Just one game in round five of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup was close to seeing a winner, and that was in the encounter between the two American GMs Leinier Dominguez and Hans Niemann. Dominguez had an overwhelming position but let Niemann off the hook. The other three games were largely uneventful draws.
This means that GM Wesley So remains in the lead, now with 3 points. Niemann and Ian Nepomniachtchi are in second place with 2.5 points out of four games.
There seemed to be a somber mood amongst both players and commentators during the Tuesday round. The events from the day before laid a damper on ambitions and emotions.
Danish GM Bent Larsen explained that after GM Bobby Fischer dropped out of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal, nobody except Larsen seemed interested in winning the tournament. From the reactions amongst the players, this could be a similar situation, or maybe they are just emotionally exhausted from the speculations.
Wednesday is the official rest day, so hopefully, the players will return reinvigorated on Thursday, when the games resume at 2:00 p.m. PT/23:00 CET.
Tournament leader Wesley So had the pleasure of playing with the white pieces against Olympiad teammate GM Levon Aronian.
The battleground for their game was a line in the Catalan Opening, where Black plays 4…dxc4 followed by 5…c5, something both of the players have played multiple times, including against each other; their game was in the recent Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland in Warsaw that was also part of the Grand Chess Tour.
White seemed to have to pressure which eventually amounted to a pawn-win. However, making use of the extra pawn was another matter altogether. So quickly gave up any illusions he or the audience may have had about him playing for a win and invited Aronian to some wholesale exchanges that led to a drawn rook ending.
American GM Fabiano Caruana finally won in round four, and in round five, he fired off a piece of home preparation that even had GM Hikaru Nakamura very impressed on his Twitch stream. Only after the 26th move did he come under the initial 90 minutes that he had been allotted at the beginning of the game.
By contrast, his opponent GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was definitely on his own, spending a considerable amount of time, but managed to navigate the complications through to a drawn opposite-colored bishop ending.
With such a draw in hand, Caruana is definitely ready to set in the sprint for the tournament victory, although, with only three games left to play, he will need to put some more full points on the scoreboard.
It is difficult to underestimate what impact the last couple of days have had on Niemann. Sunday, he beat the world champion with the black pieces in an impressive, albeit far from perfect, game. Monday, he had another good position, but let it slide and then had to fight for a draw while also being the subject of rumors online in the wake of Carlsen’s withdrawal from the tournament.
In his round-five game, he had to pull all those emotions together, throw in a sack, and forget about them while playing the black pieces against one of his strongest countrymen, Dominguez.
In an Italian Game, Black seemed to equalize relatively easily, but in the early middlegame White then started to take over, and when Niemann then unwisely retreated his dark-squared bishop to b8, the problems started taking concrete shape.
Systematically, Dominguez improved his position until the engines told the commentators that White was indeed completely winning.
Then something weird happened. On move 37, Dominguez, who uncharacteristically was not in time trouble, threw nearly all of his advantage away by exchanging knights on b5. He won a pawn, but this material advantage was largely inconsequential in the double rook ending. After another inaccuracy, the remainder of the advantage was gone, and Niemann could check his way to a repetition of moves.
We have picked this game as our Game of the Day by GM Rafael Leitao.
It must be difficult for the participants to just focus on playing the games right now. It’s no wonder that the level of play and combativeness of the tournament has dropped in the last two rounds. Fortunately, tomorrow is a free day and I hope everyone’s energies are renewed and tempers calmed so that the tournament continues with great games in its final phase.
Russian GM Nepomniachtchi clearly had enough of experiments in the Najdorf, and returned to his trusty Petroff against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
The result became a rather dull game where both sides eagerly exchanged pieces until arriving in a double rook and bishop ending where White was marginally better.
Once it was established that there was no obvious way for White to break through, the players found a way to exchange some more pieces and then initiate a repetition.
After Carlsen’s withdrawal from the tournament, GM Alireza Firouzja got an extra day off as Wednesday is the official rest day.
All Games Day 5
Standings after round 5
The 2022 Sinquefield Cup is the fifth and final leg of the 2022 Grand Chess Tour. The 10 players compete in an all-play-all round-robin for their share of the $319,000 prize fund.
Coverage of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup