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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (72)

    Sunday
    Jul052015

    Dortmund 2015, Final Round: Caruana Wins Again

    And wins in more than one way: he wins the game (his fifth in a row!) and the Dortmund tournament (for the second straight year and third time overall). Fabiano Caruana's final score of 5.5/7 matched last year's total, earned him 11 rating points and should give him some confidence going into the Sinquefield Cup six weeks from now.

    Not all of his wins in the tournament were works of art; clean, logical and error-free victories where the advantage grew bit by bit, but his last round victory was a work of art. His opponent, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, entered the last round half a point behind Caruana, and so a win would give him first place in the tournament. Spoiling for a fight Nisipeanu went for the Evans Gambit, but Caruana was well-prepared and stood a bit better in the early middlegame. He managed to increase his advantage over the next few moves, and on move 25 the game went from being an impressive practical achievement to something for the ages. Caruana devised a brilliant tactical idea even the engines have difficulty finding in light of the defensive/counterattacking idea chosen by Nisipeanu in the game. The combination, which you can replay here, is reminiscent of the famous old game Ortueta-Sanz, as noted by Caruana himself after the game. (You can replay both games, with my notes, here.)

    That settle the race for first, but the other games were also interesting. Vladimir Kramnik had been in the running for first through most of the tournament, and was still in contention for second. A win over Wesley So would have given him clear second, and a draw would have given him shared second with Nisipeanu. He equalized and then some with Black in a Berlin ending, and seemed to have good winning chances until his 28th-30th moves, each of which was inaccurate-to-bad. He was much worse, but with both players in serious time trouble he managed to get back to equal again. The position remained complicated, however, and in the second time control So outplayed him and picked up the full point. Oddly, while So defeated both Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, he was lagging a long ways back through most of it and it was a big surprise to see that he finished second on tiebreaks ahead of Nisipeanu. A very decent result, if an uneven one, and thus the Americans finished 1-2 with Nisipeanu in nominal third.

    The other two games were drawn, though not smoothly. Hou Yifan had excellent winning chances against Ian Nepomniachtchi and Georg Meier had Arkadij Naiditsch dead in the water, yet neither player could convert their advantage.

    Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5.5 (out of 7)
    • 2. So 4
    • 3. Nisipeanu 4
    • 4. Kramnik 3.5
    • 5. Naiditsch 3
    • 6. Nepomniachtchi 3
    • 7. Hou Yifan 2.5
    • 8. Meier 2.5

    Saturday
    Jul042015

    Dortmund 2015, Round 6: Caruana Wins Again, Kramnik Lets Nisipeanu Escape

    After a bumpy start, Fabiano Caruana is looking like the player he was around this time last year, and with his fourth consecutive victory he is in the driver's seat to win Dortmund again - and might match last year's score of 5.5/7. For now, it's 4.5/6 after his win over Hou Yifan. Hou decided to sac a pawn in the opening to alleviate some pressure, and was doing a good job of hanging in there until she preferred the decentralizing 28...Ndb6 to 28...Nde5. Caruana took immediate advantage, breaking in the center and heading for Black's king. Hou had to sac the exchange for counterplay, but it wasn't enough. Ironically, her activity allowed her to recoup the material, only to walk into a mating attack.

    Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu could have kept pace with Caruana by defeating Vladimir Kramnik, but that was never in the offing. Instead, it was Kramnik who outplayed Nisipeanu and could have won in a tough rook ending. It seems his last chance to convert the full point came on move 52 (or move 54, had Kramnik decided to head back to the same position). According to the tablebases the obvious 52.Kxf4 was a winner, which is not to say that it was a trivial win. Kramnik may have missed or underestimated Nisipeanu's 54...f3, after which White no longer had even practical chances for the full point. Nisipeanu is out of at least a share of the lead for the first time in the tournament, but as he's only half a point behind and gets White against Caruana in the last round he still has a chance to be the hero of the tournament. As for Kramnik, he is now a full point behind Caruana and is mathematically eliminated from contention for first, though with a win tomorrow he would do no worse than tie for second.

    In the other games Ian Nepomniachtchi won his first game in the tournament, grinding down Arkadij Naiditsch in a technical battle, while Georg Meier had a meaningful advantage against Wesley So but played it safe and let the American escape. As Meier had and lost even bigger advantages against Caruana and Kramnik in this tournament, his trepdiation was understandable.

    Here are the pairings for the last round:

    • Nisipeanu (4) - Caruana (4.5)
    • So (3) - Kramnik (3.5)
    • Naiditsch (2.5) - Meier (2)
    • Hou Yifan (2) - Nepomniachtchi (2.5) 

    Friday
    Jul032015

    Dortmund 2015, Rounds 4 & 5: Nisipeanu Has a Different Co-Leader Every Day

    Let's get caught up on Dortmund, which is now 5/7 over after round 4 on Wednesday, a rest on Thursday and round 5 today. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu continues to lead, as he has the entire event, but now he has company. After three rounds he was alone in first with 2.5/3, but was caught in round 4 by Vladimir Kramnik and in round 5 by Fabiano Caruana. Let's review the action.

    In round 4 Nisipeanu had Black against Ian Nepomniachtchi, and after a slight advantage see-sawed between the two players Nepomniachtchi was the last player to get an edge, but it was unusable. An extra pawn in a rook + three vs. rook + two ending with all the pawns on the same side is almost always drawn, and this wasn't a difficult hold for Nisipeanu.

    Meanwhile, Kramnik managed to keep just enough tension in the position to outwit Georg Meier, who yet again lost half a point or more from a good position. Meier played the Anti-Berlin line 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1, which looks unpretentious but isn't as insipid as it seems. Kramnik did manage to equalize, but in his desire to push for a win he had to take some fairly serious risks. Meier enjoyed a clear advantage leading up to the time control, and had he played 35.R5e4 or 35.gxf4 Rxf4 and then 36.R5e4 things might have turned out differently. When the time control came the position was about equal, but the danger was mostly on Meier's side. The game was lost in one move: 50.Ke2; after 50.a4 it would remain equal, and there were other moves that would have kept the game going. Such collapses are very possible in complicated positions, even after the time control; in fact, Kramnik lost in similar fashion in round 5. More on that later; for now, Nisipeanu and Kramnik were the co-leaders with 3/4.

    Fabiano Caruana also gained ground on Nisipeanu, winning his second straight game to get to half a point out of first. His victim was Arkadij Naiditsch, who was only a little worse until he played 25...Bxc5; it would have been better to play 26...Rc8 straight away rather than doing so after swapping the bishops. The difference was that Caruana anchored the rook on c5 with 27.b4, and when Black traded rooks White had a passed pawn. Not all was lost until Naiditsch played 35...a5, however; 35...e5 or 35...Kf6 followed by 36...e5 would have kept the game going. In the game Naiditsch quickly lost a piece, and that was that.

    Finally, Hou Yifan and Wesley So had an interesting battle in a Classical Caro-Kann. Hou was starting to outplay So, but 31.Ka2 allowed a nice tactical sequence that led to a draw.

    On to round five, when the marquee matchup with Kramnik - Caruana. The opening was a Fianchetto Gruenfeld with ...c6 and ...d5 which quickly left theory. (That's probably a good thing, as the variation tends to be pretty dull.) Kramnik's whole plan with 12.Re1, 13.Bxe4, 14.Nxe4 and especially 15.Qc2? was a bit of a disaster, and from there on out Kramnik was pretty much reduced to swindle mode. Remarkably, his resilient play succeeded and when Caruana played 23...e6 Kramnik had made it back to objective equality. Not practical equality, as the burden on him to find the right moves was more difficult, but objective equality was a real achievement. He kept up his end of things for a good while, but eventually things went astray. First, it's pretty difficult to make a move like 28.Kd4!, but the idea is that if 28...Qg2 White now has time to take on h6 and give perpetual before Black mates White's wandering king. Even so he was still alright until move 31, when 31.Nd2 fatally weakened his king. He needed to play either the greedy 31.Rxc5 or 31.Qe5 followed by 32.Rb8, simplifying the position for the sake of the king. After his error Caruana regained the initiative, and the rest was one-sided.

    Kramnik had won three in a row, but that streak came to an end with Caruana's third straight win. As a result of the latter's win he leapfrogged the former and found himself tied for first. His co-leader, Nisipeanu, had White against Meier, but got little from the opening and the game was clearly, almost self-evidently headed for a draw as soon as move 18. They continued until move 42, surprisingly (even if they're using the Sofia rules players in such contexts normally construct some sort of repetition to get the thing finished), but there could never have been any doubt, especially after the rooks came off at move 30.

    In the other games, So beat Nepomniachtchi on the white side of a King's Indian-turned-Modern Benoni. So's kingside play was gaining ground, and the end was expedited by Nepo's inaccurate exchange sac before the time control. Finally, Hou Yifan drew in a good fight with Black against Naiditsch. She equalized and then some early on, and it seemed that she would have enjoyed some advantage with the obvious 17...Nd3 (instead of 17...Na6). Her not playing that was rather mysterious, but even so she was doing fine for a very long time. Finally, somewhere in the second time control, she got into a little trouble in a major piece ending. Had Naiditsch played 54.e4 he would have enjoyed decent winning chances. Fortunately for Hou he didn't, and she wrapped up the draw confidently after that.

    Here are the pairings for the penultimate round, tomorrow:

    • Caruana (3.5) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • Nepomniachtchi (1.5) - Naiditsch (2.5)
    • Meier (1.5) - So (2.5)
    • Kramnik (3) - Nisipeanu (3.5)

    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