The top two players in the world - GM Magnus Carlsen (FIDE 2862) and GM Levon Aronian (FIDE 2802) - and the top two American players - GM Hikaru Nakamura (FIDE 2774) and GM Gata Kamsky (FIDE 2733) - begin the intimate and historic Sinquefield Cup today at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The four-player double round robin will have the highest average rating (over 2790 FIDE) of any tournament ever held on American soil.
This will be the first time Carlsen has played a tournament in the U.S. Aronian has only played here once, in the 1999 FIDE World Championship knockout in Las Vegas.
Round one begins today at 1:00 p.m. Central (2:00 p.m. Eastern). Before the first moves, the players had a brief drawing of lots ceremony Saturday night.
Carlsen, Aronian, Nakamura and Kamsky (Photo: Carmen Schuette)
Aronian chose box number three, but since this tournament has equal numbers of Whites and Blacks, the order of opponents is all that was at stake.
Aronian with Chief Arbiter IA Chris Bird (Photo: Carmen Schuette)
The pairings for the first round will be Carlsen-Kamsky and Nakamura-Aronian. After the ceremony, the next public appearance for the players was an autograph session with fans yesterday.
The meet-and-greet session began at noon but chess enthusiasts began lining up at 9:30 a.m. in the rain. "It's good to see so many people," Nakamura said. "It's very good for chess."
More than 200 fans had their boards, photos and books personalized by the four players. The most creative piece of sporting paraphernalia to get autographed had more to do with chessboxing. Look closely at the fan's hands.
For some players, this was a first. "I've never done this before," Kamsky said. "It's pretty cool actually. I feel like I'm at a book signing. It's definitely a new experience." When asked which square he favored when signing boards, Kamsky instead opted for a preferred file. "I'm Gata. I like the sign a 'g' square. It's pretty normal."
Aronian has been in St. Louis for a few days, and many fans have reported that he has been playing blitz at the club and interacting a lot with local players. "It has been a great experience. I like the park," Aronian said, referencing the nearby Forest Park (at nearly 1300 acres, it is about 1.5 times the size of New York City's Central Park).
The Armenian number one also had a chance to play single-player bughouse with GM Yasser Seirawan. "I crushed him," Aronian said with a smile. "He's outdated. He's a good player but he didn't follow up with modern developments."
Aronian, perhaps his country's greatest current sporting hero, had several of his countrymen bring their whole families to meet him.
After the autograph session, the quartet was whisked to the Edward Jones Dome, home of the city's beloved St. Louis Rams and their opening game of the season. The four players were invited to the field for a pre-game introduction by the public address announcer. Afterward GM Maurice Ashley taught the two foreign players the broadstrokes of American football from their box seats.
There will be several opportunities for fans to follow the action live. The in-house broadcast team of Seirawan, Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade will be covering the tournament at www.uschesschamps.com/live. The Chess.com broadcast team, featuring IM Danny Rensch, FM Kostya Kavutskiy, IM Lawrence Trent and GM Melik Khachiyan. Each show will also feature on-site field reports from FM Mike Klein. Rounds one, four, five and six will be live at chess.com/tv.
You can also check back here nightly for written reports and games from the Sinquefield Cup.