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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (149)

    Tuesday
    Aug282018

    Sinquefield Cup, Grand Chess Tour Playoff: Caruana Defeats So to Reach the Final Four

    Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana, who rebounded from a very poor start in the Grand Chess Tour to sneak into the grand finale in London later this year. He played well in the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz and then tied for first in the Sinquefield to catch Wesley So, the early leader of the Grand Chess Tour, in a tie for the fourth and final spot in London. They played a rapid tiebreaker today, and Caruana won in the professional way, drawing with Black and then grinding out a win with White. (Games here, with my notes.) He'll join top seed Hikaru Nakamura, who will be his semi-final opponent, Levon Aronian, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (who will face off in the second semi).

    Tuesday
    Aug282018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Caruana, Carlsen, and Aronian Share First; Caruana-So Playoff Tomorrow for the GCT Final

    What an eventful round! After two rounds (and three rounds out of four) with only draws, today there were two wins, and both of them saw the winners catch Fabiano Caruana in first place.

    Had Caruana won his last round game against Wesley So, he'd have taken clear first. The game was a staid Petroff, and though Caruana obtained a tiny edge with Black it was nowhere near enough to achieve anything serious, and the game finished in an uneventful draw. That guaranteed Caruana at least a tie for first, but four other players - two of whom faced each other - had the opportunity to catch him in the lead.

    Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk both entered the round half a point behind Caruana, so if either player beat the other they'd tie for first. An equal but unbalanced position went completely out of control when Aronian offered a gutsy semi-bluff of a rook sac on move 18. Grischuk was relatively short of time even before the sac, and never managed to consolidate his material advantage. He'd alternate, making a series of good defensive moves followed by the occasional error, and after a total of three errors he was lost. Fortune favored the brave, and Aronian caught Caruana.

    Magnus Carlsen was also rewarded, but not so much for bravery as for doing his thing. He had a slight advantage against Hikaru Nakamura, and while the position was objectively drawn Carlsen had nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to try, and eventually it paid off. It has to be said that Nakamura's 62nd and 66th moves were very strange. My guess is that he believed the setup he went for was drawn, and was therefore willing to burn all his bridges to head for it. Considering that the position prior to those decisions was only barely worse and had a big margin for error, this was a needlessly risky decision. As it turned out, he missed something, and the result was a technical win that Carlsen successfully executed. That made it a three-way tie for first.

    If Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had managed to defeat Viswanathan Anand with the black pieces it would have been a four-way tie. But this wasn't going to happen. Anand enjoyed a slight edge in a very theoretical line of the Open Ruy, and Mamedyarov was never going to do more than work his way to a draw after some suffering - which is what happened.

    Finally, in the one game that didn't matter in the race for first, Sergey Karjakin barely avoided a fourth loss in the tournament when he held a rook ending two pawns against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Today's games, with my notes, are here.)

    Will there be a playoff tomorrow? Yes...but not to settle the race for first. The rules called for a three-way tie to resolved by a drawing of lots to eliminate one of the players, followed by a playoff involving the other two. Apparently Carlsen was less than thrilled with this idea, and proposed either a three-way playoff or shared first. As I understand it, the other two players were on board with Carlsen's rejection of the scheme presented in the rules, but one of the two was against the playoff and preferred the shared crown.

    My guess is that the objection came from Caruana, and with good reason: he's already committed to a playoff against So for the fourth and final slot in the Grand Chess Tour final. Therefore the three leaders are also the three champions, each of them a repeat champion. Here are the final standings from the tournament:

    1-3. Aronian, Carlsen, Caruana 5.5 (out of 9)
    4. Mamedyarov 5
    5-7. Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave, Anand 4.5
    8. So 4
    9-10. Karjakin, Nakamura 3

    And these are the final overall standings for the Grand Chess Tour:

    1. Nakamura 34.5
    2. Aronian 34
    3. Vachier-Lagrave 31
    4-5. Caruana, So 26
    6. Karjakin 25.5
    7. Mamedyarov 25
    8. Grischuk 18
    9. Anand 15

    The Caruana-So tie will be settled by a pair of 25'+10" games, and if it's still tied there will be up to three pairs of 5'+3" games. After that, the arbiter and the players will decide on another way of resolving the tie (presumably an Armageddon game, but who knows).

