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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (164)

    Thursday
    Nov222018

    World Championship, Game 9: Carlsen Lets an Advantage Slip; Draw #9 Results

    It's not as if neither player is obtaining any advantages, but so far no one is converting on them. This time it was Magnus Carlsen's turn to get the upper hand, thanks in part to good preparation and also to Fabiano Caruana's highly committal and somewhat questionable decision to play 17...Bxf3(?!). The resulting mass liquidation gave Carlsen a serious plus, his first meaningful advantage since game 1. Unfortunately for Carlsen and his fans, his hasty 25.h5(?) let Black off the hook, because 25...gxh5! followed by ...h4 (maybe he missed this?!) left White's king as exposed as its counterpart. (The game, with my abbreviated comments, can be replayed here.)

    The ninth straight draw set a record for the most draws at the start of a world championship match, breaking the record from the 1995 Kasparov-Anand match. Unlike that match, which was a best-of-20 contest, there are only three games left here until a possible rapid (and blitz) playoff. Will anyone win a game?

    Monday
    Nov192018

    World Championship, Game 8: An Open Sicilian Results in Another Draw

    At last we were treated to an Open Sicilian, as Fabiano Caruana finally put the Rossolimo on the shelf and met Magnus Carlsen's 2...Nc6 Sicilian with 3.d4. As most commentators (myself included) expected, Carlsen went for a Sveshnikov Sicilian, and (not necessarily as expected) Caruana went for the secondary line with 7.Nd5.

    Of course Carlsen was prepared for this line, but Caruana's preparation went deeper, and he didn't have a real think until move 20. He wound up with a serious advantage, too, until the unnecessary prophylactic move 24.h3 gave Carlsen the tempo he needed to get his counterplay going. White more or less had to force a queen trade, and his advantage after this was too small to give him any serious hopes of winning. With just rooks and opposite-colored bishops remaining, Caruana offered a draw with his 38th move, and it was accepted.

    Only four games remain, and we'll see game 9 on Wednesday, as tomorrow (Tuesday) is a rest day. Here's game 8, with brief notes.

    Sunday
    Nov182018

    World Championship, Game 7: Caruana Comfortably Draws with Black

    Seven down, five to go. (There's probably no truth to the rumor that fans are abandoning the match to watch correspondence chess tournaments, where only 90% of the games finish in a draw.) Magnus Carlsen had the white pieces again and for the fourth time in four tries, obtained no advantage whatsoever. (Not that Fabiano Caruana has done that much better, but he did manage to get a decent opening advantage with White in game 3.)

    Carlsen played 1.d4, and play followed game 2 until Carlsen varied with 10.Nd2, which was met by the very unusual 10...Qd8. Maybe 12.Rd1 or 12.0-0-0 would have put Caruana's idea to the test, but Carlsen played the safe 12.Be2. Maybe Carlsen's favorite "historical" player (himself, naturally, 3-4 years ago) might have ground out a plus, but the 2018 edition isn't as effective or today's players defend better against him (or both), and Blacck wasn't really put to the test. Perhaps Carlsen got the tiniest whiff of hope after Caruana's 24th-26th moves let White play for a good knight vs. semi-bad bishop ending, but Caruana's good defensive idea on moves 29 and 30 allowed him to neutralize Carlsen's hopes. After thinking a while just before the time control, Carlsen allowed a repetition and they called it a game after White's 40th move.

    It's 3.5-3.5 with five classical games left. Caruana has looked slightly more impressive so far, but if he doesn't win a classical game he's a clear underdog in a rapid playoff and a very big underdog in blitz. Maybe the pressure of an impending playoff isn't overwhelming yet, but it's building.

    Here's today's game, with my brief notes.

    Saturday
    Nov172018

    World Championship, Update for Game 6: An Annotated Version

    A bit late, but here's a comparatively lightly-annotated look at game 6 of the match. Enjoy!

    Friday
    Nov162018

    World Championship, Game 6: A Long, Hard-Fought Draw Keeps the Match Tied at the Halfway Point

    Six games, six draws, but this was a good one. Magnus Carlsen had White and decided to test Fabiano Caruana in the Videogate opening, the Petroff. Carlsen chose a really obscure line and even here couldn't surprise Caruana. A very dull quiet queenless middlegame ensued with the champion enjoying a token plus but with a draw the likeliest result. The expectation was that he would grind and grind, but that Caruana would be a favorite to hold the draw.

    Something like that happened...but it was the other way around! Caruana outplayed the champion, outshining him in his own territory. Once he started to get into trouble he played better, and his piece sac on move 44 was a brave, deep defensive idea. It was correct, but not an automatic draw by any stretch of the imagination. For a long time Carlsen defended correctly, but Caruana's persistence finally induced an error on move 67. Unfortunately for the challenger, the endgame was at times a little too subtle for both players, not just Carlsen, and on move 68 he missed his chance. Caruana tried a little longer, but his final plan was harmless and the game was agreed drawn after 80 moves.

    This was an excellent fight, worthy of a world championship match. Hopefully the second half of the match will see more games like this one. The players are off tomorrow, and game 7, with Carlsen again having White will take place on Sunday. As for the game and my notes, the latter will take a while, so for now, here's the game without any comments. Look for an update later on.

