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Sinquefield Cup is living up to expectations

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: All eyes of the chess world are locked on St. Louis this week as four of its greatest titans battle it out for the 2013 Sinquefield Cup held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, 4657 Maryland Ave.

The top two ranked players in the world: GM Magnus Carlsen (2862) and GM Levon Aronian (2802) are mixing it up with the top two U.S. players GM Hikaru Nakamura (2774) and U.S. Champion Gata Kamsky (2741) over a week-long, double round robin style tournament.

Each player plays once with the white pieces and once with the black pieces, with the winner taking home the top prize of $70,000, with games commencing at 1 p.m. most days.; 11 a.m. Sunday. Thursday will be a rest day.

“The Sinquefield Cup is the strongest tournament ever to take place on American soil,” said Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. “Not only will it raise the profile of the game here in St. Louis, but will broaden knowledge of the game across the nation.”

The play so far

After the second day’s proceedings, Nakamura stands on top with a score of 2; he defeated Aronian on Monday with the white pieces and forced a resignation out of Kamsky yesterday.

Carlsen sits in second with a score of 1 ½ after putting a slow squeeze on Kamsky in a variant of his favourite line, the Slav, and a draw yesterday with good friend and rival Aronian.

Aronian sits in 3rd with ½ a point; and Kamsky lies at the bottom of the pile wtih 0.

Today sees Carlsen try to overtake Nakamura as tournament leader with the white pieces, as Kamsky will also pick up the whites for the first time in a bid to etch himself onto the scoreboard against Aronian.

Restoring U.S. chess status

The tournament fills a significant gap in U.S. chess history. Not since the 1960’s and the introduction of the Piatgorsky Cup, which featured the likes of Bobby Fischer, Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian has there been a tournament to feature such high rated players. Carlson, whose FIDE rating currently stands at 2862, recently surpassed the hallmark grade of legend Garry Kasparov (2851), a record that stood for almost 14 years. Levon Aronian also joins Carlson as just the sixth player to dip above the 2800 grade.

Games can be watched live online. Coverage and analysis are provided by three different grandmaster commentary teams: 

GM Yasser Seirawan and WGM Jennifer Shahade team up with GM Maurice Ashley to provide live stream coverage while Israeli GM Ronen Har-Zvi and Armenian born GM Varuzhan Akobian provide analysis across the road from the World Chess Hall of Fame. GM Ben Finegold and Australian GM Ian Rogers apply their insight from neighboring bar Lesters.

The cup is named after chess club founders Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, arguably the two most influential people in reviving the chess scene in St. Louis.

The Sinquefields, both multiple recipients of the United States Chess Federation’s Gold Koltanowski Award, given annually to the person most responsible for promoting chess across the nation, moved back to St. Louis and were not about to find what they wanted her in the chess scene.

“Rex came back wanting to play but realized there wasn’t really anywhere to go, a couple of loose groups of people here and there but nothing substantial,” said Rich. “So in June 2008 he opened the doors to the center, which has since held five U.S. Championships, four Women’s Championships and now this, one of the world’s major international events.”

Those who come to the center in the Central West End have the option of listening to the live coverage or observing the players in action. Day passes can be purchased for $15, which includes food and beverages.