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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (51)

    Friday
    Dec122014

    Young Grandmasters Try To Make Chess Cool?!

    That's the title (but without the punctuation at the end) of a New York Times article that begins with this implausible sentence: "Fabiano Caruana is a chess champion all but made for the age of social media." The article offers a nice profile of Caruana, with some coverage of Magnus Carlsen thrown in, but there's little in the piece to suggest that Caruana is likely to be a social media star beyond the confines of the chess community. (Of course, I'd be very happy to be wrong about this!) Have a look and see for yourselves.

    (HT: Bob Banta)

    Tuesday
    Nov252014

    Caruana on Carlsen-Anand, Carlsen, and Caruana Himself

    There's a very interesting interview with world #2 Fabiano Caruana here. One noteworthy aspect is the tone: while Caruana presents himself in a reasonably self-effacing way in the video interviews I've seen, there's a very strong confidence (but not arrogance) that comes across in this piece. A second note, in passing, is bad news for American fans like this writer: he has no plans to switch federations and represent the U.S. again. (Good news for Italians though!)

    It's especially interesting to see his comments about the just-completed match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand, and I was pretty surprised to read the following:

    What was Vishy’s main mistake in this match?

    The strange way in which he twice played the Sicilian Defence. Already on the first attempt it didn’t go so well, but he continued it a second time. The whole course of the match in Sochi showed that Carlsen had nothing special prepared against the Berlin and Vishy should have stuck to his guns. The idea of playing the Paulsen was very bad and very strange, in my view.

    While I would heartily agree that the choice of variation within the Paulsen/Kan Anand chose in game 6 was pretty terrible, I wouldn't agree with his general remark, especially if we don't cheat by evaluating Anand's decision about what to play in games 4 and 6 by what happened in games 7, 9 and 11. So let's recap: in game two Carlsen played 4.d3 vs. the Berlin, and very quickly and easily outplayed Anand despite not getting any "official" advantage from the opening. Anand switched to the Sicilian in game 4, and this time when Carlsen went for a sideline Carlsen even stood worse. So I don't understand what Caruana means when he said that "on the first attempt it didn't go so well." The second outing, game 6, was a disaster for Anand, that's true, but it wasn't really the fault of the Sicilian or even the Kan/Paulsen. Anand picked a very strange line, one that both Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik had considered bad for Black for a very long time. It's no wonder that he got in big trouble and lost that game, but I don't see why the blame should be laid at the doorstop of Anand's decision to play the Paulsen.

    Anyway, whether you agree with me or the guy who is #2 in the world, it's a lively interview and well worth taking the time to read.

     

    Monday
    Oct132014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 10: Resilience

    Until their simultaneous failure last round, either Fabiano Caruana or Boris Gelfand - or both - led the Baku Grand Prix, and I think that with the exception of round 3, no one else shared that lead with them. Coming into round 10 there was a six-way tie for first, and with Caruana in particular having lost two of his last three games it looked as if they had been swallowed up by the field.

    Not so! Caruana and Gelfand both won in round 10, and while there were two other decisive results all of the players who entered the round tied with them finished it trailing them once more. Leinier Dominguez had White against Caruana, but played unsuccessfully in the English and soon found himself suffering in a position where Black dominated the dark squares while White suffered with a bad light-squared bishop. White was worse, but wasn't losing until he swapped rooks on move 26. He clearly wanted to open lines on the queenside for counterplay, but the end result was a vulnerable king. Caruana took speedy advantage, ensuring himself of at least a share of the lead while leaving Dominguez in the cellar.

    Gelfand took on one of the co-leaders, Teimour Radjabov, and won very smoothly - too smoothly, perhaps. Radjabov eschewed his old favorite King's Indian and went into an Open Catalan, which is a Gelfand specialty. They followed a Kramnik-Radjabov game from their 2011 Candidates match, and although Radjabov produced the novelty on move 14 Gelfand was quickly better. Radjabov was clearly worse by move 19, and a further error on move 24 resulted in a 28 move win by the 2012 "vice-champion".

    Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler entered the round tied for first, and both may have had their moments of optimism. For Karjakin, he was on the white side of a Ruy line that had scored 8.5/9; for Svidler - who of course improved on the earlier games - he obtained a dangerous kingside attack with the help of a piece sacrifice. Luckily for Karjakin, Svidler either missed something or underestimated his chances, and took a perpetual in a clearly better position.

