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The unbelievably historic gaming tournament almost everyone missed

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One of the most amazing gaming competitions in the world happened weeks ago and almost no one watched.

Fortunately, Slate writer Seth Stevenson was on hand to document what he called the Grandmaster Clash in St. Louis. The 2014 Sinquefield Cup, a gathering of the world's best chess players in St. Louis hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, was only in its second year when it kicked off on Aug. 27, hosting the strongest chess tournament in the history of the game.


The double round-robin tournament had six grandmasters playing games of 40 moves in 90 minutes with 30-second increments for ever move. The tournament, which gave out $315,000 in prize money, brought in Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Veselin Topalov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to fight it out. But the player that really raised eyebrows three days in was Fabiano Caruana, the 22-year-old number three ranked player in the world.

As Stevenson points out in his excellent story on the cup, Caruana managed five back-to-back wins with no losses or, even more remarkably, ties in the tournament of chess player super powers by the halfway point.

In the third day of the tournament, when Caruana managed to beat Carlsen, the world chess champion, the chess world suddenly woke up to the realization that something historic, even more historic than the gathering itself, was happening. (You can see a bit of that moment in the video below starting about 10:25 in.)

The performance by Caruana against what some have called a murderer's row of world-class chess players has been described by onlookers, experts and fellow champions as amazing and one of the greatest chess tournament results of our time.

The end result, a predictable tournament win by Caruana, was the highest tournament performance rating of all time, better than Anatoly Karpov, seen by many as Fischer-esque.

As Stevenson writes, one grandmaster likened it to pitching 100 straight innings of no-hit baseball. In a word, it was miraculous. And very few people saw it happen. Stevenson said that the online broadcast drew about 75,000 and on the day he was there less than 100 people were in attendance.

If you're into chess, or competitive gaming, or simply a good read, go check out Stevenson's wonderful piece on the tournament, the players and its impact on chess history.

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