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    « 538 With Early Match Odds | Main | 2018 Candidates, Round 13: Caruana Regains the Clear Lead »
    Tuesday
    Mar272018

    2018 Candidates, Round 14: Caruana Wins! **UPDATED with Analysis**

    Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana, who defeated Alexander Grischuk in the last round of the Candidates tournament! He won the event by a full point, as his closest rivals, Sergey Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, drew their last games (against Ding Liren and Vladimir Kramnik, respectively), and now moves on to fight Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship title in London this coming November.

    Remarkably, Caruana played the Petroff, trusting either that he'd somehow have a chance to fight for a win, in case Karjakin looked likely to win against Ding Liren (Karjakin would win the event on tiebreaks in case of a two-way tie for first with Caruana), or he trusted that Ding would hold with Black. Or perhaps he felt that playing something sharper would increase his losing chances to an unacceptable degree. Whatever the case, he played the Petroff for the fourth time in the tournament, and for the third time found himself with an advantage early on. As the game went on he maintained control and increased his advantage, and in the meantime Karjakin and then Mamedyarov drew their games. Caruana could have offered a draw at any moment to guarantee tournament victory, but there was no need to - his advantage was decisive by then, and more importantly there was no risk in playing on. (Besides, Grischuk's position was so bad that if Caruana had offered a draw, Grischuk might have separated his shoulder by reaching for Caruana's hand too quickly.)

    Karjakin's game with Ding was very instructive. He seemed to have a position where he could play for a win forever without any risk, and indeed there was a Motylev-Eljanov game that very clearly demonstrated White's strategic concept. But Ding found a remarkable concept with 17...e5 and 18...b4, and showed, amazingly, that it was White who had to be careful. Karjakin did his "Ministry of Defense" thing and held, barely.

    Mamedyarov took some serious chances in the game, starting with the opening, and was in serious trouble more than once against Kramnik. There were also some moments when he had a small advantage too, but unlike the Kramnik we saw earlier in the tournament, this time he mostly maintained his sanity and steered the ending to a draw.

    The fourth game was a pro forma affair between Levon Aronian and Wesley So, the tournament tailenders. (Especially Aronian.) They initiated a known repetition on move 13, calling it quits after 17 moves and clearing the stage for the games that mattered.

    I'll have the games later; for now, here are the final standings. 

    • 1. Caruana 9/14
    • 2-3. Mamedyarov, Karjakin 8
    • 4. Ding Liren 7.5
    • 5-6. Kramnik, Grischuk 6.5
    • 7. So 6
    • 8. Aronian 4.5

    Do come back later, for the annotated games, and I will also spend some time blogging today and over the next few days to catch up on some other events and topics.

    P.S. Congratulations too to the very clever people who predicted a Caruana win - all two of us. (I didn't write "send him home!" for all those years to forsake him now.) And while we're at it, I'll save time by offering my prediction now: Caruana will beat Carlsen in November. (And if he doesn't this time, he'll beat him next time, a la Smyslov vs. Botvinnik and Spassky vs. Petrosian. This does seem to be Caruana's pattern: the first time he comes close, and the second time he crashes through. He barely missed the 2014 Candidates, then made it in 2016. In that event he came very close to winning, and this time he did it. So if Carlsen defeats Caruana by some sort of Kramnikian "miracle" this time around, it will be the reverse in 2020.)

    **UPDATE** The games, with my analysis, are here.

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    Reader Comments (12)

    Yes well done to Caruana. I predicted him too, on Leonard Barden's column.

    March 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

    Two weeks of great chess, wonderful analysis (thank you Dennis) and terrible puns (thank you Dennis) comes to a close. Poor old Lev. I, and probably a lot of others, really wanted to see him challenge Carlsen. In the end his tournament was a bit of a CAR crash. Congrats to Fabi on a well deserved victory. Looking forward Car V Car. (Beware of Greeks bearing Puns).

    [DM: Terrible puns are the best kind, and during the Car vs. Car match my pun-making mechanism is bound to be on auto-pilot.]

    March 27, 2018 | Unregistered Commenternimzobob

    Congratulations Dennis on picking Caruana. He was my favorite, but I picked Aronian to win as I thought his time had come considering his fine play this year and his age being a motivating factor. I agree that Caruana has a very good chance to win the championship. Carlsen has shown some weakness when playing at long time limits. If it goes to rapid games to determine the winner, then I would give Carlsen the edge.

    March 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLarry L.

    Does anyone know anything about who Caruana's seconds have been at least in the past if not in this Candidates tournament? I've never heard anything about them.

    [DM: Rustam Kasimdzhanov has been known by "everyone" to be Caruana's main second for at least a year or two now. But Caruana worked with others, too, in preparation for this event, and if they were named at some point I didn't catch it.]

    March 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    Above all I'm happy that Karjakin didn't win; not because I've something against him, but because a rematch wouldn't exactly thrill me. Secretly I had set my hopes upon Mamedyarov, but a Car-Car match for the title is also satisfying.

    March 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMNb

    As the only one other than you to have predicted Caruana's triumph, I have naturally come to gloat at the end of the event, though I did think it was highly unlikely when he lost to Karjakin!

    Even going back to the last Candidates, Caruana showed a good control over his nerves and was unlucky to play Karjakin in a must-win game there, so he was always my favourite going in. And I completely discounted his results in Wijk. Vishy's many bad performances leading up to his world championship matches, especially the one against Kramnik, taught me that a run of bad form for these elite players doesn't immediately translate to a lack of confidence that affects mere mortals.

    Well done Fabi!

    March 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterragstorooks

    Congratulations to Caruana!

    How well do you think Carlsen will do when he competes in the Candidates Tournament in 2020!? Or because the chess annotation for dubious is ?!, should the punctuation for the previous sentence be ?!? Interesting nonetheless!?!

    [DM: He'll have steam coming out of his ears. I fear for his opponents that year.]

    March 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTrill

    I didn't make a prediction here, but I expected either Karjakin or Caruana to win. Either one would/ will be a handful for Magnus. I get that matches, even world championship matches have reduced importance in an age when you have constantly updated ELO ratings for everyone, but I do wish the championship match was 22 games or so. At 12 games (it will be 12 games, correct?), the first win is such a huge thing.

    [DM: Yes, 12 games.]

    Magnus had better buckle down and get ready for the match of his life.

    March 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMikeO

    'Fabiano Caruana will win in November, but if he doesn't, he will win next time' is not a prediction: it is hedging your bets.

    [DM: Consider it two predictions for the price of one. I am predicting he'll win - prediction #1 - and if that turns out to be wrong, there's new prediction #2: Carlsen will reach the world championship again in 2020 and win it.]

    March 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOliver Dunne

    Caruana is no match to Carlsen in Rapid so I expect Carlsen to play safe in regular time and play for a win in Rapid. Caruana's will spend a fair amount of training time on improving his blitz game.
    I predict the 1st player to score will win the match.

    [DM: That can be a factor near the end of a match - Topalov took a wild risk in game 12 of his match with Anand precisely because he knew he was a massive underdog against Anand in rapid play. But that's very unlikely to happen at the start of a match, especially with two players who play ambitiously.]

    March 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

    [DM: Rustam Kasimdzhanov has been known by "everyone" to be Caruana's main second for at least a year or two now. But Caruana worked with others, too, in preparation for this event, and if they were named at some point I didn't catch it.]

    Fabi said:

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov , Christian Chirila , Leinier Dominguez, and for a few days near the end Alejandro Ramirez


    Does that seem a good team? Rustam and Leinier would be very good, I guess.
    If he's revealed it, does this mean changes for the match, or does he not care about secrecy?

    [DM: Interesting, and thanks for passing that along. I'm a little surprised about Chirila and Ramirez, and would guess that their role is much less than that of Kasimdzhanov and probably Dominguez, too. Anyway, I'm sure that Kasimdzhanov isn't going anywhere, and I would expect another heavy hitter or two to play at least some role in his prep for the match.]

    April 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

    Maybe Caruana was happy with two seconds, so the others were just like bonus help to him coming from his St Louis CC friends.

    Leko was reported to have been a second for some unnamed candidate too. I wonder who.

    [DM: I'm a bit surprised to hear that about Leko, though I'm sure he'd do a great job. I guess it's not too surprising, given that he was probably going to be in Germany anyway to do double duty (seconding Keymer and commentating on the main event) at the Grenke Chess Classic.]

    April 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterA

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