    Hikaru Nakamura was another leader who could only draw, not managing much on the white side of an Exchange Slav.

    Evgeny Tomashevsky remained within half a point of the lead, making it a four-way tie behind Caruana and Gelfand, by defeating Dmitry Andreikin. The game was decided in what I assume was mutual time pressure, wherein Andreikin made more, and more severe, errors than his opponent. By the time they made the time control Tomashevsky was up three pawns for nothing, so Andreikin gave up on his 41st turn.

    Finally, the game between Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk was won by the latter when the former FIDE champ underestimated Black's kingside play.

    The tournament site is here, and the games, with my comments, are here. Finally, these are Tuesday's final round pairings:

    • Mamedyarov (4.5) - Kasimdzhanov (4.5)
    • Radjabov (5) - Nakamura (5.5)
    • Svidler (5.5) - Gelfand (6)
    • Andreikin (4) - Karjakin (5.5)
    • Caruana (6) - Tomashevsky (5.5)
    • Grischuk (5) - Dominguez (3)

    Wednesday
    Oct082014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 6: Caruana Wins, Leads

    Fabiano Caruana wins a game and leads the tournament. Where have we heard that line before? A few more months of this and people will start offering retrospectives on the Magnus Carlsen era. Today it was Peter Svidler who was tossed into the wood chipper, though the game wasn't as clean as one might have liked. Caruana came out of the opening, a 3.f3 Anti-Gruenfeld, with a significant advantage, but 18.e5 was a mistake. (A very natural move, but a mistake nevertheless; 18.Nge2 was probably best.) The struggle flared up anew until Svidler's 27...Rh8?; the computer suggests (the very risky-looking) 27...Bxe4 28.Nxe4 f5 instead. For rating watchers, Caruana is now over 2851 and a win or two away from beating Garry Kasparov's career best (live) Elo rating. Carlsen himself is just 12 points away, though the latter's all-time mark will be safe at least through the end of this tournament.

    Boris Gelfand could have kept pace with a win over Sergey Karjakin, but while the game was a success - an easy draw with Black in a Najdorf where he even enjoyed some advantage - he is out of first place for the first time in the tournament.

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov won pretty easily against Dmitry Andreikin, who once again appeared not to "have any openings". Kasimdzhanov had a large advantage after the opening and rolled to victory.

    Alexander Grischuk's woes in this tournament continued with a strange loss to Teimour Radjabov. He came out of the opening with a slight edge with White into a middlegame with a large margin of safety. This margin disappeared with the combination of 19.b4 and 25.f4 (the latter move in particular was an error), creating targets for Radjabov on both sides of the board. 29.Qxe8 was the decisive error, after which Radjabov was able to take aim at the weaknesses and stroll to success.

    Leinier Dominguez had some advantage against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but was unable to bring home the full point.

    Likewise, Evgeny Tomashevsky had an edge (though generally not a very big one) against Hikaru Nakamura throughout their game, which was drawn as well.

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Gelfand (4) - Kasimdzhanov (3.5)
    • Nakamura (3.5) - Karjakin (3)
    • Mamedyarov (2) - Tomashevsky (3)
    • Radjabov (3.5) - Dominguez (2.5)
    • Svidler (3) - Grischuk (2)
    • Andreikin (1.5) - Caruana (4.5)

    Tuesday
    Oct072014

    Baku Grand Prix, Caruana and Gelfand Lead After Five Rounds

    The last two rounds of the Baku Grand Prix have been a bit slow, at least when it comes to wins and losses. In today's round 5 action all the games were drawn, and only in the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez did anyone have serious winning chances. (Nakamura was pressing there and had a winning advantage at one point.)

    In round 4, before the first rest day, there were more opportunities for a decisive result, but only in the game between Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did someone manage to convert the advantage. Caruana was the winner (I've annotated the game for you here), and in the process he caught up with Boris Gelfand in first place. After five rounds they lead with 3.5 points apiece, good enough for a half point lead over Nakamura and Peter Svidler and a point plus over the next four players in the table.

