. The seemingly natural decision to swap the board’s last minor pieces, however, took nearly an hour off Swiercz’ clock, a deficit later noticed under the gun before the 40th move time control.

White still holds drawing chances when Black offers to trade the last rooks at 36. … Rc6! But under time pressure Sweircz declined the chance, balking with 37. Ra5? and losing a pawn too late in the day. 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.18"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Swiercz, Dariusz"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2655"] [BlackElo "2772"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 16,90,54,54,65,58,65,55,55,51,51,46,65,50,71,49,53,34,40,21,21,19,29,8, 8,-1,0,0,0,0,-1,-38,-38,-50,-1,-10,-9,-37,-38,-38,-38,-50,-42,-33,-32,-36,-37, -39,-34,-37,-37,-37,-38,-36,-33,-48,-47,-68,-54,-174,-174,-233,-229,-235,-236, -239,-238,-974,-1156,-1347,-1347,-1334,-1347,-1345,-1346,-1347,-1347]} 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 Bd7 {C67: Ruy Lopez: Berlin Defence: 4 0-0 Nxe4.} (9... Ne7 10. Nc3 Bd7 11. b3 b6 12. Bb2 Kc8 13. Rad1 h6 14. Rd2 c5 15. Rfd1 Be6 16. Ne2 g5 17. Nh2 Kb7 18. Ng4 Nc6 19. c4 a5 20. a4 Bxg4 21. hxg4 Bg7 22. Ng3 Bxe5 23. Bxe5 Nxe5 24. f3 Rae8 25. Kf2 Kc8 26. Nf5 {1/2-1/2 (45) Swiercz,D (2659)-So,W (2765) Chess.com INT 2020}) 10. Rd1 Be7 11. g4 (11. b3 {with more complications.} Ke8 12. c4 Rd8 13. Nc3 h5 14. Ne4) 11... Nh4 {White is slightly better.} 12. Nxh4 Bxh4 13. Nd2 Kc8 14. Nf3 Be7 15. Bg5 {now scores much better than the old 15. Rd3.} Bc5 16. Rd3 {[#] Threatens to win with Rad1.} (16. Kg2 {seems wilder.} h6 17. Bd2 Be6 18. Kg3 h5 19. a3) 16... Be6 17. Be3 (17. Nd2 {is more complex.} h6 18. Ne4 Bb6 19. Be3 Rd8 20. Ra3) 17... Bxe3 18. Rxe3 Kd7 19. Nd4 Rad8 20. f4 $146 (20. b4 {keeps more tension.} Ke7 21. Rd1 g5 22. f3 Rd5 23. Kf2) ({ Predecessor:} 20. Rd3 Kc8 21. Nxe6 Rxd3 22. cxd3 fxe6 23. Kf1 h5 {1/2-1/2 (23) Janisch,M (2416)-Markus,R (2282) ICCF email 2017}) 20... Ke7 21. Nxe6 fxe6 $11 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRR-KRR} 22. Rf1 h5 23. f5 hxg4 24. hxg4 Rh4 {[%eval -1, 17]} (24... Rd4 $15 {[%eval -50,15] was preferrable.} 25. Rg3 Rf8) 25. f6+ Kf7 26. Re4 Rd2 {Strongly threatening ...Rhh2.} 27. fxg7+ Kxg7 {White must now prevent ...Rhh2.} 28. Rf2 Rxf2 (28... Rh1+ {looks sharper.} 29. Kg2 Rh2+ 30. Kxh2 Rxf2+ 31. Kg3 Rxc2 32. Rd4 Rxb2 33. Rd7+ Kg6) 29. Kxf2 $15 {KR-KR} Rh2+ 30. Kf3 Rxc2 31. Rd4 Rxb2 32. Rd7+ Kg6 33. Rxc7 c5 34. Re7 Rb6 35. Rc7 a6 36. Rxc5 Rc6 $1 {[%cal Rc6c5]} 37. Ra5 {[%eval -174,20]} (37. Rxc6 $15 {[%eval -54, 22]} bxc6 38. Ke4) 37... Rc3+ $19 38. Ke4 {[%eval -233,21]} (38. Kf2 $142 { [%eval -174,21]}) 38... Rc4+ 39. Kd3 Rxg4 40. Rc5 {Now Rc7 and White clings on. } Kf5 41. Kc3 $2 {[%eval -974,17]} (41. Ra5 {[%eval -238,19]}) 41... b5 { Black is clearly winning.} 42. Kb3 Rc4 {[%mdl 64] [#] Deflection} 43. Rxc4 bxc4+ 44. Kxc4 Kxe5 {...Ke4 is the strong threat.} 45. a4 Kf4 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.41/Black=0.03} 0-1 [/pgn]

All draws on the other boards included a pairing between two early leaders, GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Fabiano Caruana. In a wide open Giuoco Piano, Caruana had to fight to keep his half-point and share of the front, after Dominguez picked up an early pawn by use of a bigger stick at 18. cxb7. 

 

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GMs Leinier Dominguez and Fabiano Caruana
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GMs Leinier Dominguez and Fabiano Caruana face off in the second round of the 2021 Sinquefield Cup in the Saint Louis Chess Club. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.18"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2758"] [BlackElo "2806"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 14,102,8,-6,0,-3,36,29,29,29,23,13,20,20,36,34,34,42,42,38,35,38,38,46, 46,42,34,50,73,65,57,65,64,65,62,56,65,58,57,57,57,38,39,8,31,25,33,28,28,30, 31,34,33,29,26,26,40,28,54,39,41,17,18,21,38,15,14,13,12,9,9,9,12,0,5,0,0,0,0, 0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d6 6. O-O h6 7. Re1 O-O 8. h3 Bb6 {8...a5 is a critical line. C54: Giuoco Piano: 4 c3 Nf6, main lines with 5 d4 and 5 d3.} 9. Nbd2 Ne7 10. a4 {Black must now prevent a5.} c6 {White has an edge.} 11. d4 Ng6 12. Bf1 Re8 13. Qc2 d5 $146 ({ Predecessor:} 13... Bc7 14. dxe5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 dxe5 16. Nc4 a5 17. Be3 Be6 18. b4 Bxc4 19. Bxc4 Bb6 {1/2-1/2 (46) Svidler,P (2714)-So,W (2770) Paris 2021}) 14. exd5 {[%cal Rd4e5]} exd4 15. Rxe8+ Qxe8 16. a5 Bc7 17. dxc6 dxc3 18. cxb7 Bxb7 19. Qxc3 Nd5 20. Qc5 Ngf4 21. Nc4 {[#] And now Bxf4 would win.} Ne6 22. Qa3 Rd8 23. Bd2 Ndf4 24. a6 Ba8 25. Ba5 Bxa5 26. Nxa5 Qd7 27. Re1 Qd5 28. Re3 Qf5 {[#] Strongly threatening ...Bxf3.} 29. Nb7 Rd1 30. Re1 Rxe1 31. Nxe1 { Threatens to win with Qe3.} Qe4 32. Nf3 {Hoping for Qe7.} Bxb7 33. axb7 Qxb7 34. g3 Nh5 35. Bc4 Qe4 36. Bxe6 fxe6 37. Nd2 Qd4 38. Nf3 Qd5 39. Nh2 a5 { The position is equal.} 40. Ng4 (40. Qc3 {keeps more tension.} Nf6 41. Nf1 a4 42. Nd2 Ne4 43. Qc8+) 40... Nf6 41. Nxf6+ gxf6 $11 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KQ-KQ} 42. Qe7 Qe5 43. b3 (43. Qb7 {feels hotter.} f5 44. Qd7 Qd5 45. Qa7 Qd1+ 46. Kh2 ) 43... h5 44. h4 (44. Qb7 {is more complex.} Qf5 45. Kg2 Qe5 46. Qd7 Qe4+ 47. Kh2) 44... Qe1+ 45. Kg2 Qe4+ 46. Kh2 Qf5 47. Qe8+ Kg7 48. Qe7+ Kg6 49. Qe8+ Kg7 50. Qe7+ Kg6 51. Qe8+ Kg7 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.04/Black=0.05} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

The opening of Shankland and Xiong produced some early salivation, a Maroczy Bind and Shankland electing for opposite-side castles at 12. 0-0-0, but taste fizzled as pieces traded down rather sensibly. Shankland nursed a small advantage through the longest game of the day; White had a b3 passed pawn on move 20, though it gets stuck on b7 after 50 moves thanks to some accurate defending by Xiong. 

 