    Saturday
    Aug252018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 7: Caruana Narrowly Survives Against Carlsen, Continues to Lead As All Games Are Drawn

    While more than half the field remained in contention for first entering the round, the only game most fans really cared about was the world championship preview between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana entered the round half a point of Carlsen and three other contenders, but had to face him with the black pieces.

    It has been an interesting year for the two. Since Caruana won the Candidates in March they've played three times. The first game was in the Grenke Chess Classic several days after the Candidates. Caruana had white, the game was drawn, and Caruana won the tournament a full point ahead of Carlsen. Then they played twice in Norway, once in blitz (that was to determine pairings) and once in the "real" event. Carlsen had white in both games and won both games. He finished ahead of Caruana in the blitz event, but in the main event Caruana again won the tournament and again finished ahead of Carlsen. Reminiscent of Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov back in 2000, the two players were #1 and #2 in the world, but the player who did better against the rest of the world (Kasparov then, Caruana now) did worse in the critical head to head matchup against his main rival.

    So how would Caruana fare this time? Would he manage to hold on with Black, preserving his lead in the tournament and his confidence heading into the match? And what if he won? That would not only be a huge boost to his confidence, but would be an epochal moment on the rating list, marking the first time since 2010 or 2011 that anyone passed Carlsen for the #1 spot. On the other hand, a Carlsen win would be great for his confidence and bad for Caruana's, and would let the world champion leapfrog the challenger into at least a tie for first.

    As it turned out, Caruana could feel satisfied with the result but little else. Carlsen had a little surprise for Caruana in the opening, and he was able to parlay the resulting edge into a winning queenless middlegame with shocking ease. Everything was going swimmingly, but maybe Carlsen counted his chickens too quickly. (At one point Carlsen took a bizarre trip to the "Confessional" booth where he didn't say anything, just put his finger to his lips in a "shh" gesture, as if quieting Caruana's fans. Classy. I guess he could have chosen more tasteless gestures, so we have something to be thankful for.) Caruana found some nice defensive resources, and while Carlsen didn't make any major, overt errors a string of inaccuracies allowed his opponent to sneak out with a draw.

    The remaining games finished in draws, with no one missing any major opportunities (at least none that I noticed). The games are here (I've only annotated Carlsen-Caruana), and tomorrow's pairings for the penultimate round look like this:

    • Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) - Aronian (4)
    • Nakamura (2.5) - Karjakin (2)
    • Mamedyarov (4) - Carlsen (4)
    • Caruana (4.5) - Anand (3.5)
    • Grischuk (4) - So (3)

    Friday
    Aug242018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 6: Caruana the Sole Winner, Sole Leader

    My dream of seeing a six- or seven-way tie for first fell on hard times today. Five players shared the lead coming into the round, but with one of them - Fabiano Caruana - being the only winner on the day, there was just one leader when it finished.

    That win came with surprising ease against Sergey Karjakin, but the latter is having a terrible tournament. Karjakin has lost three games and is alone in last place. Caruana obtained a serious edge after Karjakin's 12...Qd8, but bit by bit the "Minister of Defense" almost managed to equalize. But before the escape could be complete it was time for fresh mistakes: 21...e5? got him back in the frying pan and 27...f6?? was a suicidal move that lost material and resulted in his resignation on move 30.

    While the other four games were drawn, it's not because there weren't winning chances waiting to be exploited. Alexander Grischuk had a thoroughly winning advantage against Magnus Carlsen on the white side of a Benko Gambit, but after a few inaccuracies the champion escaped. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's game with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov generally hovered around equality, but Mamedyarov's 30.Rbb4? was a serious error that might have left MVL with a winning rook ending, had he played 30...a5. But then again, having a winning rook ending is no guarantee of an actual win, as both Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian discovered...against each other! Nakamura had the greatest and most enduring winning opportunities, but neither player managed to solve the very complicated ending with both sides having multiple passed pawns on opposite flanks. Only the game between Wesley So and Viswanathan Anand was a "proper" draw, although even there So might have been able to push for a win had he chosen something other than 27.Re6.