    The round 6 pairings are:

    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) -Andreikin (1.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Svidler (3)
    • Grischuk (2) - Radjabov (2)
    • Dominguez (2) - Mamedyarov (1.5)
    • Tomashevsky (2.5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Gelfand (3.5)

    Thursday
    Oct022014

    Baku Begins: Caruana (Of Course), Gelfand Win

    The inaugural tournament of the 2014-2015 Grand Prix series started today in Baku, with the following results:

    • Gelfand - Andreikin 1-0
    • Nakamura - Svidler 1/2-1/2
    • Mamedyarov - Radjabov 1/2-1/2
    • Dominguez - Kasimdzhanov 1/2-1/2
    • Tomashevsky - Grischuk 1/2-1/2
    • Karjakin - Caruana 0-1

    The first game was rather strange, or can be seen as a confirmation of something rather strange. In interviews after the 2013 World Cup and the 2014 Candidates, Andreikin described himself as "having no openings". That's a bizarre admission (and an even stranger state of affairs) for a top GM to make, but it does seem to be the truth. Today he went into a line known to be dangerous for Black, and made a new move that made his position even worse. I don't know if Gelfand had specifically prepared for Andreikin's new move, but either way he slaughtered him in just 23 moves.

    Nakamura-Svidler was a short draw - all the draws today were short, barely making it over the 30 move minimum - but it was not the sort of phony non-effort that used to be called a "grandmaster draw". In fact Svidler was doing very well, but made the wrong choice on move 27 and let Nakamura escape with a draw.

    Mamedyarov-Radjabov, however, was a grandmaster draw. They are countrymen and friends playing in their native land, so this isn't surprising. Their tournament will begin tomorrow.

    Dominguez-Kasimdzhanov was short and bizarre. Kasimdzhanov was much better in the early middlegame, but somehow lost the threat and was worse. On move 25 he made an outright blunder, but Dominguez didn't punish it. Even so, Dominguez was now much better, but his final move - move 30 - threw away the advantage and they agreed to a draw with plenty of life still in it.

    Tomashevsky-Grischuk was a normal draw. Not a grandmaster draw or a see-saw battle with blunders, but a typically modern game. White followed an opening line that had seen success in the past, Black found a good new move that neutralized White's plan, and soon they shook hands and called it a day.

    Finally, Caruana picked up where he left off, results-wise, by winning with Black against Karjakin. This was not, however, a kind of repeat of his supreme mastery at the Sinquefield Cup. Karjakin played very well through much of the game and at one point his advantage was beginning to get serious. Near the time control, however, Karjakin started losing the thread and never recovered. From what I understand, however, this was in part due to some sort of technological quirk. Karjakin was relaxing backstage while it was Caruana's move, and remained for 15 minutes. Apparently Caruana had moved, but the monitor had not updated, and so Karjakin simply lost a bunch of time on his clock. If the loss was in part due to wholly unnecessary time trouble, that's a pity.

    The games, with my comments, are here. I definitely won't be doing this for most of the tournament, but I had a little time today and thought it would be nice to get others interested in this super-event as well. (Maybe I should ask for volunteers for at least some of the remaining rounds?)

    Thursday
    Sep182014

    Slate on Caruana and the Sinquefield Cup

    This clearly isn't written for chess players, but I do think that articles written by "civilians" (i.e. non-chess players) have been getting a bit better lately. Read at your own risk.

    (HT: Robert Davis, who noted that the link to the article from Slate's home page asks "Can Chess Be Saved" and rejoins, "From what?")

    Saturday
    Sep062014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 10: Three Draws Finish The Tournament

    And fairly peaceful draws at that, but after nine very exciting rounds at the Sinquefield Cup it's hard to begrudge the players the relative day off.

    The first game to finish went only 19 moves and featured two of the most combative players in the world and a situation where one might normally expect a big fight, but it was not to be. Veselin Topalov was apparently surprised by the particular line of the Berlin Magnus Carlsen chose, and without making a dent on theory the game ended in a quick repetition. If Topalov had won he would have taken clear second and jumped to #3 on the rating list, but in the final position the players agreed that playing on would have entailed more risk for White than for Black.

    The second game to finish was Levon Aronian vs. Fabiano Caruana. Even in this game it was Caruana who had what slight chances there were for a decisive result, but fatigued and possibly a bit undermotivated he didn't play energetically enough and Aronian managed to equalize. Concerned he might even be getting a little worse, Caruana offered a draw at the first available moment, on move 30, and Aronian accepted, happy to put a very unsuccessful tournament behind him.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made it to the time control and a bit further, but the game was equal all the way (but with play) and the draw was a normal result there too. (All three games here, with some comments and game citations for the first two.)

