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Caruana Off to a Crushing Start in Sinquefield Cup Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
August 29, 2014
Fabiano Caruana leads the Sinquefield Cup after two rounds

Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana combined extraordinary opening preparation with accurate calculation to win his second consecutive game at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, leaving the rest of the highest-rated field in history snapping at his heels.



In round two, Caruana may have been surprised by Vachier-Lagrave's Caro-Kann Defense, though he used the chance to employ some preparation done with his second, Vladimir Chuchelov, a few months ago -- readying for a game against Azeri GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

With 5...c5 and 6...Qb6, Vachier-Lagrave ventured into a super-sharp line of the Short Variation, but Caruana's 15.g4!?, followed by the equally remarkable 17.Rf2!, was new and unexpected. Vachier-Lagrave began burning time, falling an hour behind on the clock, though his reaction was adequate -- until 17...Nh6. Now Caruana was on his own, spending 13 minutes calculating through complications to find the only winning response: 18.Bd3!

The rest of the game was pure suffering for Vachier-Lagrave, short of time and presented with a variety of losing options. The Frenchman continued, despite being down a piece, but after 30 moves he had nothing for the lost material and resigned.

GM Fabiano Caruana during his ice-bucket challenge with CCSCSL founder Rex Sinquefield in the background & Communications director Brian Jerauld doing the honors, Photo Lennart Ootes

The game of the day was expected to be GM Hikaru Nakamura's attempt to secure his first career victory against GM Magnus Carlsen. Nakamura had gone close to knocking over the World Champion with the White pieces twice already in 2014, but Carlsen had turned the tables and won both times.


Nakamura's Spanish Opening was met by the surprising 3...g6 -- a move which Nakamura himself had used to beat then-World Champion Viswanathan Anand in 2013. The American reacted along classical lines, leading the game into positions resembling a King's Indian Defence, though without a key pair of bishops.
US #1 Hikaru Nakamura vs. World Champion Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen surprised both Nakamura and the commentators with the unusual idea 14...c6, playing on the side of the board where Nakamura was attacking. Nakamura's reaction led to a roughly equal position before Carlsen lashed out with 18...Nh5!!?, sacrificing one and possibly two pawns.

With 21.f6 and 24.Qb1! -- a move Carlsen had missed -- Nakamura maintained the balance, and soon the World Champion was forced to sacrifice a bishop to achieve perpetual check.

The result was reasonably satisfactory for both players: Carlsen has survived his first two games with the Black pieces and will benefit with the first move in five of his next eight games, while Nakamura has safely negotiated games against the tournament's two highest-rated players.

GM Levon Aronian briefly regained his world number two ranking -- briefly being for about two minutes, until Caruana earned his second victory --  after winning a game against GM Veselin Topalov that looked almost hopeless for the Armenian after just 15 moves.


Playing White, Aronian faced Topalov's Slav with a well-known plan, but 9...Ne4!? sent him into a death spiral. The World No. 2 had spent only seven minutes before playing into a forced sequence, a series that ended with Aronian staring at 14...Bxd4! in disgust.

Aronian found a way to play on, sacrificing the exchange, and Topalov continued to allow counterplay. After black’s disastrous decision to castle queenside (instead of kingside), Aronian believed that he was close to winning, pointing out the cute variation 23...Kb7 24.Bxc6+! Kxc6 25.Qg2+ with a decisive attack.

Aronian admitted luck after he demonstrated the game to a crowd in the World Chess Hall of Fame but, lucky or not, the Armenian has moved into second place in the tournament, half a point behind Caruana. Topalov, meanwhile, is languishing on 0/2, blaming calculation errors for ruining decent positions against both Caruana and Aronian.

Follow along daily rounds featuring commentary by GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and CLO editor WGM Jen Shahade starting at 1:50 CST/2:50 EST on uschesschamps.com/live

August - Chess Life Online 2014

Back to School with Jeevan KaramsettyCaruana Off to a Crushing Start in Sinquefield Cup US Masters Returns to GreensboroBack to School with Becca Lampman Strongest Chess Tournament Ever Begins in Saint LouisCaptain Melik & Coach Yury Reflect on Tromso Brownsville Recognized as Chess City of the Year [FULL AWARDS LIST] Rogers Previews World's Strongest Tournament: Sinquefield Cup Tang & Kats Pick Up Big Norms in Canada The August Check is in the Mail President's Report From Tromso Ricardo DeGuzman Tops The Field In The ValleyBookstore Bids Open for National Scholastics Azarov Wins in Washington, Sevian Nabs Final Norm Hoffman & Rohde on Impressions from the Olympiad The Captain’s Report: Donaldson on the Last Round in Tromso Brown & Guadalupe Report from FIDE Congress US Teams Win Vs. Argentina & Vietnam US Splits Both Matches Sevian Leads Washington International USCF President Ruth Haring Reports in Orlando The US Splits Match vs. Hungary Captain's Report: Donaldson on the Olympiad Last Day Discount for Millionaire Chess FIDE Congress Underway in Tromso US Wins Big vs. Uzbekistan Rest and Run: Team USA Victorious in Round 62014 Sinquefield Cup Strongest Chess Tournament in HistoryTeam USA in Norway: Shankland Stays PerfectLevon Aronian Headlines Metropolitan Chess Camp US Teams Rebound in Round Four The US Falters in Round Three GM Conrad Holt Wins US Open Title The US Team in Norway: Big Battles Set for Round 3 Four Pull Ahead in Orlando Chess Life Bonus: Melekhina Annotates Krush Draw Ten Tied After Big US Open Merge