Firouzja Wins Sinquefield Cup & The Grand Chess Tour

Firouzja Wins Sinquefield Cup & The Grand Chess Tour


After nine eventful rounds of play and lots of surrounding tumult, the 2022 Sinquefield Cup came to a conclusion on Sunday in Saint Louis.

After four draws in the regulation games of round nine, a play-off, consisting of two rapid games, between GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alireza Firouzja decided the winner of this year’s Sinquefield Cup. After a draw in the first game where Nepomniacthchi was pressing throughout, he blundered right after the opening in the second game, losing a piece. The Candidates winner carried on a while longer, but the result was never in doubt, securing the double win for Firouzja in both the Sinquefield Cup and the Grand Chess Tour.

What a day! It started with fizzles with three draws, then had some drizzles of excitement when Nepomniachtchi seemed to be winning his regulation game. But once the tiebreaking playoff started, the evening truly sizzled.


Ahead of the Sinquefield Cup, the two French players were leading the Grand Chess Tour. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had accumulated 26.5 points, while Firouzja had tallied 25.5 points, more than half of which came from winning the Rapid & Blitz event that preceded the present tournament.

Thanks to (and here we will be generous) an underwhelming performance in the Sinquefield Cup, Vachier-Lagrave was no longer in contention for winning the tour, while his young countryman with the come-from-behind victory against GM Wesley So in round eight had put himself in the position to take home both crowns. The question, however, was how much Vachier-Lagrave would be willing to be the spanner in the proverbial works, ruining everything, or if he would, musketeer-style, take one for the team.

The pre-game handshake between the Frenchmen was almost longer than the game. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

It turned out to be something in between. At record speed, the moves flew over the board, and before your correspondent had a chance to fill his coffee mug, ready for an afternoon of exciting chess, the game had concluded in a draw.

In fact, what happened was that they repeated the first 24 moves from the preceding blitz event where they had then agreed to a draw, but here, due to the regulations, they had to carry on until they had constructed a repetition mechanism.

The draw secured the overall win in the Grand Chess Tour for Firouzja but left the tournament win in limbo. 

After their quick draw, the Vachier-Lagrave & Firouzja joined tournament sponsor, Rex Sinquefield for coffee. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.


More than anybody, two people’s tournaments were impacted by the departure of the world champion. Nepomniachtchi who had lost to GM Magnus Carlsen all of a sudden was back in contention with +1 on the table. GM Hans Niemann, on the other hand, had a full point taken away and ended up on the receiving end of all sorts of hatred and allegations—from people in the know, those who should have known better, and those who just wanted to be heard but neither knew nor had any measurable understanding of the situation.

Ahead of round eight, the arbiters cleared Niemann of all allegations in connection with the games in the Sinquefield Cup, but the psychological impact, pressure, nerves, sleep, etc, cannot be denied. Niemann didn’t win another game after the Carlsen game, and he had been close to losing in more games than the ones he eventually lost.

Niemann admitted in his post-game interview that the stress had severely impacted his ability to sleep and focus after round 4. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

For Niemann, the last round constituted an opportunity to redeem himself a bit, while Nepomniachtchi was playing for the king’s coin and honor by picking up a nice paycheck and possibly winning one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year. As far as winning the overall tour, that ship had sailed a long time ago.

The game between the two ended up in a fascinating ending where Niemann had numerous pawn weaknesses in his camp, but enough compensation for it through his active pieces. Despite Nepomniachtchi having multiple chances for more, the game eventually ended in a draw.

A disappointed Nepomniachtchi in the studio after the draw. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

We have picked Nepomniachtchi-Niemann from round nine as our Game of the Day. 

The draw in this game meant that Nepomniachtchi only managed to match the score of Firouzja and thus they would have to enter a play-off to decide the winner of the tournament.


There are no two ways about it, the loss against Firouzja in round eight was a heartbreaker for So. He had conducted a perfect tournament, was leading half a point ahead of the pursuers, and had a near-winning position after just 15 moves. But then it all went wrong and tumbled down on him. He lost the victory in the game, tournament lead, and possibly the win of the entire Grand Chess Tour. Could he recover? That was indeed the question.

GM Leinier Dominguez Perez, by contrast, has had a frustrating event. Two winning positions were not won. Had he picked up those wins, he would have been in shared first ahead of the last round. Admittedly, he struggled a couple of times too, but the sympathetic Cuban-born American managed those positions as well. Now, the two combatants were playing for the spoils, and perhaps the honor of finishing as the best American player—provided one of them would win and pass GM Fabiano Caruana in the final standings.

