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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (40)

    Tuesday
    Sep022014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 6: Caruana 6-0!

    If this keeps up, is anyone going to care about the world championship in a couple of months (assuming it happens)? Fabiano Caruana is putting on a spectacular, almost unique demonstration in the history of chess. Four rounds remain at the Sinquefield Cup, but Caruana's 6-0 score and three point lead over his closest pursuer (some guy named Magnus Carlsen) have the tournament all but over. The real drama is in seeing how far the streak can go, and if he can maintain the combination of perfect preparation and incredible form he has shown so far.

    Today's victim was Veselin Topalov. Topalov played a new move with Black in a Taimanov Sicilian, but there was no opening surprise from the Bulgarian. Caruana replied immediately, and soon it was Topalov who was on his own. Some little inaccuracies led to a vulnerable position, and that vulnerability turned into collapse after 23...Nc6? 24.Bxe6! Black was unable to put up much resistance, and Caruana finished accurately and in style.

    The other two games were drawn, but Carlsen had terrific winning chances against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, though maybe there was no clear way to win by force. Carlsen enjoyed a superior ending with opposite-colored bishops and an extra pawn, but the Frenchman's strong defense saved the day. In the other game Hikaru Nakamura briefly had good winning chances against Levon Aronian. Aronian's 26...d3 was inaccurate and probably would have cost him his d-pawn had Nakamura played 28.Be3 followed by Rb3. Instead the American played 28.Bd2, and Aronian's problems were over.

    The games, with my notes, are here.

    Tomorrow's pairings are Carlsen (3) - Nakamura (2), Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Caruana (6), Topalov (2.5) - Aronian (2).

    Sunday
    Aug312014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Caruana 5-0 (Updated)

    Prior to this round Fabiano Caruana was 0-3 against Hikaru Nakamura in decisive games played with a classical time control, but that didn't stop the golden boy of the Sinquefield Cup. He outplayed his opponent with the black pieces, and while he could have won a little more easily it was still a convincing victory overall, and he now enjoys a remarkable 5-0 score at the halfway point.

    Two other players won today, and share second place. Magnus Carlsen slowly ground out a win in a rook ending against Levon Aronian (winning, like Caruana, with Black) while Veselin Topalov won on the white side of a Najdorf against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Both players looked very good in winning, and as both Carlsen and Topalov are very dangerous once their confidence levels go up it's too soon to hand first prize to Caruana. On the other hand, Caruana will have White against both players in the second cycle, making it that much more difficult for them to catch up.

    This is especially so with tomorrow's rest day, which might serve to break Caruana's rhythm a bit. So far, however, this is one of the great starts in tournament chess history, going 5-0 against the world's #1 and #2 (former #2 now) and three other players in the top ten.

    Round 6 pairings (Tuesday): Nakamura (1.5) - Aronian (1.5), Caruana (5) - Topalov (2.5), Carlsen (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)

    Games later.

     UPDATE: Games here. I've annotated Nakamura-Caruana in some detail and offered a brief explanatory note at the end of Topalov vs. Vachier-Lagrave.

    Saturday
    Aug302014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 4: Caruana is 4-0 (Updated Twice)

    The 2nd Sinquefield Cup still has six rounds remaining, but with only Maxime Vachier-Lagrave even within two points of Fabiano Caruana the prognosis for the rest of the field is getting grim.

    Here's the quick summary of today's action:

    Caruana defeated Levon Aronian, showing that the position after his/his coach's novelty 15.Na2 had its drop of poison. Aronian's view was that he needed to play ...Nc3 (I think on move 20), and while Caruana didn't directly address that he stated that once he played 22.Qh5 Black was in trouble; his assessment appears to be correct. The next exciting moment came a bit later when Caruana sacrificed a piece with 29.Na5 Nxa5 30.Nxe5. Various commentators expressed their surprise and at least mild disapproval, but Caruana's judgment was not only confirmed by the computer and the course of the game, but by the players themselves. The alternative, 29.Nh2, would be met by ...Rf4 once White played Ng4, and the exchange sacrifice would give Black comparatively good chances. So it's another huge win for the American-Italian*, now 4-0 and showing both fantastic preparation and great play after the prep as well.