    Complicated games one and all, and you can replay them (with my notes) here. Tomorrow (Saturday) is the day of the Carlsen-Caruana clash, a big deal both because it's their final game before the match and because of its importance in the tournament. If Carlsen wins he'll leapfrog Caruana and be guaranteed of at least a share of the lead, while if Caruana draws he'll maintain at least a tie for first. Here are the full pairings:

    • Aronian (3.5) - So (2.5)
    • Anand (3) - Grischuk (3.5)
    • Carlsen (3.5) - Caruana (4)
    • Karjakin (1.5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (3) - Nakamura (2)

    Wednesday
    Aug222018

    Energetic Bullet Chess From the Caruana-Aronian Match

    I've been looking at the matches played so far in the 2018 Speed Chess Championship, posting some of the games that have caught my eye. The latest one, and the last one I intend to post from the matches played so far, is a bullet game from the match between Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. While it's only a bullet game, Aronian's very high energy play made a pleasing impression, and I hope you'll be impressed and enjoy it as well. Have a look.

    Tuesday
    Aug212018

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 4: Caruana Beats Nakamura to Become the Fifth Co-Leader

    It has been a rough tournament for Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura. Both are -2, with Karjakin losing in rounds 1 and 2 and Nakamura doing so in rounds 3 and 4. Nakamura's troubles today came at the hands of his countryman, Fabiano Caruana, who joined what is now a five-way tie for first at +1 with the win. (He has also leapfrogged Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to regain the #2 spot on the live rating list - or at least that's what it will say when the site's proprietor awakens and fixes the mistaken report that Caruana-Nakamura was drawn. It wasn't.)

    The game was a slightly offbeat Catalan line that Nakamura has played before, and that appeared with one slight difference in the game between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin two rounds ago. Caruana's 14.0-0-0 was something new, and Nakamura gradually allowed Caruana to obtain a slight edge. That's more or less how things remained until near the time control, when Nakamura wrongly played for activity with 35...f5 and especially 36...fxe4. Then he was in serious trouble, and soon he was lost. All his pawns were weak, his bishop was useless, and his king was in big trouble. The position could not be held.

    In the other four games, by contrast, everything was held. Carlsen had a micro-edge with Black against Viswanathan Anand, but he couldn't turn it into anything tangible given Anand's excellent defense. Wesley So and Karjakin never had more than very slight chances for an edge against each other in their game, and Mamedyarov's game with Levon Aronian looked fated for a draw from the start (which was almost the finish). Finally, Alexander Grischuk's game with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was also short in the number of moves - only 25 - but lively. MVL played his beloved Najdorf - the Delayed Poisoned Pawn in particular, for the second time in two days - and played a novelty on move 17 that improved on, or at least varied from, the move he played against Anish Giri a year ago. There were plenty of tactical possibilities for Grischuk to work through, and he burned lots of time on the clock before heading for a repetition. For Vachier-Lagrave it was probably just remembering what was in his notebook, and so he used almost no time for the game. (Najdorf fans, if you're not following MVL's games closer than your own you're going to get into serious trouble.)

    Today's games, with my notes, are here. Tomorrow's pairings are:

    • Aronian (2.5) - Anand (2)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - So (1.5)
    • Karjakin (1) - Grischuk (2.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2) - Caruana (2.5)
    • Nakamura (1) - Mamedyarov (2.5)

    Unfortunately, there isn't any way for tomorrow's action to produce a six- or even a seven-way tie for first, but with four rounds after this one (and a rest day) time remains for this "dream" scenario.

    Sunday
    Aug122018

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, Day 2: Caruana Continues to Lead

    It's surprising that Fabiano Caruana continues to lead by a full point (or two points, on the 2-1-0 scoring for the rapid games) after drawing three games today, but that's how it all shook out. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave closed to within half a point thanks to a win over Alexander Grischuk in round 4, but a bad loss to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with White in round 6 pushed him back again.

    The games are all here, with at least a terse comment for every game and substantial annotations for the most of them. And here are the standings, given with 2-1-0 scoring:

    1. Caruana 9/12
    2-5. Mamedyarov, Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin 7
    6. Dominguez 6
    7. Aronian 5
    8-10. So, Anand, Grischuk 4

    The rapid portion concludes tomorrow, followed by two days of blitz with the same players. (Day 1 will be a round robin, and day 2 will be a second round robin with all the colors reversed.)

