It was a lively day at round six of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup. The first to put a full point on the scoreboard was GM Alireza Firouzja. Eventually, also GMs Levon Aronian and leader GM Wesley So scored victories.
This means that So remains in the lead, now with four points from six games. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi is in second place with three points out of five games.
The seventh round starts Friday, at 11:00 a.m. PT/20:00 CEST.
Apparently, the rest day did miracles for the energy restoration of the players. There were fights everywhere, even where there seemed to be nothing to fight about.
Tournament leader So and the tournament sensation GM Hans Niemann faced each other with the latter taking the white pieces. Niemann has played a number of different openings in recent events, but he repeated his choice from the Firouzja game, 1.e4. So then surprised everybody by choosing the Petroff instead of his usual 2…Nc6. His explanation: “Yesterday was a rest day, and Hans prepares extremely well in the opening, and sometimes he can even predict, so I thought, why not the Petroff?”
Hans prepares extremely well in the opening, and sometimes he can even predict, so I thought, why not the Petroff?
—GM Wesley So
Although it seemed like a good choice, Niemann still managed to get a pleasant position after aggressive and ambitious play; he was playing for glory. In retrospect, the ambition perhaps came back to haunt him, because rather than taking a comfortable, minimal edge and zero chance of losing with 20.Bxf6, he went for 20.h4?!.
After So’s strong 20…Nh5!, the white bishop was all of a sudden in a world of trouble. The computer engines told us that White could still save himself after 21.cxd5 cxd5 22.b4!! but this line was so farfetched that only a tactical wizard with superhuman skills would have been able to envision this, and today, that individual was not Niemann.
By contrast, So followed up with a series of brilliant moves and precision. His advantage grew consistently but unlike Dominguez a few days ago, So never let go, and eventually, Niemann was forced to throw the towel into the ring. A beautiful game by the Philippine-born American grandmaster.
The last time Aronian had the opportunity to tango in Najdorf, against GM Leinier Dominguez a few rounds ago, he declined the opportunity and played 3.Bc4 but never really got anything out of that attempt.
In round six, however, he was up for something more concrete and colorful and had decidedly dressed for the occasion, wearing one of his trademark-style shirts.
There are tournaments where the High Priest of the Najdorf religion, French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave does not get a chance to play his favorite opening, but in this tournament it has happened in every single game where he has had the black pieces. Unfortunately, or perhaps predictably when you play the same openings again and again, he has gotten in trouble in each and every game.
In this game, the troubles were only small and in the early endgame, Aronian played sufficiently inaccurately that Vachier-Lagrave actually had chances of a small edge. However, in time trouble, he blundered with 36…f5? and after that, there were no comebacks to be had.
On a day that saw the passing of the English Queen Elizabeth II, it would be easy to attribute Firouzja’s choice of 1.c4, the English Opening to that, but Firouzja has been playing a lot of English games in both this and the preceding events in St. Louis.
One thing, however, was clear: both players came to fight. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov replied with one of the sharpest weapons against the English: the Keres Variation with 2…Nf6 and 3…c6.
After that, it didn’t take long for the game to descend into a back alley knife fight with all the associated chaos and drama. The game was packed with inaccuracies, dubious and bad moves as well as a deciding blunder. The evaluation bar took a trip akin to a Six Flags rollercoaster ride.
In the end, Firouzja picked up a third victory with the white pieces against Mamedyarov here in St. Louis. Each game has featured the 2.g3 English, in each game, Black has been better, but each time, Black ended up losing.
Former world number two GM Fabiano Caruana hosted another masterclass in opening preparation vs. world championship challenger to King Magnus’s throne, Nepomniachtchi. In a Sicilian Four Knights, the American fired off the first 25 moves fast, leaving him with an endgame that would be holdable with only a minimal amount of discomfort.
To Nepomniachtchi’s credit, he pushed for a while, trying his best to make something out of the extra pawn, but Caruana was like that song by the Script, the man who can’t be moved.
Due to GM Magnus Carlsen‘s withdrawal, Dominguez had a bye today.
Statement from Chess.com
After today’s round, Chess.com released the following statement on Twitter:
— Chess.com (@chesscom) September 8, 2022
All Games Day 6
Standings After Round 6
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