The Sinquefield Cup, the strongest chess tournament in the U.S., begins tomorrow at the St. Louis Chess Club. Let’s take a look at this year’s top-notch field, which has an average rating of 2778, including two players over 2800.
The Defending Champion
Levon Aronian won the 2015 Sinquefield Cup in elegant style, going undefeated and claiming victories against Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So. Since then, his rating has risen nearly 30 points to 2792, and he’s regained his spot in the top five in the world. Will Aronian be able to maintain his title this year?
The U.S. Champion
So far in 2016, Fabiano Caruana has produced numerous strong results.
He’s maintained a FIDE rating over 2800 and is currently ranked 4th in the world. He won the U.S. Championship on his debut. He tied for first at the Gashimov Memorial. He also finished as the close runner-up in two of the strongest tournaments of the year, Tata Steel and the Candidates Tournament.
Caruana is definitely one of the favorites in St. Louis because of his historic 7 game winning streak at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup. In addition, he was the 2014 Grand Chess Tour Champion.
Caruana’s peak rating is 2844, making him the 3rd highest rated player in history behind only World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the legendary Garry Kasparov.
The Grand Chess Tour Leaders
Hikaru Nakamura is a four-time U.S. Champion who has been one of the top forces of American chess and top ten in the world for many years. So far on the Grand Chess Tour, Nakamura won both the rapid and blitz segments in Paris and is currently tied for first place overall in the tour.
Fresh off of his first ever classical victory against Magnus Carlsen at Bilbao Masters, Nakamura will be seeking his first Sinquefield Cup title.
Last year, Wesley So was a wildcard entry into the Sinquefield Cup and one of the biggest underdogs in the tournament. This year, because of his strong performances in Paris and Leuven, he is currently tied for first (along with Nakamura) in the overall Grand Chess Tour.
This kind of rapid progression is nothing new to So. As a junior, he broke the record the youngest Filipino grandmaster (at age 14) and then went on to become the youngest player to pass a 2600 FIDE rating. Over the course of 2014, So had a string of strong tournament performances, including taking clear first at Millionaire Chess, which propelled him into the top 10 in the world. In 2015, So won his strongest tournament to-date, the Bilbao Masters Final (which had an average rating of 2786), by defeating Anish Giri in the playoff.
Wesley So’s biggest challenge is that he has less experience against the field. The Sinquefield Cup will be his chance to find his stride against his fellow competitors in the world top ten.
The Top Seed
Maxime Vachier Lagrave’s recent match victory over Peter Svidler launches his rating to a new peak, 2819. This makes him the 7th highest rated player in history and the new top seed of the Sinquefield Cup.
MVL has been on fire over the last month. In addition to defeating Svidler, he won the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting by a 1.5 point margin over #2 and #3 in the world (at the time), Vladimir Kramnik and Fabiano Caruana.
Will MVL’s streak continue in St. Louis?
The 15th World Champion
Vishwanathan Anand was the World Champion from 2007-2013. At his peak rating, 2817, he was the 6th highest rated player in history.
While Anand’s results have been inconsistent over the past year, he was one of the main competitors for first throughout the Candidates Tournament, showing that he can still fight for the top ranks among the highest competition.
A Fresh Face
This will be Ding’s first appearance at the Sinquefield Cup as well as the Grand Chess Tour although he’s been a top competitor in international chess for many years, ranking as high as #7 in the world. Earlier this year, at Tata Steel, Ding was one of the top scorers, ultimately tying for 2nd with Caruana.
Anish Giri is a formidable Grand Chess Tour competitor. Last year, he won 2nd place overall and was the only player who finished all three GCT events undefeated. Giri still seeks to break that elusive 2800 mark. His peak rating so far is 2798, making him the 11th highest rated player in history.
2015 Norway Chess Champion
During last year’s Grand Chess Tour, Topalov’s tournament results were on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. He began the tour by winning Norway Chess with a plus 4 score, defeating Aronian, Carlsen, and MVL along the way. He ended the tour in clear last place at the London Classic with zero victories. While Topalov is not the official wild card player of the tournament, he certainly is capable of anything.
World Cup Runner-Up
Peter Svidler is replacing Vladimir Kramnik, who withdrew from the tournament recently due to health issues.
While this is Svidler’s debut to the Grand Chess Tour, he’s battled at the top echelon’s of international chess for many years. Most notably, he was the runner-up at the 2015 World Cup, losing by just inches to World Championship Candidate Sergey Karjakin. He also finished the Candidates Tournament earlier this year with a very respectable even score, showing he can hold his own against this kind of strong field.
The Commentary Team
WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Yasser Seirawan
GM Maurice Ashley
GM Alejandro Ramirez
Watch the games live and enjoy engaging commentary by Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade, Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen and Alejandro Ramirez on the Official Grand Chess Tour Website.
The Sinquefield Cup runs from August 5-15 with rounds everyday at 1 P.M. CST (except for August 10, the rest day).