Monday, September 16, 2013

Carlsen Wins Sinquefield Cup

By , GuideSeptember 16, 2013
The Sinquefield Cup was billed as the strongest tournament ever held on U.S. soil, and it certainly had a great claim to that crown. With both Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian participating along with the top two American players (Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky), there was plenty of strength in the field. Perhaps the only complaint some observers could have had was that there were only those four playing, but chess certainly has room for more intimate events as well as those with larger fields.

In the early rounds of the double-round robin, the tournament appeared to be turning into a race between Hikaru Nakamura - who jumped out to a 2.5/3 score, conceding only a draw in a game where he had an advantage against Carlsen - and Carlsen, who can always be counted on to be in contention. Meanwhile, two losses in the first half effectively removed Kamsky from contention, while Aronian also struggled after his first round loss.

The fourth round saw Kamsky eliminated for good by losing to Carlsen, but a win by Aronian brought him somewhat back in the mix while also knocking Nakamura back to 2nd place. Heading into the 6th and final round, Carlsen held a half-point lead over Nakamura and was a point ahead of Aronian - but with Aronian playing the leader, virtually anything was possible.
In the end, though, Carlsen showed why he's the world's #1 ranked player. He scored an improbable win against Aronian from (what else is new?) a seemingly drawn position. Meanwhile, Nakamura drew Kamsky, making Carlsen's final margin a full-point over Nakamura and two over Aronian. Carlsen's performance rating was a mighty 2966 - especially impressive considering that he was likely holding something back for his championship challenge later this year. Also a fun fact: since this was a USCF-rated tournament, Carlsen was able to post a provisional USCF rating of - wait for it - 3004, which would put him 134 points clear of the official leader, Nakamura. For the record, Aronian has a paltry USCF rating (also provisional) of 2881.
All in all, the Sinquefield Cup appears to have been a great success. The web coverage, anchored by Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley, was entertaining and informative, and it sounded like there was plenty to do on site as well (the games were even broadcast live in a nearby sports bar, which was apparently packed with chess fans). Here's hoping that the tournament can become an annual event with an equally appealing field next year.

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