There was finally a shake-up in the standings Wednesday as Fabiano Caruana defeated Levon Aronian.
The American joins Viswanathan Anand in the lead as the rest of the games were drawn. Caruana’s win is the second decisive result in the first four rounds.
Anand was on track to extend his lead in the tournament, but the calculations required for him to do so were computer-like and not easy for a human to find. On Thursday, both Anand and Caruana will have the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So, respectively.
The main culprit for this result was Aronian’s time trouble. Caruana played a new idea in the anti-Berlin, calling it a remnant from his World Championship preparation. The novelty he played did not lead to a big advantage, as black had a wealth of choice leading to equality. Still, as Caruana pointed out, that is not always a good thing.
Aronian went into a deep think, spending over an hour on the first 20 moves. Caruana achieved an edge in the middlegame, as he had the perfect setup against his opponent’s isolated queen’s pawn. Aronian decided to give up the pawn, entering into a queen and rook endgame, where he had a very practical chance of holding.
After barely making a move, and with only a second left on his clock several times, Aronian finally cracked under pressure, blundering a simple tactic that allowed a rook exchange and a loss of another pawn. Caruana converted the winning position without any adventures.
Magnus Carlsen faced the man who delivered his last defeat over a year ago in Biel Chess Festival, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Since then, the world champion has gone on an undefeated streak, extending to 83 games after today’s draw. Carlsen opted for the Semi-Slav, an unusual opening choice for him.
At the end of the theoretical discussion, Carlsen emerged with a slight edge, eventually entering a queen endgame where he had the bishop pair against his opponent’s bishop and knight. At this point, Anish Giri was being interviewed by Maurice Ashley and predicted a win for the world champion, pointing out the similarities between the ongoing game and the one where Carlsen defeated Ding Liren in Croatia.
The world champion did not find a way to grow his advantage, allowing Mamedyarov to enter a pawn down opposite-colored bishops endgame, which he held easily.
The second half of the tournament will pick up at 1 p.m. Friday. With the entire field still in the running for the top spot, the Sinquefield Cup action will be fast and furious through the end on Aug. 29.
Tatev Abrahamyan is an Armenian-born American chess player who holds the title of woman grandmaster.