|Rogers Previews World's Strongest Tournament: Sinquefield Cup|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|August 24, 2014|
On Wednesday battle will commence in Saint Louis at the second Sinquefield Cup.
In a year which has already seen a Candidates tournament and multiple high level events, the 2014 Sinquefield Cup has assembled a field with the highest average rating in history (2802!!).
Between August 27 and September 7 Carlsen, Aronian, Caruana, Nakamura, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave - all currently members of the world's top ten - will compete in a double round-robin tournament at the Saint Louis Chess Club for a prize fund of more than $300,000.
The 2013 Sinquefield Cup was convincingly won by Magnus Carlsen whose action in declining a last round draw against Levon Aronian - a draw which would have won him the tournament - and grinding out a win, laid down a psychological marker which may have helped intimidate Viswanathan Anand just before their 2013 world title match.
Now World Champion, Carlsen has not relented in his quest to win everything he plays, taking out the elite Zurich and Shamkir tournaments in 2014, though failing to win on his home ground in Stavanger and also looking inconsistent in his final outing before the Sinquefield Cup at the Tromso Olympiad.
Any one of the other five players could challenge Carlsen.
Levon Aronian might be expected to be Carlsen's main rival but the Armenian's form since February has been shaky - though many players would be happy to be ranked world number two after six months of shakiness!
US fans will hope that Hikaru Nakamura, another player suffering from a relatively modest 2014, can reproduce some of the form he showed in the first half of the 2013 Sinquefield Cup. Nakamura's recent tribulations at the start of the Tromso Olympiad - he arrived in Norway two days late after a series of flight delays - cost him in many ways, but returning to Saint Louis is likely to prove more agreeable.
Historians will no doubt argue about whether the 2014 Sinquefield Cup is the strongest six player tournament of all time. Las Palmas 1996 is certainly a strong candidate, having featured the top 6 players in the world including both World Champions of the time.
However 1996 was a different, more respectful, era, with 20 of the 30 games ending in draws, nine of them in less than 30 moves.
Spectators in 2014 who pay $15 for a ticket to watch Carlsen and his rivals expect far more ambition and, if the 2013 Sinquefield Cup is anything to go by, will get it.
The only survivor from Las Palmas 1996 in Saint Louis is Veselin Topalov, who will go into the 2014 Sinquefield Cup with plenty of confidence having out-performed all his rivals to take the individual board one gold medal for Bulgaria at the Tromso Olympiad. (All six players competed for their national teams in Tromso.)
Given their summer successes in Dortmund and Biel respectively, Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave both know how to win top tournaments. World number three Caruana has been a regular guest in events of the very highest class in recent years, often battling with Carlsen for first place, whereas Vachier-Lagrave will be seeing action in a tournament containing only the world's elite for the first time.
Of course chess fans would love to have seen Carlsen's World Championship challenger Viswanathan Anand compete in Saint Louis, but Anand preferred to play only one classical tournament before the title match, the Masters Final in Bilbao which begins a week after the Sinquefield Cup concludes.
Where to watch the Sinquefield Cup
The very best place to be on Wednesday at 2pm will be the Saint Louis Chess Club and surrounds, including Lester's Sports Bar and the World Chess Hall of Fame. At the STL Chess Club the players can be seen in action while the other venues, just metres away, will host a variety of live commentators to take the audience through the games - plus great food and drink! You will most likely also run into Rex Sinquefield, the retired businessman who founded the Chess Club with his wife Dr. Jeanne Sinquefield. In 2013, Rex attended almost every round of his namesake tournament.
However most of Chess Life Online's readers will be virtual spectators and they will have plenty of choice.
The official commentary team of Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade and Maurice Ashley - available via http://uschesschamps.com/ - will be up to their normal tricks, which in 2013 involved donning sunglasses, being stalked by Freddie Krueger [OK, it was Jason] and using more circles and arrows than Officer Obie. The cameras were also trained on the playing hall at times; watching Carlsen in action is always revealing, especially when the World Champion is in trouble.
Chess fans in 2014 have a wealth of extra options with regard to live commentary, with Chess.com and Chess24 challenging the established players in the field such as Playchess and Internet Chess Club. Whether you prefer the calm tones of Daniel King (Playchess), the Antipodean humour of David Smerdon (ICC) or the bizarre film choices of Jan Gustafsson (Chess24) is a matter of taste but all services provide serious analysis of the top games.
Twitter followers can receive tournament updates via the Saint Louis Chess Club feed @CCSCSL.
When to watch the Sinquefield Cup
All 10 rounds start at 2pm (3pm EST).
The first five rounds will be played on the final five days of August. September 1 is a rest day after which the second half of the tournament runs from September 2-6.
If there is a tie for first place, playoffs will begin on September 7 at midday.
Find full details on the Sinquefield Cup at http://uschesschamps.com/