Another week full of chess action has just finished, and we are fast approaching the end of the regular season of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour. This year, the format of the tour consists of five events: Your Next Move in Belgium, Paris GCT, St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (USA), Sinquefield Cup (USA) and the Grand Chess Tour Finalin London, which features the top four finalists from the previous four events.
The second annual St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament took place Aug. 10 to 16. The field included nine of the best 15 players of the world, with the notable absence of world champion Magnus Carlsen, who has chosen a lighter playing schedule, perhaps in order to save the energy he will need to defend his title against the American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana in November.
The St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament was an intense battle with many exciting developments. American Hikaru Nakamura emerged as the clear winner with 22.5 points out of 36 possible, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France finished second. The Frenchman managed to add 58 points to his already lofty blitz rating, reaching 2936.8, just 2.2 points shy of Magnus Carlsen. Shakhiyar Mamedyarov, who has gone from a top-20 player to the top five in the last two years, earned third place.
Coming into the Sinquefield Cup, Hikaru Nakamura, who also won the Paris GCT event in June, is leading the overall standings of the Grand Chess Tour by a substantial margin. With 33 points, he has a comfortable distance from his closest followers, Vachier-Lagrave, Sergey Karjakin of Russia and American Wesley So with 25, 24, and 23 points respectively.
Magnus Carlsen was selected as the event wildcard for the Sinquefield Cup, and he has the opportunity to play spoiler for the rest of the field as they clamor to make the finals in London. This is also the last classical chess event in which Carlsen will face Caruana — his soon-to-be challenger for the world championship title. They square off on Saturday.
The Sinquefield Cup is one of the strongest chess tournaments in history. Based on the Universal Rating System, the event features players ranked first through ninth and 13th. This is the first time all nine of the highest-rated players have competed in a classical chess event. You have to go back to the 1938 AVRO tournament to find an event with the top eight.
The Sinquefield Cup is certainly one of the most exciting chess events in the world every year, and our readers are encouraged to follow the games, either online or in person. Live transmission of the event is available, with expert commentators explaining the games as they develop. This year’s English-language broadcast team includes Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and Jennifer Shahade. Meanwhile, Russian commentary is provided by elite players Peter Svidler and Evgenij “Miro” Miroshnichenko. All commentary can be viewed at grandchesstour.org or at the Saint Louis Chess Club.
In addition, live commentary is available next to the club at Kingside Diner, where spectators can interact and ask questions to commentators Alejandro Ramirez and Cristian Chirila. Tickets to see the games in person may be purchased online or at the Saint Louis Chess Club.
Mauricio Flores is a chess grandmaster based in Minnesota, where he will soon be finishing his Ph.D. in applied mathematics. He is the author of the book “Chess Structures, a Grandmaster Guide”.