For someone to win an elite chess tournament a combination of elements must align. The player must be in top shape, his opening preparation must be sharp and up-to-date, his game has to be strong, his tactics good, his endgames subtle, and his decision making must be on-point. Even all of this may not be enough.
Throughout the years, it has been proven that unless a player has been incredibly dominant, such as Magnus Carlsen in the early 2010s and Garry Kasparov in the 1990s, luck is definitely involved.
The Grand Chess Tour, the strongest series of tournaments in the year, started with Norway 2015. There, everyone largely attributed Veselin Topalov’s win to some luck. No one doubted that Topalov, a Bulgarian, played well, but his spectacular result was boosted by unusual mistakes by his opponents.
Carlsen, the World Champion, lost his first game against Topalov (now the second ranked player in the world) in an almost inexplicable manner - by not knowing the time control and overstepping it. The victory was so bizarre that it was attributed to a fluke. Later in the tournament, Topalov won a game against Jon Ludvig Hammer that was almost miraculous. After six hours of grueling torture, Hammer made it into a dead draw. Topalov was ready to accept the draw when, out of the blue, the Norwegian blundered horribly, and Topalov was up 1.5 points.
Though all of this, the naysayers are being silenced and the skeptics are converting. Topalov is doing his job! With a magnificent 2.5/3 start in the Sinquefield Cup, no one is attributing his record to sheer luck. Topalov, the leader of the 2015 Grand Chess Tour after the first tournament, is also the leader at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. After Norway Chess, fans and followers were declaring that Vishy Anand and Hikaru Nakamura were at the top of their game, but Topalov has already overcome those obstacles. He convincingly outplayed Nakamura in the second round, then easily held Anand to a draw with the Black pieces in round three. Oh, and did we mention, he destroyed World Champion Carlsen with the Black pieces in round one? The tournament has only just begun.
Only a third of the tournament has occurred but already we can see so many interesting things happening. Topalov is leading, marking him as a candidate for the best player of the year if he can keep it up.
Other players are trying to make their mark as well. Two players who did disastrously in Norway are recovering. One, Levon Aronian, is tied for second with 2.0/3 with excellent play thus far. The second is Magnus Carlsen, who famously disappointed his fan base in Norway. Here, he returned from his loss against Topalov with a heart-stopping victory against Fabiano Caruana, and has had a clean crush against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round three.
The only other player with 2.0/3 is Anish Giri, someone who seems to have a consistent showing this year. As stated before, the tournament is just starting, but there has been plenty of drama. We expect much more to come from the 2015 Sinquefield Cup at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.
About the Grand Chess Tour
The world’s most prestigious, international chess events are working together to establish a gold standard for the Grand Chess Tour, an annual competitive circuit for 10 of the world’s top grandmasters. The Grand Chess Tour has set the model for player conditions, prize funds and spectator experience.
The inaugural 2015 Tour kicked off in June as a three-event cycle, beginning with Norway Chess 2015, followed by the Sinquefield Cup in August, and finishing with the London Chess Classic in December. For more information, visit www.grandchesstour.com.
Alejandro Ramirez has become a frequent guest of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St.Louis, through roles as both the club’s resident Grandmaster rotation and as a player in the nation’s elite events. On Chess is provided by the Chess Club.