    An anti-climax, yes, but what an amazing tournament for Fabiano Caruana! His final score of 8.5/10 put him three points ahead of the second-place finisher (Carlsen 5.5, Topalov 5, Aronian & Vachier-Lagrave 4, Nakamura 3). He gained 35 rating points to take second on the rating list by a massive 43 point margin, has reached a rating level previously achieved (and surpassed) by only Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov, and his 3097 TPR is unsurpassed in the history of chess (in events of this sort). Speaking of Kasparov, he himself said that this was the most amazing tournament performance he had seen, better than anything he achieved and even than Anatoly Karpov's 11/13 in Linares 1994. While I don't think it breaks his heart to put someone else's performance ahead of Karpov's, it is true that the players are getting better and better, and on top of that Caruana really had no lucky games; if anything, he was a bit unlucky against Carlsen in round 8 and Nakamura in round 9. (On the other hand, Karpov was close to winning three of the four games he drew in Linares, so we shouldn't be too quick to bury that event in the sands of time.) At any rate it was a fantastic performance by Caruana. Bravo!

    And now for dessert: rumors are floating that he may switch back to representing the USA. He was asked about it in the post-game press conference, and his "I don't want to say anything about this" seems like the kind of remark that suggests that it may in fact be in the works. (Yessssss!)

    Looking forward, it should be noted that while the Sinquefield Cup is over the festivities in St. Louis are not. First, the final press conference will begin momentarily. Second, on Monday they will have the "Ultimate Moves" competition. Here's how the tournament site describes it:

    Ultimate Moves will feature eight two-man teams made up of a GM and an amateur player each. The teams will compete in a double-round knockout bracket, with teammates alternating moves in games with a time control of 15 minutes and 2-second increments. Stay tuned for more details.

    Third and better still, Aronian and Nakamura are reportedly playing a 6-game Chess960 match on Tuesday, and as they are both former world champions at that version it should be especially entertaining to see.

    Saturday
    Sep062014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 9: Three Draws; Missed Opportunities for Caruana & Carlsen

    The Sinquefield Cup is winding down and the players are perhaps starting to run out of gas. Fabiano Caruana played 38 very good moves against Hikaru Nakamura on the white side of a Berlin ending and had him at death's door. Fatigue and moderate time trouble struck, and he made an inaccuracy on move 39 and a big oversight on move 40. Even after the time control he still had some winning chances, but he failed to make anything of them and Nakamura drew comfortably by the end.

    Likewise, Magnus Carlsen seemed to be grinding his way to a win against Levon Aronian, but shortly before cashing in he saw the right idea but talked himself into a different move (or at least a different move order), one which didn't work. Aronian escaped.

    Veselin Topalov could have caught up with Carlsen in second place with a win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but although he obtained an advantage with Black he couldn't turn it into a win, so he remains in clear third.

    The tournament ends tomorrow (though there will be some other events following it), and these are the pairings: Aronian - Caruana, Topalov - Carlsen, Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave.

    Games here (the Caruana & Carlsen games are annotated), tournament site here.

    Thursday
    Sep042014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 8: The Streak Ends, But Caruana Clinches Tournament Victory With Two Rounds To Spare

    The dreams of a 10-0 whitewash by Fabiano Caruana are over, sadly, but he "console" himself with the fact that he has clinched clear first in the strongest tournament of all time. That puts a cool $100,000 in his pocket, and he will be #2 in the world at the tournament's end. Moreover, his current rating of 2836.1 puts him at #3 all time, behind only Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov. Pretty incredible company. His TPR of 3247 isn't too shabby either.

    In today's game he was close to a win against Carlsen, but 26.0-0 let the foot off the gas and Carlsen scraped his way to a drawish ending, one which Caruana didn't seem too intent to try to win. From the perspective of tournament victory, a draw was sufficient, and for all his strength and ambition even Carlsen cannot hope to make up a three point deficit in the two remaining rounds.

    In the game between Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Aronian had a huge advantage on the white side of a Philidor with 5.g4, but let his opponent slip away with a draw. Finally, Veselin Topalov won on the black side of a Berlin endgame against Hikaru Nakamura - convincingly, too.

    The rest of the tournament is now something of an anti-climax, but it would still be nice to see Caruana do some more damage and not call off the dogs just yet. The round nine pairings are Caruana (7.5) - Nakamura (2!!), Carlsen (4.5) - Aronian (3) and Vachier-Lagrave (3) - Topalov (4).

    Tournament site here, games here (without comments).