Wesley So tried for a while but couldn’t make a dent in Dominguez’s defensive shield. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

The game opened with a Queen’s Gambit Accepted, where So chose the dxc5 line similar to what GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had used against Vachier-Lagrave in an earlier round. 

It quickly became clear that White had nothing. However, So gave it an unsuccessful try for more, before he and Dominguez found a way to exchange a bunch of pieces, along with a repetition.


Aside from Vachier-Lagrave, two players who will want to forget about their tournament as soon as humanly possible are GMs Levon Aronian and Mamedyarov. Particularly the latter had a disastrous tournament, on par with the very first tournament of the Grand Chess Tour earlier this year, where he finished last at the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. Ahead of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament, Aronian was even in contention for the overall win of the tour, but a mediocre event there followed by a decidedly sub-par one here saw those dreams thoroughly flow away in the muddy waves of the Missouri River. 

An exhausted Mamedyarov with nothing to play for still made an effort for the win in the final round. Photo: Bryan Adams / Grand Chess Tour.

Thus, their draw in the final round came to the surprise of absolutely no one, but the amount of action along the way did surprise quite a bit.

Due to Carlsen’s withdrawal, Caruana had a bye for the last round.

The Play-Off

After a reasonably lengthy break, the players returned to the playing hall, dressing noticeably more casually than during the regulation round. The play-off would consist of two rapid games.

Casual outfits but lots of money at stake. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Game 1

Having won a draw, Nepominachtchi chose to play White in the first game. In a main line Catalan, Firouzja equalized and maybe even started to press a little. However, after the logical but ultimately faulty 26…c5?, he got in trouble. Nepomniachtchi’s 27.d5! sent Firouzja in the tank where he spent half of his remaining time. After the play-off, Firouzja admitted that he had completely missed this move. However, with precise play, the French grandmaster held the balance and eventually forced the play into a drawn rook ending.

A relieved Firouzja after saving a draw in game one of the play-off. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Game 2

In the second game, Firouzja returned to the English Opening that had served him throughout the Rapid & Blitz event that he had won so convincingly. It turned out to be the perfect move as he got an opportunity to play an idea he had prepared for the tournament but had forgotten in the game against Mamedyarov! Here, Nepomniachtchi responded poorly and played a bad seventh move. He did get a chance later to equalize, but when that too was missed, Black was in trouble.

Firouzja executed with precision in game two of the playoff. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

However, it went from bad to worse when he blundered a piece in the early middlegame. After that, there was no coming back.

It was a very happy Firouzja that joined the broadcast team in the studio. He expressed he was surprised to even be in the tie-breaking play-off, because “Ian was completely winning against Hans.” He was already looking forward to the next event, the Fischer 960 chess, where he would be facing his idol, former world champion GM Garry Kasparov.  

All Games Day 9

Final Standings After Round 9

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pts SB

Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2792 2840 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 5.0/8 19.75
2 Firouzja,Alireza 2778 2842 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 5.0/8 18.5
3 So,Wesley 2771 2797 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/8 17.25
4 Caruana,Fabiano 2758 2799 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 4.5/8 16.75
5 Dominguez Perez,Leinier 2745 2757 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/8
6 Niemann,Hans Moke 2688 2720 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/8 13.25
7 Aronian,Levon 2759 2713 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5/8 12.75
8 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2757 2668 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 3.0/8 12.5
9 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2757 2668 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.0/8 12.25


Game Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 Final
1 Firouzja,Alireza 2778 2982 ½ 1 1.5/2

Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2792 2588 ½ 0 0.5/2

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. This is distributed as follows:

Place Prize GCT Points
1 $100,000 13*
2 $65,000 10
3 $48,000 8
4 $32,000 7
5 $26,000 6
6 $21,000 5
7 $18,500 4
8 $16,000 3
9 $13,000 2
10 $10,500 1

Final Standings in the Grand Chess Tour

Place Fed Name Superbet Chess Classic Superbet R&B Poland SuperUnited R&B Croatia Saint Louis R&B Sinquefield Cup Total GCT Points
1 Firouzja, Alireza 3.5 0 9 13 12 37.5
2 So, Wesley 10 6 6.5 0 7.5 30
3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 10 0 9 7.5 2.5 29
4 Caruana, Fabiano 6 7 0 7.5 7.5 28
5 Aronian, Levon 10 9 0 3.5 4.5 27

Nepomniachtchi, Ian 3.5 0 6.5 6 11 27
7 Dominguez, Leinier 6 0 3.5 1 6 16.5
8 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 1.5 0 3.5 5 2.5 12.5
9 Rapport, Richard 1.5 5 0 0 0 6.5

Coverage of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup


Source link

Tinggalkan Balasan