    Saturday
    Aug112018

    St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, Day 1: Caruana Leads After a 3-0 Start; So in the Cellar

    While his games weren't clean masterpieces from start to finish, a combination of strong play and resilience has placed Fabiano Caruana into clear first after a 3-0 start. He defeated Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian with the black pieces in the first two rounds, followed by a tough win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in round 3. He's a point ahead of Sergey Karjakin and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - or rather, a two-point lead since the rapid games count double. (They're scored on a 2-1-0 system, while the blitz games starting on Tuesday are weighted in the traditional way: 1-.5-0.)

    The games of the first two rounds were exceptionally interesting, in contrast to the sleepy round 3 (mostly non-) battles - excepting Caruana-Mamedyarov. I've managed to say something about almost all of the games, so enjoy the games, with my comments, here.

    Saturday
    Jun232018

    Only 99,457 Signatures to Go **UPDATED**

    I received an email from my former employer, World Chess (Agon), with Exciting News! Yes, truly! Here it is:

    US President Will Meet the Challenger to the World Championship Title (If You Want Him To!)

    More:

    Dear Friends,

    Chess fans from the US contacted us with an idea: to petition Donald Trump to invite Fabiano Caruana, the challenger to the Title, to the White House before the World Chess Championship Match that takes place in London in November.

    They published a petition today in support of this proposal at the White House’ petitions page. According to the rules, if the petition is signed by over 100,000 in 30 days, the Administration will review and possibly grant it.

    We are totally supporting the idea, not only because it would be a really strong sign of support for the sport and because it would create additional attention to the Match which is already creating headlines, but also because we feel that we actually can make it happen!

    If we take all of the chess community combined, it surely will be more than a 100,000 members -- it’s millions!

    If you would like to see Fabiano Caruana at the White House before the Championship Match in November, please support and sign the petition.

    Please share it on Social Media: #CaruanaInTheWhiteHouse

    Three potential problems:

    1. It doesn't say that the petition will be granted, only that it's possible that the White House will grant it.

    2. I don't know Fabiano Caruana's politics. Maybe he wouldn't want to meet with President Trump?!

    3. With three and a half weeks to go, only 543 signatures have been received, leaving 99,457 signatures to go.

    Okay, chess fans, let's do this for Caruana and for the sake of chess. Love President Trump, hate him, whatever - it doesn't matter. We're doing it to promote the game, and to demonstrate that we chess players have some power when it comes to social media. Heck, if any of you know someone who knows someone who knows a Kardashian or some other big celebrity, we can get it done in a day or two. Norwegians: have Magnus Carlsen ask Liv Tyler to promote it. We can do it!

    (Yes, I'm being slightly tongue-in-cheek, but with or without the irony it would be fun to make this happen, and the publicity would be good for chess.)

    **UPDATE**

    Some further thoughts and comments:

    1. I think the publicity would be good for chess. Depending on how Caruana handles it, however, it might not be good for him. That's probably not how it should be - it should be fine for him to accept the honor not as coming from Donald Trump, the man, but as coming from the duly-elected President.

    2. World Chess isn't covering itself with glory in the wording of the petition. In addition to the semi-incorrect "B.Fischer" (without a space and arguably using the wrong initial(s)), I've noticed at least three factual errors in the second paragraph of the petition. ("Since 1975, when World Champion B.Fischer resigned his title, an American chess player have never had a chance to become the World Champion. In 2018, Brooklyn-born Fabiano Caruana won the Candidates Tournament and earned the right to fight for the Championship title against Magnus Carlsen in a Match in London in Nov 2018.") Impressive! Let's see who can find the three errors the fastest.

    3. As alluded to in the first update comment, and reflected in the comments so far, Trump is a polarizing figure. (To put it mildly. In fact, it's bizarre that commenters thus far find the idea of Caruana having a White House photo-op far more repugnant than they did Sergey Karjakin's running around with a pro-Putin tee shirt and making pro-Putin comments. Just for starters: Trump, for all his flaws, hasn't annexed parts - significant parts, at that - of two countries.) I generally prefer to keep politics out of the blog, even if the opinions expressed square with my own. Politics are important, but not so important that every bit of life must pass through its grinder. I'll make a bit of an exception this time, but with some restrictions. First, Trump = Hitler comments will be blocked. Don't waste your time (or mine). Second, please be respectful of and to those you disagree with. It doesn't imply that you agree with their views.

