After a quick draw against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won the 2021 Sinquefield Cup, securing first place after his closest rivals were unable to catch him in the ninth and final round. MVL is the first two-time clear winner of the event, also having taken first place in the 2017 edition. For his efforts, Vachier-Lagrave earns $90,000 in prize money, as well as a bonus of $50,000 for finishing second in the overall Grand Chess Tour.
With the win, Vachier-Lagrave also secured second place in the overall Grand Chess Tour, with Mamedyarov finishing third after all was said and done. The 2021 Grand Chess Tour winner, Wesley So, had already clinched first place after yesterday’s round.
Mamedyarov - Vachier-Lagrave | ½-½, 25 moves
The game was over within ten minutes of the start of the round as the players repeated a well-known “book draw” in the Grunfeld, securing MVL at least a tie for first place. However, the intrigue didn’t end there as Caruana, So, and Dominguez still had a chance to catch MVL with a win.
The final position of Mamedyarov - Vachier-Lagrave, which earlier this year became an infamous way for players to force a draw in elite events, as the moves Kh8 Rd7+ Kg8 Rg7+ are completely forced, with neither side being able to avoid a draw by repetition.
So - Dominguez | ½-½, 35 moves
Wesley opted for the quiet but venomous Exchange Variation (7.dxc5) of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, leading to a queenless middlegame where White typically plays for a small plus. Dominguez did not appear to have any serious issues in the game, comfortably holding his own as he allowed White to win a pawn in exchange for some piece activity. So’s extra pawn was fairly weak and never able to get going, and once Dominguez inevitably won the pawn back the position was completely drawn.
Shankland - Swiercz | ½-½, 43 moves
Good preparation by Swiercz as Black in the Catalan allowed him to solve all of his problems out of the opening, with Shankland holding a bit of pressure with the two bishops but Black having excellent control over the dark squares. After some logical play by both sides, the players eventually found themselves in an equal endgame, and after further exchanges, the game ended with three-fold repetition.
Svidler - Xiong | ½-½, 44 moves
Faced with an aggressively early g7-g5 push in the Italian Game, Svidler reacted well by fighting back in the center and castling queenside. But after achieving a dominating position, Svidler started to go wrong, missing the strongest opportunities and eventually settling for an endgame with an extra pawn but with plenty of compensation for Black. Xiong took his chance to get back into the game and managed to hold, creating enough counterplay to maintain the balance.
Rapport - Caruana | ½-½, 62 moves
The final game of the day carried the most intrigue as Caruana needed a win in order to catch up to Vachier-Lagrave and tie for first place. Playing as Black, Fabiano opted for the Sicilian, and was a bit worse out of the opening but managed to turn things around by creating strong kingside counterplay. Rapport defended well and only ended up slightly worse in a heavy-piece endgame, as Caruana continued to press and play on for the full point. Unfortunately for Fabiano, there simply wasn’t enough in the position, as Rapport successfully held the rook endgame, and MVL was declared the clear champion.
Coming up next in Saint Louis will be the 2021 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX, taking place September 7-10 and will feature ten of the world’s best players, including legendary World Champion, Garry Kasparov competing in Fischer Random chess. Check out more info/details on the event here.
Text: IM Kostya Kavutskiy
Photo: Lennart Ootes, Bryan Adams, Austin Fuller and Crystal Fuller
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Saint Louis Chess Club, USA
August 10- August 16, 2021
Photos: Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour and Spectrum Studios Credits available on Flickr.