    The other two games were drawn, but after very different courses. Vachier-Lagrave vs. Hikaru Nakamura was an Archangelsk that was consistently interesting until it suddenly fizzled out to a draw, while Magnus Carlsen's draw with Veselin Topalov was rather strange. Carlsen obtained the sort of position where one would expect him to successfully grind against Topalov, but soon it was clear that Carlsen had overpressed. Topalov's big chance came on move 45. If he had found 45...Rc5 - a move that's well within his ability to spot and requires basically no further calculation - he probably would have won. Unfortunately for him (and for the rest of the field if Carlsen manages to play like his usual self) he missed the opportunity and the game was soon drawn.

    Tomorrow's round finishes the first cycle, and Nakamura will have White against Caruana. Nakamura noted that he has a very good score against Caruana (though Caruana seemed less impressed about it), so he's feeling confident and will be loaded for bear. Will it matter? We'll see!

    Here are the full pairings: Nakamura - Caruana, Aronian - Carlsen, Topalov - Vachier-Lagrave

    One final note, for now: Carlsen (like everyone else) does have bad results and poor stretches every now and then, but I suspect that his battle with FIDE over the world championship match contract is taking something out of him.

    * Please, Mr. Sinquefield, can't you bribe encourage Caruana to come back and represent the United States??

    Update: Here are the games, with my brief(ish) notes.

    Update II: As is clear from my notes, and as mentioned in the comments, my discussion of 45...Rc5 in the Carlsen - Topalov game was mistaken. It would have put some pressure on Carlsen, but there is a way for him to escape with a draw, and despite his apparent concern about it after the game I think it's pretty likely that he'd have found it.

    Friday
    Aug292014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 3: Caruana Beats Carlsen To Go 3-0

    For the fourth time since 2012, Fabiano Caruana has defeated Magnus Carlsen. His win today with the black pieces was impressive, and his 3-0 score has him a point and a half clear of the field and two points ahead of Carlsen in the 2nd Sinquefield Cup. (It also has him at a very clear #2 on the Live Rating List, where he is now "only" 45 points behind the world champion.) All fantastic news for the young American-Italian, who really should scrap the second part of that hyphen.

    Still, there are seven tough rounds to go, so it's too soon to crown him the winner of this week's strongest tournament ever. In the other games Maxime Vachier-Lagrave bounced back from yesterday's loss to beat Levon Aronian pretty handily. Aronian made some dubious decisions early in the game and missed a couple of nice ideas by his opponent, and went down in a hurry. They are now both at 50%.

    In the last game to finish Veselin Topalov finally got on the scoreboard with a win over Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura missed a winning opportunity early in the game and a second, later chance that could also have resulted in a win. In the end it was Topalov who took his opportunities in their very sharp game, and they are tied with Carlsen for 4th-6th (last) at 1-2.

    Tomorrow's pairings: Vachier-Lagrave - Nakamura, Carlsen - Topalov, Caruana - Aronian

    More later.

    Update: A small addition: here are the games, with comments to Carlsen-Caruana.

    Thursday
    Aug282014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 2: Caruana Wins Again, Aronian Also Wins

    Fabiano Caruana (please stay here!) is off to a great start, two for two, at the second Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri. While round 1 saw him take advantage of Veselin Topalov's self-destruction, today's victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took a completely different course. Yesterday Vachier-Lagrave was the speedier player in a fascinating theoretical battle against Magnus Carlsen, but today the Frenchman was the victim. Caruana blitzed out his first 17 moves, all prepared with his second Vladimir Chuchelov some months earlier for a game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He didn't get to use it then and didn't expect to use it today, but Vachier-Lagrave walked into it and paid the price. Caruana didn't have to think until his opponent erred with 17...Nh6, and it didn't take him too long to figure out the refutation. Black resigned after 30 moves, and really could have thrown in the towel at least six moves before that. It was a very impressive win by the world's #2 player, even if it was largely a result of superior homework.

