After a much-needed Thanksgiving break, the players returned to the board today with seemingly renewed energy. Fans crowded the entrance to the World Chess Hall of Fame, patiently waiting for pictures and signatures, and the players gladly obliged. The exciting atmosphere provided the perfect conditions for the end of the tournament’s drawing streak, and yes, we finally got it! When the smoke cleared, it was GM Wesley So who emerged with the full point, catapulting himself into sole lead and bolstering his campaign for a spot in the 2024 Candidates Tournament. GM Levon Aronian received a bye today due to the withdrawal of GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
GIRI-VACHIER-LAGRAVE | ½-½, 38 moves
Contrary to his dynamic style, Vachier-Lagrave chose the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, but seemed unfamiliar with Giri’s 7.Re1, a trendy approach against the QGA. With Vachier-Lagrave walking right into his preparation, Giri achieved a comfortable endgame edge. But several miscues and miscalculations left him on the edge of the cliff until Vachier-Lagrave missed his chance on move 31.
Giri-Vachier-Lagrave: 24.f4? from Giri reached the position above, missing Vachier’s 24…Nf5!. Black saves the piece after 25. g4 Nfd4 26.f5 Ne5! and the e6 bishop is taboo due to the fork on e2
Giri-Vachier-Lagrave: The greedy 31…Rxb2 spoiled the win; instead, 31…Bd5 would have broken down the White defenses with threats like f5 and Ne2+ on the horizon.
Giri grabbed his chance with the rejoinder 32.f5+, and the two combatants signed a peace treaty right before time control.
Both players look thrilled about the game! Vachier seems to pointing to the f5 square, a key battleground in this game. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
NEPOMNIACHTCHI-CARUANA | ½-½, 63 moves
Two participants already confirmed for the 2024 Candidates faced off in likely their last game before the Candidates tournament which will be held in Toronto in April 2024. Nepomniachtchi took a less-explored approach in the Nimzo with 5.Bd2 followed by 6.a3, resulting in an IQP (isolated queen’s pawn) middlegame. Nepomniachtchi correctly changed the character of the position by giving up two pieces for a rook and two pawns, but accurate defense from Caruana kept him within the drawing margins. The game petered out to a rook and two pawns vs rook and one pawn endgame, which Caruana held with ease.
SO-RAPPORT | 1-0, 36 moves
Rapport, true to his unconventional self, surprised everyone with his choice of the King’s Indian, an opening known for its risky nature, especially at the top level. He seemed to be provoking So into hyper aggression that could be punished, but So conducted the game in a calm, controlled manner. With So maintaining a solid and pesky edge, Rapport decided to lash out with an exchange sacrifice in hopes of catching So’s king in the crossfire. However with cold and correct calculation, So rebuffed the attack and scored the first win of the 2023 Sinquefield Cup.
So-Rapport: 20…Rxc4 from Rapport was a bit too extravagant as the material prevailed. 20…Bb5 would’ve kept the position within drawing margins.
So is our first leader! | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
FIROUZJA-DOMINGUEZ | ½-½, 46 moves
Firouzja decided to go with the London against Dominguez, a player known for his deep theoretical knowledge, perhaps with the idea of getting a fresh battleground without machine intervention. Yet Dominguez still was in book, getting a comfortable position out of the opening with chances for both sides. With such a complicated and tense position, the players exchanged inaccuracies and mistakes, with the advantage switching hands and the clock ticking down for both. In time pressure, Firouzja incorrectly allowed a trade of queens, but Dominguez promptly returned the favor by mistakenly allowing Firouzja to trade a pair of rooks. The resulting endgame proved to have minimal weaknesses for both sides, and the two players settled on a draw on move 47.
Anish checks the London on the board intently! | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
The Sinquefield Cup continues on November 25, with live coverage starting at 1:15 PM CST. Catch all the action live with grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler, and Jovanka Houska on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels!
Written by WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova