The 2015 Sinquefield Cup is about to commence, so we are revisiting Ian Rogers’ 2014 post.
Fabiano Caruana’s win of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis has provoked fierce debate over whether the Italian’s performance was the greatest tournament result of all time.
Caruana won his first seven games and missed chances in his last three games – all draws – to finish on 8.5/10, three points clear of the World Champion.
The run of seven consecutive wins against top class opposition equalled that of Garry Kasparov at the 1999 Wijk aan Zee tournament, but Kasparov followed those wins with a loss and eventually just edged out Viswanathan Anand for first place.
Caruana’s performance rating at the Sinquefield Cup was 3,200, certainly a record but very hard to compare with performance ratings of the past given the inflation in the rating system, estimated at greater than 150 points in the past 30 years.
The reaction of Caruana’s rivals in Saint Louis to his amazing performance ranged from “Fantastico!” from Hikaru Nakamura, to “Ruthless” by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, to Magnus Carlsen who summed up his opinion with a tongue-in-cheek “Depressing!”
Caruana himself said that, in his opinion, his result was not even close to Bobby Fischer’s run to the world title in 1972, which included a sequence of 20 consecutive wins, including 6-0 match victories over Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen.
However tournaments are harder to dominate than matches; in the latter a player who loses a couple of games must start taking risks.
Fischer also enjoyed some great tournament results, but most events contained a tail which made big scores easier.
The Sinquefield Cup had no tail – every player was in the world’s top 10 – making Caruana’s performance comparable primarily to Anatoly Karpov’s win of the elite Linares tournament in 1994.
In that event – which Garry Kasparov had unwisely, pre-tournament, described as proving the real World Champion – Karpov (pictured) won his first six games, missed a win against Kasparov in the seventh round and ultimately finished on 11/13. (Kasparov scored 8.5.)
Linares 1994 contained all the big names of the era – Anand, Kramnik, Gelfand, Shirov, Polar, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Kamsky – and it remains to be seen whether all the Sinquefield Cup players will turn out to be of such calibre.
Veselin Topalov, the only player to compete in both 1994 and 2014, was not certain whether Caruana had surpassed Karpov – “one of the greatest performances in history” was as far as he would go in praising Caruana.
Curiously Anand, one of the top players who watched the Sinquefield Cup from a distance, was far more definitive, stating at the Bilbao Masters Final the week after the Sinquefield Cup that “Caruana’s result in Saint Louis is the best ever!”
Italy’s new superstar was certainly not fretting over the missed chances which would have put the debate beyond doubt. “8.5/10 was fine,” said the 22-year-old. “9.5/10 I don’t think I would know what to do with!
2015: Meet The Players
(FIDE August 2015 Ratings)
- GM Magnus Carlsen (2853)
- GM Viswanathan Anand (2816)
- GM Veselin Topalov (2816)
- GM Hikaru Nakamura (2814)
- GM Fabiano Caruana (2808)
- GM Anish Giri (2793)
- GM Wesley So (2773)
- GM Alexander Grischuk (2771)
- GM Levon Aronian (2765)
- GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2744)
– See more and view live games at: http://grandchesstour.com/2015-sinquefield-cup/2015-sinquefield-cup