In the first half we saw 10 decisive games out of the 15 exciting games, and Caruana cruising through the field with a highly impressive 5/5.
In round one as black against Vachier-Lagrave I accepted his invitation to play a sharp line. Unfortunately he seemed better prepared, but I managed to find the right continuation. The ensuing battle was tense and sharp all through the game. He found a perpetual at the end. If felt great to play in St.Louis once again!
I was black again against Nakamura in round two, where I went for an unusual sideline. My opponent chose the safe rather than risky continuation both in the opening and in the middle game. I allowed the awkward looking pawn structure in the centre with my pawns on d4 and d6, with just enough time to create a king side attack before he could round up my d4-pawn. He wisely allowed a perpetual, and in lack of any better alternative for me, we drew well before the time control. Caruana won against Vachier-Lagrave with a novelty in a sharp Caro-kann and Aronian.s bishops came alive to finish off Topalov after the latter won an exchange out of the opening.
With white against Caruana I made several mistakes in the opening, and by the time I understood I was worse I was already in trouble. When he allowed the interesting bishop sacrifice on f7 I felt the game could go either way. Despite the ensuing complications, he played the rest of the game very accurately. Having missed his great Nd3 resource I ended up a pawn down without much hope of salvation, when I even blundered horribly just before the time control losing immediately.
In round 4 with white against Topalov I had a strong initiative in the middle game with ample compensation for the sacrificed pawn. My e4-plan was dubious as he could sacrifice back a pawn to reach an equal ending. I seemingly tried very hard to lose the game, over-pressing well beyond being in control. If he had seen Rc5 I would have had to find some really accurate defensive moves to save the draw. He didn.t, and we swapped all pieces and drew with kings and one knight left each.
Despite playing below par in round 3 and 4, it didn.t feel as if I was doing as bad overall as the meager 1.5/4 would indicate, and it felt great to win with black in round 5 against Aronian. A fairly decent game by me, but winning with black usually requires some assistance from your opponent as well. A pawn down he seemed to be defending. His Nb3 was a mistake, and maybe the 5 against 4 pawn-ending can be held for white but it is pretty difficult. Instead of pushing g6 he could have chosen the 3 versus 2 pawn ending where I would have had a passed pawn in the e-file. That might also be a theoretical draw, but in practice it is very difficult to defend. Finally I got my first victory in this event, and Topalov and I are an ocean of points (2.5) behind Caruana with 5 rounds to go.
On the rest day today we played golf at the excellent 1904 Olympic course at Glen Echo, and later there was The Burning Boards event at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the evening. Tuesday at 2 pm local time I.m white against Vachier-Lagrave.
Magnus Carlsen, St.Louis, September 1st, 2014