2014 Sinquefield Cup: Round #3

2014 Sinquefield Cup
August 27th – September 7th, 2014 (St. Louis, USA)
Round #3 – Friday, 29 August 2014
1 Carlsen, M
Caruana, F
2 Vachier-Lagrave
Aronian, L
3 Topalov, V
Nakamura, H
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Caruana on fire at 3/3, beats Carlsen!

What a homecoming it has been for the world’s #2 player. Fabiano Caruana has cemented his place in the upper echelon of chess by dispatching the #1 player in Magnus Carlsen. This put their last six encounters at 3-3 with Carlsen now admitting that Caruana represents his most immediate threat.

Carlsen-Nakamura was definitely the round of the day!
Even Topalov couldn’t resist.

In today’s game, Carlsen opted for the Bishop’s Opening(!) and got nothing special out of the opening. That was until Caruana seemingly landed into hot water allowing 15.Bxf7+?! During the press conference, he said he thought he may have missed something, but it just seemed that the black king could tuck away to safety after 15…Kxf7 16.Nxe5+ Kg8 17. Ng6 Qg5 18.Rf8+ Kh7. Carlsen stated that he missed 20…Nd3!? which turned out to be Caruana’s third best option. At this point, the Ra8 was untouchable due to …Qe3+ so white played 21.Qxd3 and black regained material after 21…Rxf8 22.hxg4 Qxg4 23.Nf3 Qxg3 24.e5+ Kxh8. However, black had the clear initiative.

Perhaps Carlsen is in need of a Tylenol after this game.

While white placed hopes in the passed e-pawn, black had seen further to place his queen on e8. This astounded Yasser Seirawan. After 30…Qh5+ Carlsen made an improbable blunder of 31.Nh2?? (31.Qh2 Qe8!) and resigned in a few moves after 31…Rd1+ which would net black a piece after 32.Rxd1 Qxd1+. Shockwaves reverberated around the room as Carlsen sat dejectedly at the board. The last month of play has not been particularly memorable for Carlsen after losing two games at the Olympiad and playing unevenly at the Sinquefield. Another loss would throw the Carlsen camp into full panic mode before the World Championship.

In MVL-Aronian, a very imbalanced opening occurred out of a neo-Grunfeld. Aronian took a risk of grabbing material, but suddenly white’s bishops and open lines exerted immense pressure on black’s development. MVL seized the center and put his “Benko rooks” on the a- and b-files and Aronian’s queenside crumbled. The game was technically winning at this point, but required a bit of technique which MVL converted.

In Topalov-Nakamura, the American appeared to have gotten everything he wanted out of the opening, but missed opportunities for the initiative. White erred with 21.Ng5 which allowed 21…Bxf2+! However, Nakamura didn’t play it!! He said afterwards that he looked at it, but couldn’t make out the details. After 21…g6 22.e6!? fxe6 23.Qg4, white started to gain some stability, but black still had raking bishops and an open f-file.

Nakamura missed his chance to send Topalov to a third straight loss.
Photos by uschesschamps.com.

However, 29…e5? was refuted by 30.Rxe5 Nd5 31.Qc4! exploiting a deadly pin. Topalov allowed 31…Bxf2+ and after 32.Kh1 Rb4!? white had to find a response to Nakamura’s clever response. Well… Topalov erred with 33.Bxb4?! (33.Qxc6 Nxc3 34.Re8+-) Qxe5 34.Be4 Rf6 and white piling on with 35.Rd1. Nakamura had seen enough and resigned after 35…Kg7 36.Bxd5 Bxd5 and 37.Qxd5. Truly a missed opportunity for Nakamura. However there are still seven rounds remaining and with Nakamura, Topalov and Caruana at the bottom with -2, look for some bloody battles.

Standings after Round 3

1st: Fabiano Caruana 3; 2nd-3rd: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian, 1½; 4th-6th: Hikaru Nakamura, Veselin Topalov, Magnus Carlsen, 1;

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