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GM Sam Shankland
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GM Sam Shankland // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.18"] [Round "2.2"] [White "Shankland, Sam"] [Black "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B36"] [WhiteElo "2709"] [BlackElo "2710"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "126"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 16,126,16,13,16,-1,32,20,33,33,54,58,58,-1,26,-27,27,-13,50,51,62,26,50, 29,38,31,38,38,29,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,-12,-4,-12,-1,-7,32,30,40,39,38,21,22,17,17, 17,25,25,46,25,54,33,33,13,13,12,13,11,13,11,30,16,33,7,13,13,13,12,22,15,17, 17,17,18,17,17,18,27,38,22,20,18,17,17,17,17,17,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0, 0,0,0,0,0]} 1. e4 {Havasi,G} c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 7. f3 Bg7 8. Be3 O-O 9. Be2 Nh5 {B38: Sicilian: Maroczy Bind with 5... Bg7 and 7...0-0.} 10. g3 Nf6 $146 ({Predecessor:} 10... Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Be6 12. f4 Nf6 13. O-O Rc8 14. b3 Qa5 15. f5 Bd7 16. a3 e6 17. b4 {1-0 (41) So,W (2788) -Mamedov,R (2658) Shamkir 2015 CBM 166 [Havasi,G]}) 11. Qd2 Bd7 12. O-O-O a5 13. g4 a4 14. Nxc6 {[%eval -1,14]} ({White should play} 14. Ndb5 $14 {[%eval 58,17]}) 14... Bxc6 15. h4 {[%eval -27,15]} (15. a3 $142 $1 {[%eval 26,16]}) 15... Qa5 {[%eval 27,17]} ({Better is} 15... h5 $1 {[%eval -27,15]}) 16. Bd4 Rfc8 {[%eval 50,15]} (16... h5 $11 {[%eval -13,13]}) 17. h5 $14 a3 18. b3 b5 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. Kb1 {[%cal Rc4b5]} bxc4 $1 21. Bxc4 Bb7 22. g5 Nh5 {[#] aiming for ...Rxc4!} 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Nd5 Qxd2 25. Rxd2 Rab8 {Hoping for ... Rxc4!} 26. Rc1 ({Much weaker is} 26. Nxe7 Rc7 $17) 26... Bxd5 27. Rxd5 Nf4 28. Ra5 Ra8 29. b4 f6 30. Rxa8 Rxa8 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRB-KRN} 31. Kc2 fxg5 32. Kb3 Kf6 33. b5 Ke5 34. Kb4 g4 35. fxg4 Kxe4 36. Re1+ (36. b6 {is interesting.} d5 37. Re1+ Kd4 38. Rd1+ Ke4 39. b7) 36... Kd4 37. Rxe7 Rc8 $1 {[%cal Rc8c4]} 38. Bf7 {Black must now prevent b6.} Nd3+ 39. Kxa3 Ra8+ 40. Kb3 Nc5+ 41. Kb2 Nd3+ 42. Kb3 Nc5+ 43. Kc2 {Black should prevent Re1.} d5 44. Kb1 Na4 45. Kc1 Nc3 46. b6 {[#] Threatens to win with Re8.} Nxa2+ 47. Kd2 Rb8 48. b7 Nb4 49. Be6 Kc5 {Strongly threatening ...Kd6.} 50. Bc8 Nc6 {The position is equal.} 51. Rg7 g5 52. Ke3 Na5 53. Kd3 Kd6 $1 54. Rd7+ (54. Rh7 {with more complications.} Kc5 55. Rc7+ Kb6 56. Rc1 Nxb7 57. Kd4) 54... Kc6 {[%cal Ra5b7]} 55. Kd4 Nxb7 56. Rxb7 Rxc8 $11 {KR-KR} 57. Rg7 Kd6 {...Rc4+ is the strong threat.} 58. Rg6+ Ke7 59. Rxg5 Kf6 60. Rxd5 Re8 61. g5+ Kg6 62. Re5 Rxe5 63. Kxe5 Kxg5 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.09/Black=0.08} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