    Thursday
    Nov152018

    World Championship, Game 5: A Short But Lively Draw

    Five for five! It's still early...ish, but the specter of tiebreaks will start rearing its head soon if the draws continue.

    But not yet. Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen tested the Rossolimo for a third time, and Caruana varied first by playing 4.0-0 instead of 4.Bxc6. The play was sharp, and while Caruana evidently hoped to surprise Carlsen it seems that the champion was well-prepared. A first semi-critical moment came when Caruana played 12.Qe2, as this left the bounds of safety he would have enjoyed with 12.cxd6. 13.Qc4 was also a bit risky, and soon he was the one who needed to demonstrate equality.

    After an inaccuracy or two Carlsen was pressing, and for him the key moment was move 20, when he faced a choice between 20...b5, playing for control, and 20...Kb6, looking to activate the king. After approximately 22 minutes he chose the latter, and this let Caruana escape. The challenger played perfectly after this, and used Black's active king as a source for counterplay. After a forcing sequence they reached a dead drawn endgame, and called it a day after 34 moves - just like game 4. (Curiously, games 2 and 3 both finished in 49 moves. It's unlikely though that any subsequent game will pair up with game 1's 115 moves.)

    Here's the game, with light annotations. Game 6 is tomorrow, and in both game 6 and game 7 Carlsen will have the white pieces.

    Wednesday
    Nov142018

    Videogate?

    Fabiano Caruana has had the best of the opening battles so far in his world championship match with Magnus Carlsen, but that may come to a screeching halt. Apparently someone royally screwed up, whether on his team or on the St. Louis Chess Club staff - or both. Some of Caruana's preparation was apparently shown during a promotional video, and while it was soon taken down it wasn't taken down soon enough for that information to get out to the wider public, and ultimately to team Carlsen as well. Uh oh.

    For more on this potential disaster, see here (HT: Marc Beishon) and here.

    Wednesday
    Nov142018

    World Championship, Game 4: A Short Draw

    The games are getting shorter, and for the first time in the match the players called it a day before the end of the first time control. The fourth consecutive draw left the match tied 2-2 going into the second rest day; game 5 will be on Thursday.

    Magnus Carlsen varied from his first move in game 2, going from 1.d4 there to 1.c4 this time around. Fabiano Caruana played 1...e5, and essayed the trendy 6...Bc5 in the Reversed Dragon line. He has played this move on several prior occasions, and the game followed a 2017 game between Wesley So and Caruana through Carlsen's 11th move. While Carlsen could have predicted the opening, it seemed, oddly enough, that Caruana was at least as well prepared as his opponent.

    The critical moment came quickly, on move 15. The obvious move, which White's last several moves were building up to, was 15.b5, but after thinking for almost 20 minutes Carlsen went in a different direction, got almost nothing, and offered a draw (which was accepted) on move 34.

    The tension is building, and so is the mystery of what happened to the Carlsen of the early to mid-2010s? He doesn't look sharp at all. Still, he isn't trailing, and he's the only one who has had clear winning chances up to now. So there's nothing to panic about, but Carlsen fans may have a bit of unease. (On the other hand, Caruana's fans have much more reason to be concerned...more about this in a coming post.)

    Enjoy tomorrow's rest day; here's the game, with my (abridged) commentary.

    Tuesday
    Nov132018

    World Championship, Game 3: Caruana Squanders an Advantage, Draws

    The subject line is a little harsh, but Fabiano Caruana did miss out on a moderate chance in game 3 of his world championship match with Magnus Carlsen. The opening went very successfully for him in another Rossolimo Sicilian - much better than it did in the first game - and Carlsen was headed for a long, unpleasant, and not necessarily successful defensive outing. Unluckily for Caruana, his 15th move was a serious inaccuracy, and after several further, smaller infelicities Carlsen even managed to take a slight edge. Caruana had to defend and did a good enough job of it, and the players split the point shortly after the first time control.

    The match thus remains tied, now 1.5-1.5, and Carlsen will have game 4 tomorrow. Here is today's game, with my comments (which are abbreviated relative to those received by subscribers).

    Saturday
    Nov102018

    World Championship, Game 2: Caruana Presses, Draws Comfortably with Black

    It was a bit of turnabout is fair play in game 2 of the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Fabiano Caruana. In game 1 Caruana was surprised in the opening and soon on the defense, despite having the white pieces, and had to hold the draw a pawn down in a rook ending. That same scenario characterized game 2, changing only "Caruana" to "Carlsen" and "1" to "2".

    There were several disanalogies, however, that come out in a fuller account. First, Carlsen had the first opening surprise in game 2 - a mild one - in that he started with 1.d4 rather than 1.e4. Second and more significantly, Carlsen was never in serious trouble, while Caruana was completely lost for a time in the first game. And third, while Carlsen played the drawn pawn-up rook ending for a very, very long time, Caruana's "effort" was perfunctory at best, and the entire game went fewer moves than the portion of game 1 that consisted of Carlsen's flogging a dead (or at least mostly dead) horse.

    It was a successful day for Caruana, who has probably vanquished any psychological scars from the first part of game 1, and can spend tomorrow's rest day worrying about his openings. He got nothing with White in the first game, and it remains to be seen if today's 10...Rd8 is a serious move that can stand the test of time or just a clever one-off.

    Here's game 2, with light notes; the more detailed subscriber version (and video) will be sent out later.