World champion Magnus Carlsen will attempt his personal Everest of a 2900 rating when the $325,000 Sinquefield Cup, one of the great world tournaments and the brainchild of FT reader and US chess benefactor Rex Sinquefield, starts at Saint Louis on Saturday.

The global chess body Fide’s rating is a performance number based on a player’s results and the level of his opponents. A historical list shows Bobby Fischer’s peak as 2790 and Garry Kasparov’s 2857, compared with Carlsen’s current level of 2882.

Could the Norwegian do it? The field of 12 elite grandmasters at Saint Louis is identical with the performers in Zagreb last month. They include Nos 1-9 from the rankings, with the other three all in the top 20. Carlsen was impressive in Croatia with a winning total of an unbeaten 8.5/11, but to achieve 2900 in Missouri he would need 9/11, close to an all-time best tournament performance.

Realistically it should not be on, and the 28-year-old had a bad day at the office on Sunday, one draw and two defeats, when playing in the rapid and blitz events that precede the Sinquefield Cup. But Carlsen has called 2900 “a half-attainable dream” and given that he has been in the form of his life, Everest cannot be ruled out.


Can you find White’s only move to draw this endgame where Black is poised to go two pawns up? Saving it 31 years ago put Paul Motwani en route to becoming Scotland’s first grandmaster.

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