On the two international boards of the Sinquefield Cup’s second round, French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave kept the leader’s pace at 1.5/2 with a peaceful match with Hungarian GM Richard Rapport, while Russian GM Peter Svidler dropped an early pawn to Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov but delivered a valiant fight to defend his half point. 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.18"] [Round "2.5"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C53"] [WhiteElo "2714"] [BlackElo "2782"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 11,91,-32,-2,-11,-6,-9,-4,-19,-17,-46,-14,-71,-53,-48,-44,-51,-53,-41, -42,-42,-42,-41,-36,-37,-41,-41,-41,-50,-50,-50,-53,-50,-47,-57,-57,-50,-24, -24,-24,-24,-16,-12,-16,-17,-16,-16,-17,-17,-6,-11,-10,-10,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,10, -8,-9,-9,-9,-11,-8,-7,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. b4 Be7 7. O-O $1 {C54: Giuoco Piano: 4 c3 Nf6, main lines with 5 d4 and 5 d3.} d5 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. Re1 $1 {[%mdl 4] outshines the older 9.b5.} Bf6 10. Ba3 Re8 11. Nbd2 {[%eval -71,18]} (11. b5 $11 {[%eval -14, 18] keeps the balance.} Na5 12. Bxd5 Qxd5 13. c4) 11... Nxc3 $146 ({ Predecessor:} 11... b5 12. Bxd5 Qxd5 13. Ne4 Be7 14. Bb2 a5 15. a4 Be6 16. axb5 Qxb5 17. c4 Qxb4 18. Bc3 Qb6 19. Nxe5 Nxe5 {1/2-1/2 (19) Ponkratov,P (2530) -Khairullin,I (2575) Zvenigorod 2008}) 12. Qb3 {[#]} Be6 13. Bxe6 (13. Qxc3 $2 e4 $19) 13... Rxe6 14. b5 ({Not} 14. Qxc3 $2 e4 $19) 14... Nd4 {[%cal Rd4b3]} 15. Nxd4 exd4 (15... Qxd4 $2 16. Bb2 $18) 16. Rxe6 fxe6 17. Qxe6+ Kh8 18. Re1 Nxb5 19. Be7 Bxe7 20. Qxe7 Qxe7 21. Rxe7 $15 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRN-KRN} b6 22. Ne4 c5 23. Kf1 Nc3 24. Nxc3 dxc3 $11 {KR-KR} 25. Ke2 h6 26. Kd1 {The position is equal.} b5 27. Rc7 Rf8 28. f3 Rf5 29. Rxa7 Re5 30. a3 Re3 31. Rb7 Rxd3+ 32. Kc2 Rd2+ 33. Kxc3 Rxg2 34. Rxb5 {Hoping for a4.} Rxh2 35. Rxc5 Rf2 36. Rf5 g6 37. Rf4 Kg7 38. Kd3 g5 39. Ke3 Ra2 ({Don't go for} 39... gxf4+ $2 40. Kxf2 Kf7 41. Kg2 $18) (39... Rc2 {looks sharper.} 40. Rd4 Rc3+ 41. Rd3 Rc6 42. a4 Ra6) 40. Ra4 h5 41. Ra7+ Kg6 42. Ra6+ Kf5 43. Ra5+ Kg6 44. Ra6+ Kf5 45. Ra5+ Kg6 46. Ra6+ {Weighted Error Value: White=0.05/Black=0.04} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

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Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
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Azerbaijan GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov // photo Bryan Adams, Grand Chess Tour

 

[pgn][Event "8th Sinquefield Cup 2021"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2021.08.18"] [Round "2.4"] [White "Rapport, Richard"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2751"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2021.08.17"] {[%evp 12,72,21,21,54,6,20,17,39,-12,-8,-7,-6,-6,-6,-8,1,3,3,3,13,13,16,-7,-8, -20,-19,-21,-13,-19,-13,-49,-48,-56,-16,-14,-13,-20,1,-7,0,-9,-8,-8,-8,-8,-8, -8,-8,-8,-8,-8,-8,-8,0,0,0,0,0,-2,0,0,0]} 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 O-O 7. Nc3 Qc7 {E60: King's Indian: Unusual lines and Fianchetto Variation without Nc3.} 8. Qd3 {[%eval 6,18]} (8. Nd5 $14 {[%eval 54,16]} Nxd5 9. cxd5 (9. Bxd5 e6 $15)) 8... Nc6 $11 9. O-O $1 d6 {The old main line.} 10. Nxc6 {[%eval -12,16]} (10. Ncb5 $1 $14 {[%eval 39,15]} Qd7 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Nc3) 10... bxc6 11. Bf4 Nh5 12. Bg5 Rb8 13. b3 h6 $146 ({Predecessor: } 13... Qa5 14. Bd2 Bb7 15. b4 Qc7 16. Rab1 Nf6 17. Bf4 Ng4 18. c5 Ne5 19. cxd6 exd6 20. Bxe5 Bxe5 {1/2-1/2 (32) Jakovenko,D (2681)-Vachier Lagrave,M (2774) Khanty Mansiysk 2019}) 14. Bd2 Nf6 15. Rac1 a5 16. h3 Rd8 17. e4 Nd7 18. Rfd1 Nc5 19. Qe2 e5 20. Kh2 Kh7 21. Qf1 h5 22. Bg5 Re8 (22... f6 $5 {[%cal Rf6g5]} 23. Be3 Bh6 $11) 23. Qe1 {The position is equal.} Ne6 24. Bd2 Ra8 25. Be3 h4 26. Na4 hxg3+ 27. fxg3 c5 28. Qd2 Nd4 29. Rf1 Be6 30. Rf2 Reb8 31. h4 Qd7 32. Rcf1 Ra7 33. Qd1 Bg4 34. Qd2 Be6 35. Qd1 Bg4 36. Qd2 Be6 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.08/Black=0.06} 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Round 3 begins Thursday at 3:00 p.m. St. Louis time, with live games and commentary offered here


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