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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (69)

    Tuesday
    Jun302015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 3: Three Wins and the Leader Draws

    It was another day full of fight and craziness in Dortmund, and in the end the chase pack drew closer to the leader, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Nisipeanu gave up his first half point in the event, but although he had White it was his opponent, Hou Yifan, who had whatever winning chances there were. The key moment was Black's 21st move. If Hou wanted to play for a win she'd have to make go pawn-snatching, taking either on b2 or a2. Both moves seemed to be alright, but with White's pieces clustering around her king she took a practical decision that more or less forced a perpetual check some moves later.

    That was a good result for both players, in different ways, and it benefited the rest of the field too as it brought the leader back to the pack. The first player to exploit this was Arkadij Naiditsch, who won his second game of the tournament with Black (sandwiching a loss with White!). The victim this time was Wesley So, who got in trouble in several stages. First, allowing 18...d4 gave Black tremendous activity. It wasn't fatal though, and probably didn't even promise Black any advantage, but it made the position more challenging for White - especially against a dangerous attacker like Naiditsch. Second, 21.Ra1 was a clear error, ceding the c-file. So had to do something about the threat of 21...Rxc1 followed by 22...Qe1+ 23.Rxe1 Rxe1#, and 21.Ra1 fulfilled that task. It would have been better to play 21.g3, however, taking care of the back rank without conceding the file. There was an exchange of errors on move 24 (I'm guessing that both players missed 24...Nf4 25.Qh6 Qf6!, threatening especially 26...Bf8), and the final, now fatal, error came on move 26 when White grabbed the a-pawn. White is still kicking after 26.Qf3, though Black will have the upper hand. After 26.Qxa6? the rest was a massacre, and Naiditsch finished in style.

    That put Naiditsch at 2/3, and he was joined there by Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik beat Ian Nepomniachtchi with some tactical confusion. Kramnik had a significant advantage out of the opening but when it slipped away around move 25 the game remained equal through the time control. Kramnik did maintain an initiative, however, and with his rook and knights hopping around the Black king Nepo needed to stay on high alert. Black's fatal error was 46...Be5, when 47.Nb7 (with the idea of 48.Nd8 and 49.Rf7#!). While Black was able to stop that threat, there were too many other threats that he couldn't, and Kramnik soon reached a completely winning knight ending.

    Finally, Georg Meier let a full point slip away against Fabiano Caruana. Meier was winning and then some, right up until the time control. By then it was equal while remaining complicated, and Meier didn't manage to retain the balance. A tough loss for him; he could quite easily have had 2.5/3 by now.

    Here are the round pairings:

    • Caruana (1.5) - Naiditisch (2)
    • Hou Yifan (1) - So (1)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1) - Nisipeanu (2.5)
    • Meier (1) - Kramnik (2)

     

    Thursday
    Jun252015

    Caruana Now Representing the U.S.

    I didn't think it was supposed to kick in this soon, but Fabiano Caruana is now officially representing the United States again.

    HT: "ploy" and Live Chess Ratings.

    Wednesday
    Jun172015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 2: Caruana Beats Carlsen, All Other Games Drawn

    Last year it looked like Fabiano Caruana was rapidly gaining on Magnus Carlsen, but when Caruana cooled off and Carlsen came back it looked like the gap between the champion and his challengers was as big as ever. It's still too early in the tournament to say that Carlsen's dominance is disappearing, but Caruana's very impressive and comprehensive win over Carlsen today suggests that the chase pack isn't that far back, either.

    Caruana was born in the United States, represented Italy for the past 10 years while often living elsewhere in Europe and has been coached by a Belgian and a Ukranian (among others), but maybe we should call him "Mr. Berlin". While White has been struggling to find anything in the Berlin endgame while Black players have been suffering somewhat against the 4.d3 line, Caruana has been finding great ideas for both sides. Yesterday a great new idea against 4.d3 gave him a pretty easy draw against Anand, and today a strong idea in the Berlin ending posed powerful problems with which Carlsen couldn't cope. (Overdoing the alliteration? Probably. Always avoid alliteration, they say.)

    With the win Caruana jumped back to #2 on the live rating list while joining the four round 1 winners (Nakamura, Giri, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave) in a five-way tie for first. The other four games were drawn, so Carlsen is temporarily in clear last place with an 0-2 score.

    About those other four games: if yesterday it was offense that triumphed, today it was the defense. (Or, if you prefer, today the offense faltered.) Levon Aronian had good winning chances against Alexander Grischuk after the latter made a tactical slip, but couldn't take advantage. (Admittedly, the opportunity was a very subtle one.)

    Anish Giri had some edge against Viswanathan Anand, but it wasn't much. He was up an exchange for a pawn, but Anand's compensation was such that Giri decided to return the material in pursuit of a draw. He was a bit careless about the way he did this, however, and then Anand had some winning chances in a rook ending. Maybe he never had a win, but Anand himself opined that he could at least have posed Giri more serious problems than he did.

    Continuing the theme, Veselin Topalov had a significant (but not decisive) advantage against Hikaru Nakamura for a long time, and the commentators though that his winning chances were better than his opponent's drawing chances. Nakamura is nothing if not resilient, however, and Topalov wasn't even able to come close to a win.

    Finally, Jon Ludwig Hammer had a very big advantage against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and looked sure to convert. This was the one game (aside from Caruana-Carlsen, of course) where someone really did have a decisive advantage, but once again the defense held. Vachier-Lagrave held by "a millimeter...by a miracle", as Vladimir Kramnik would say, but even so Hammer is the leading Norwegian scorer in the tournament so far with half a point to his name. (I wouldn't bet a single penny that this will remain the case.)

    The games are here, the tournament site is here, and the round 3 pairings are as follows:

    • Nakamura (1.5) - Caruana (1.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Topalov (1.5)
    • Carlsen (0) - Giri (1.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - Hammer (.5)
    • Anand (1) - Grischuk (.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun032015

    Amazing Time Wasters

    No, I'm not talking about (more than) 99.99% of the internet, though I could be. Instead, I'm referring to an interesting phenomenon in chess that has increasingly caught my attention of late: moves that appear to waste a tempo in the opening for what seems at first like absolutely no good reason. Further, in most of the cases, the pattern is similar: a piece moves to a square, then a move or so later proceeds to a square it could have reached on the previous turn. I've cataloged five instances of this for you here; readers are invited to offer examples of their own.

    Wednesday
    May272015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, The End: Caruana, Nakamura and Jakovenko Tie For First, and the First Two Are Now Candidates

    Five of the six games were drawn today, with only Peter Svidler managing a win (against Baadur Jobava). As a result, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Dmitry Jakovenko tied for first in the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix tournament. More importantly, Caruana and Nakamura finished 1-2 in the overall Grand Prix standings, and thereby qualified for next year's Candidates' event.

    (Viswanathan Anand had already qualified by virtue of his loss in the last world championship match, while the other five candidates have yet to be determined. Two will qualify from the World Cup [starting September 10], two will qualify by rating, and one will qualify on whatever basis the organizers see fit. Hopefully it will go to the person who was closest overall to qualifying in one of the other ways, but there's a non-trivial chance that it will go to the strongest available representative of the host country.)

    As for the final round action, two games were crucial: Anish Giri vs. Caruana and Nakamura vs. Jakovenko. Caruana had a small disadvantage in the middlegame, but it disappeared when Giri went for the ebullient plan of g4-g5. Caruana was soon better, and it was only the sufficiency of taking a draw that prevented him from making Giri suffer for several hours. Meanwhile, Jakovenko needed a win to take sole first and to qualify for the Candidates' rather than his opponent. He managed to get a very small advantage, but it never became anything tangible. Whatever small chances he had departed with the last set of rooks, as 26...Rxf2 led to a queen ending where both sides' pawns started disappearing in a hurry. With the draw Jakovenko concluded an outstanding result, but it wasn't quite good enough.

    Thursday
    May212015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 6: The Leaders All Win

    Coming into round 6 Fabiano Caruana led the Grand Prix tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk by half a point over Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler, and at the end of the round it's the same story as all three won. (Leinier Dominguez was also tied for second, and should have finished the day in the tie as well.)

    Caruana won a very difficult opposite-colored bishop ending against Alexander Grischuk that saw both players make some mistakes. The evaluation shifted back and forth from betting-to-winning for Caruana back down to a draw, and two moves before the end Grischuk still could have saved the game with perfect play.

    Karjakin's win was both easier, cleaner and shorter, as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave continued his downward trajectory with his third loss in a row. White (MVL) was in reasonable shape when he came up with the idea of 21.Rc1 followed by 22.b4, but this didn't restrict anything Karjakin had in mind on the queenside. Black was soon better everywhere and then material ahead, and the game ended before the players reached the first time control.

    As for Svidler, he was the sole winner with White on the day, defeating Anish Giri's Ragozin in a long game. After a long siege of Black's isolated d-pawn, it dropped off, and many moves later White's passed d-pawn was the hero that won the day. Svidler did allow much of his advantage to slip at various moments, and on move 65 Black probably would have held with 65...Ra7. (One final chance may have come on move 69: ...Ra4 followed by ...Rd4.) Errare humanum est, and Svidler won in 83 moves.

    In the draw department, Boris Gelfand was fortunate - at least on two different stretches - to survive his game with Leinier Dominguez. Evgeny Tomashevsky had the better position for most of his short game with Hikaru Nakamura, but it never reached decisive levels. Finally, Baadur Jobava and Dmitry Jakovenko played an interesting game that saw both players have the advantage at different times, with Jakovenko probably holding the more serious and prolonged chances.

    Round 7 comes tomorrow (Thursday), with these pairings:

    • Caruana (4.5) - Gelfand (3)
    • Jakovenko (3) - Grischuk (2.5)
    • Karjakin (4) - Jobava (2.5)
    • Nakamura (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5)
    • Giri (2) - Tomashevsky (2.5)
    • Dominguez (3.5) - Svidler (4)

    Monday
    May182015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 4: Caruana Wins Again

    Most of the games in round 4 of the Grand Prix tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk looked like the players wanted to get an early start on Monday's rest day. Two games were drawn in just 23 moves and a third finished at move 30. The draw between Boris Gelfand and Anish Giri was a bit more competitive, as Gelfand had to make a few accurate defensive moves to hold the balance, but it too appeared headed for a draw from early on.

    The remaining two games were more eventful. Fabiano Caruana came under some pressure with Black in a Ragozin against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but it doesn't look like he was ever in real trouble. MVL, however, got into trouble - fatal trouble - by overextending. The first steps in the wrong direction began with his idea of 21.Qb3 followed by 22.f5, and then 24.Kg2 was a further misstep. White's space advantage looked impressive, but he couldn't quite consolidate it. After 28...d4 Caruana was winning, and while he might have had a minor improvement here or there he never let Vachier-Lagrave back into the game. Caruana is thus the solo leader with 3/4.

    Leinier Dominguez and Peter Svidler are half a point behind, and if Evgeny Tomashevsky could have finished off a winning position against Dmitry Jakovenko he'd have joined them with 2.5/4. Tomashevsky thought for more than 20 minutes on his 41st move, but his decision seems to have let the (probable) win slip away. Instead of 41.a5, which let Black get enough counterplay to hold after 41...Ra2, he should have tried the more patient 41.Qc2. It wasn't as big a missed chance as the one he had against Alexander Grischuk in round 2, but it's still a second extra half-point lost. If Tomashevsky misses qualifying for the Candidates by half a point at the end of the tournament, that will surely be a difficult pill for him to swallow.

    As noted above, Monday is a rest day. Tuesday's round 5 pairings are as follows:

    • Grischuk - Gelfand
    • Caruana - Jobava
    • Jakovenko - Vachier-Lagrave
    • Karjakin - Tomashevsky
    • Nakamura - Svidler
    • Giri - Dominguez

    Saturday
    May162015

    Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, Round 3: Caruana, Svidler Win; They Lead With Dominguez

    There haven't been many wins so far in the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, so when they do it's not surprising that the leaderboard is immediately affected. Evgeny Tomashevsky led after the first two rounds (and should have led with a 2-0 score), but today he came a-cropper against Fabiano Caruana. The American (aaah, it feels good writing that) had him under pressure from the opening, and when Tomashevsky played 25...Qc8? the tactical problems with Black's position left him lost or at least on death's door. The last critical moment came on move 30, when Tomashevsky needed to play 30...Qg4 intending ...Qb4 with a trade of queens. After 30...Bb4 31.e6 the passed pawn proved more than Black could cope with, and Tomashevsky resigned just after the time control.

    The day's other winner was Peter Svidler, who won a nice rook ending against Dmitry Jakovenko. Jakovenko was a co-leader after round 1, but with two consecutive defeats he's now tied for last. The game turned in Svidler's favor on moves 21 and 22 when Jakovenko didn't bring his knight back to c3 (which in turn implies that he shouldn't have removed it from that square on move 20). It's not clear to me what Jakovenko overlooked, and the end result was that he went from being a little better to down a pawn for nothing.

    The other four games were drawn. Baadur Jobava and Boris Gelfand had a very complicated game that may have favored Gelfand most of the way, but it was never easy. Alexander Grischuk had some advantage all the way against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but doesn't seem to have missed any real winning opportunities. Leinier Dominguez had Black against Sergey Karjakin, but despite that was better pretty much throughout. Indeed, it's not clear why he took a draw at the end, as a well-timed ...g5 would give him persistent pressure against White's e-pawn. (The bishop goes to g7 and a knight to g6 in case White takes en passant.) Finally Hikaru Nakamura vs. Anish Giri was a dud, but a very instructive dud. In a very well-known position of the old main line Giuoco Piano, Nakamura tried the rare 7.Nbd2 (rather than the dull and equal 7.Bd2 or the interesting but more or less bad 7.Nc3), sacrificing first the e-pawn and then the d-pawn with 11.d6. Had Black tried to hold on to the material White would have enjoyed fine compensation, but Giri followed Emanuel Lasker's ancient advice about replying to gambits: take the pawns, and then return them. Giri did so, and the game could have been agreed drawn after 17 moves (at the latest) were it not for the Sofia rules. They duly played a further 13 moves and called it a day.

    Caruana, Svidler and Dominguez lead with 2/3; Giri, Jakovenko and Jobava are in last with 1/3, and everyone else has 1.5 points going into tomorrow's round 4. The pairings are:

    • Gelfand - Giri
    • Dominguez - Nakamura
    • Svidler - Karjakin
    • Tomashevsky - Jakovenko
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Caruana
    • Jobava - Grischuk

    Tuesday
    May122015

    Welcome Home, Fabiano Caruana (Updated)

    It looks more likely due to the effort$ efforts of Rex Sinquefield than from patriotism, homesickness or a desire to be part of a team with Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, but I suspect American chess fans won't mind this very much. Fabiano Caruana will represent the United States once again and will be in some sort of partnership with the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

    A parting question: will anyone apologize to Dylan McClain?

    UPDATE: Still more about the transfer, here. And a new parting question: Garry K, you seem to still have "it", you spend lots of time in the U.S. and have family here. Why not join the fun and help guarantee us victory in the next several Olympiads?

    Tuesday
    May122015

    United States Wins 2016 Chess Olympiad

    Also the 2018 Olympiad, according to this report.

    (HT: Allen Becker)