    What would be interesting is to try to determine a threshold beyond which meeting with a political figure might be inappropriate. Let's say a strong pro-life advocate is invited to the White House during the administration of a strongly pro-choice President for something having nothing to do with the invitee's politics. (Maybe it's a situation like this, or a member of a national championship-winning sports team, or a great musician or scientist.) Should the recipient turn down the invitation? Alternatively, he could go in recognition that the honor is not so much from the particular man as it is from the man as president. Or he could go, and later thank the POTUS for the honor while noting that there are nevertheless strong areas of disagreement between the two. Relatedly: should the U.S. Olympic Team have boycotted the Berlin games in 1936, or was it good for them to go and have Jesse Owens and others burst the myth of the Aryan "superman"? Was the U.S. right to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, or did it just deprive hundreds of athletes from participating in something they had worked for for most of their lives? The aim isn't to debate those particular examples, but to use them to help formulate a more interesting position than "Trump is evil, and anyone who signs the petition is a Nazi sympathizer."

    4. It wouldn't be as effective, publicity-wise, but it would still be a good thing for U.S. chess and less politically charged for Caruana to receive some sort of commendation from Congress. That sort of thing has been done before, so readers might drop their congressmen and women a note.

    5. Only 99,454 signatures to go. The more realistic question is whether the petition will even get 1,000 signatories.

    Friday
    Jun082018

    Norway Chess, Last Round: Caruana Wins Another Tournament!

    I was hoping for the five-way tie followed by a blitz tournament tomorrow (Friday), but if someone had to spoil it I'm glad it was Fabiano Caruana. Aside from his poor performance at Wijk aan Zee, it has been one success after another for him: a win in the London Chess Classic in December, and then after Wijk he enjoyed victory in the Candidates and Grenke, had a very strong second place in the U.S. Championship and then won Norway Chess.

    It's also an impressive result, considering his poor start in the tournament: a bad loss to Magnus Carlsen in round 1, followed by a missed opportunity in round 2. After that he settled down, and with wins in the last two rounds wound up in clear first with 5/8. He was half a point ahead of Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, and Viswanathan Anand. His last round win was over Wesley So, and had the game finished in a draw both players would have joined Carlsen, Nakamura, and Anand in shared first with 4.5 points apiece.

    The game could have finished in a draw, too - for that matter, So even enjoyed a significant advantage at one point. But most of the time it was Caruana who was pressing, and from that standpoint the most deserved, or maybe the least undeserved, result was a Caruana win. The critical moments came just before and after the time control. With 39...Rd2 Black would have maintained equality, but after 39...Kd8 Caruana would have been winning with most normal moves. Instead, he chose 40.h3?, and after 40...Rxh3+!, the last move of the time control (and played with little time on the clock), So found the shot that should have given him a draw. Unfortunately, after 41.gxh3 So didn't use any time to stop to double-check his opportunities after the time control. Had he done so, he would easily have found that 41...Rd2 would lead to a draw. Instead, he used all of four seconds to play 41...Rd3??, and he resigned a few moves later.

    What about Carlsen? He was apparently satisfied making a quick draw with Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Levon Aronian and Nakamura played a longer game that was never in much danger of seeing anyone lose. Anand, by contrast, played sharply with Black against Sergey Karjakin, and when Karjakin made a tactical mistake with 26.h4?(?) Anand seized his opportunity and won quickly. It would have put Anand into the playoff, had it not been for So's last lapse.

    Big congratulations to Caruana, who has closed to within 20 points of Carlsen on the live list, and who showed that he can win tournaments against the very best players in the world, even when he's not in his best form.

    The last four games of the event are here, with my notes to the two decisive games. Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5/8
    • 2-4. Carlsen, Nakamura, Anand 4.5
    • 5-6. So, Aronian 4
    • 7. Mamedyarov 3.5
    • 8-9. Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin 3