What a fantastic finish to the Sinquefield Cup! Going in to the last round, it was Aronian’s trophy to lose. Sat on 5/8, level with Anand and Vachier-Lagrave, the Armenian enjoyed a better tie-break, meaning draws for the top 3 would see him take first place.
However, his final opponent was one Magnus Carlsen – and Levon was black. Having played Carlsen nearly 100 times over 13 years, Aronian was unafraid and tried mixing things up with some inventive sacrifices, 20…Rb2 and 35…Nxg2.
Magnus handled the complications easily enough and emerged with a winning endgame which he converted.
Aronian’s decision to take risks and go for the win was no doubt influenced by MVL’s pairing: White against bottom of the table Nepomniachtchi.
Nepo bravely played the Najdorf – Maxime’s favorite opening. The Frenchman confidently snowballed a small edge into an overwhelming position, winning in 52 moves. Anand’s draw as Black against Wesley So confirmed MVL as the winner, with a stunning 2913 tournament performance.
So Vachier-Lagrave beat Carlsen twice: both in their individual game and to win the Sinquefield Cup, the World Champion having to settle for 2nd place.
While Magnus is still comfortably World #1, 24 Elo points ahead of MVL, the competition is hotting up with 10 players in the next 24 point range. With another World Championship next year, who do you think Magnus’ challenger will be?
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Last week’s puzzle solution:
Vaganian-Hou Yifan, 2017. Black to move
Hou Yifan surprised everyone with 20…Bxg2! 21.Kxg2 Qxd4!! the point being that 22.exd4 is met by …Nf4+ winning back the piece and emerging a pawn up and leaving White with 3 isolated pawns.
This week’s puzzle:
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave, 2017. White to move
Can you do better than Magnus? Both sides are attacking a rook. Do you, as White, take on d8, avoid capture or do something else entirely?
3r4/p4k2/Pp6/1Bpr1pBp/2N3bP/2Pn2b1/KP5R/5R2 w – – 0 46
Answer next week!