    While that result was clear very early in the round, it turned out that it was the second game to finish. Levon Aronian got curious at the board about an idea he "knew" wasn't very good, and when he played it his suspicions were confirmed. Topalov played well and forced Aronian to sac an exchange for some compensation, though it shouldn't have been enough. Having achieved the advantage, however, Topalov fell apart almost immediately, committing both tactical oversights and positional misjudgments (most notably making the self-destructive decision to castle queenside), and he was quickly crushed.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Carlsen drew their game. Carlsen met the Ruy with 3...g6, and while the succeeding play was always interesting neither player managed to achieve any advantage, and the world champion's attempts to sharpen the play at the end were smoothly neutralized by the American.

    After two rounds, Caruana has 2 points, Aronian 1.5, Nakamura and Carlsen 1, Vachier-Lagrave half a point and Topalov has as many as the rest of the world put together. Here are the pairings for round 3, tomorrow: Topalov - Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian, Carlsen - Caruana.

    Finally, here are the games, with my comments.

    Wednesday
    Aug272014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 1: Caruana Wins, Leads

    All three games from round 1 of this year's Sinquefield Cup were interesting, but only one had a winner. Veselin Topalov played very aggressively, as is his wont, and in this case it was more self-destructive than anything else. Fabiano Caruana played very well and took advantage of Topalov's concessions to start the event with a win, and with the black pieces at that.

    The world champion (at least for now; will he be a lame duck in four days?) had Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a very exciting game. Magnus Carlsen used an idea against Vachier-Lagrave's Scotch that seems to have come from Garry Kasparov's notebook, and it looks like it's good enough for a very exciting equality. It seems to me that both players only made one inaccuracy apiece in the game, and although Carlsen could have shown an advantage at one moment the talk I've read that he may have missed a win is mistaken. He should have played 25...Qd3, that's true, but instead of playing as in the game 26.Qc3 would have kept the disadvantage to manageable proportions. I'd add that for Carlsen to have worked out all the fine tactical details between 25...Qd3 and 25...Qd2 in fairly significant time trouble is asking a bit much of him (you'll see when you replay the game and my analysis).

    Finally, Levon Aronian had a small advantage at times against Hikaru Nakamura's Classical Slav, but couldn't manage to turn it into something significant.

    The games, with my notes (heavy-ish notes to the MVL-Carlsen game), are here.

    Round 2 Pairings: Nakamura - Carlsen, Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian - Topalov

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Starting Wednesday: The 2014 Sinquefield Cup

    The opening ceremonies and such begin tomorrow (Tuesday), but the real action begins on Wednesday. It's a double round-robin with six great players:

    • Magnus Carlsen
    • Levon Aronian
    • Fabiano Caruana
    • Hikaru Nakamura
    • Veselin Topalov
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

    The average rating is over 2800! More info about the Sinquefield Cup here.

    Friday
    Jun272014

    Caruana-Jobava From the World Rapid Championship

    In the game we presented yesterday, Baadur Jobava was the hero, defeating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with some brilliant attacking play. Today we see Jobava in the opposite role, in the role of attacking victim. The game was played in the very next round of the World Rapid Championship, which ended last week, and the winner of the game was tournament runner-up and #1 rated (in rapid) Fabiano Caruana. Caruana's win wasn't as nice as Jobava's in the previous round, but it was attractive nonetheless and worth a look - enjoy!

    Friday
    Jun062014

    Norway Chess, Round 3: Grischuk & Kramnik Win, But Caruana Continues To Lead

    Round 3 of the Norway Chess tournament was eventful, with a lot of movement and excitement at the top. Fabiano Caruana entered and left the round in clear first and with a half point lead, but it could easily have been different - both ways. Early on Magnus Carlsen obtained a serious edge, and later on Caruana had excellent winning chances before the world champion scraped out a draw.

    Levon Aronian entered the round in clear second, but blundered in the opening and was lost after just 14 moves. Understandably he continued through to the end of the first time control before giving up, though Alexander Grischuk never gave him a chance to get back into the game. Grischuk now has 2/3, good enough for a tie for second and a career high (live) rating of 2797. Caruana and Grischuk might end this tournament the 7th and 8th players in chess history to obtain official ratings of 2800 or better; right now Caruana is at 2801.7.

    Also winning in round 3 and tied for second is Vladimir Kramnik, who defeated Anish Giri with the black pieces. Interestingly, both Kramnik and Nigel Short (in commentary) felt that Kramnik was dominating all the way, with the only real question being whether he could break through or not. The engine completely disagrees and isn't much impressed by either Kramnik's or Giri's play. Fortunately for humankind, the engine isn't in the tournament, and Kramnik's pressure - whether real or only felt - eventually proved too much for the young Dutch player.

    Simen Agdestein could have joined the tie for second with a win over Sergey Karjakin, and he played fantastically well through the first time control to put himself on the verge of success. Unfortunately, errors on move 48 and especially 55 allowed Karjakin to survive - barely.

    Finally, Peter Svidler and Veselin Topalov rounded out the action with a game that was interesting in its own right, but of less dramatic significance than the other four games. Svidler was able to make some progress in the middlegame; enough to force Topalov to sac a pawn but not quite enough to reach a winning endgame.

    The games, with my comments, are here.

    Friday is a rest day, and on Saturday the round four pairings are as follows:

    • Caruana (2.5) - Giri (1)
    • Aronian (1.5) - Svidler (1)
    • Agdestein (1.5) - Kramnik (2)
    • Karjakin (1) - Grischuk (2)
    • Topalov (1) - Carlsen (1.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun042014

    Norway Chess, Round 2: Caruana Wins Again

    Fabiano Caruano won his second straight game to open the Norway Chess tournament, beating Peter Svidler with what I'm pretty sure was some monster preparation in a Paulsen Sicilian. As he was the only winner in round 1 he remains the sole leader, and as an added bonus he has reached 2800 for the second time in his career. (It wasn't official the first time and it isn't yet official now, but it's still a wonderful milestone.)

    He was not the only winner today, though. Alexander Grischuk bounced back from his loss to Caruana by beating Veselin Topalov, finishing the game with a nice shot. Overall Grischuk played very well, but his persistent time trouble almost led to disaster for a second straight day. Had Topalov met 31...d4? with 32.gxf5 Grischuk would have been in trouble; instead, it was Topalov who lost the thread leading up to the time control, and he was punished severely.

    The day's other winner was Levon Aronian, who won a typical kind of queenside majority game against Sergey Karjakin. White was always better, and that advantage grew after Karjakin's optimistic decision to push his pawn from a5 to a3. He surely hoped and probably expected to swap off that pawn for White's b-pawn, but what happened instead was that White's newly passed b-pawn became a huge asset, one that ultimately won him the game.

    Vladimir Kramnik didn't achieve anything against Magnus Carlsen, and almost managed to become another victim of Carlsen's unparalleled ability to create something out of nothing. Almost, but not quite. Finally, tournament underdog Simen Agdestein drew his second straight game, this time against Anish Giri, but he was fortunate that his mistake on move 16 went unnoticed.

    The games, with my comments, are here; round 3 pairings follow:

     

    • Carlsen (1) - Caruana (2) (potentially a huge game for the final standings)
    • Grischuk (1) - Aronian (1.5)
    • Karjakin (.5) - Agdestein (1)
    • Giri (1) - Kramnik (1)
    • Svidler (.5) - Topalov (.5)