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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (27)

    Wednesday
    Feb052014

    Carlsen Wins Zurich Chess Challenge; Caruana Second on Tiebreaks Ahead of Aronian

    Magnus Carlsen had a very bad time of things in the (quick) rapid games on Tuesday, and came close to losing his lead at the Zurich Chess Challenge. Close, but not close enough for Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana to catch him. All three players won their first game - Carlsen over Boris Gelfand, Aronian over Viswanathan Anand and Caruana over Hikaru Nakamura - and it looked like the deal was done. Carlsen enjoyed a two point lead over Aronian and a three point lead on Caruana, with just four games to go.

    But then it got interesting. Aronian outplayed Carlsen and won handily to close to within a point. Caruana only drew with Gelfand, so he only closed his gap to two and a half points. In round 3 Carlsen drew with Nakamura, and while Aronian remained a point behind after a draw with Gelfand, Caruana got another half a point closer by defeating Anand. (That was three losses in a row for Anand, incidentally.)

    Round 4 was the big chance. Caruana outplayed Carlsen, coming to within a single point of the leader. Had Aronian managed to defeat Nakamura, he would have caught Carlsen in first. Nakamura has been a regular "customer" of his for some time now, but not today. Nakamura won a good game, and so Aronian remained a point behind.

    Round 5 was a mere formality. Carlsen had White against Anand, and cynically (but understandably) repeated game 8 of their match pretty much move for move. The players conducted the whole game at blitz tempo, called it a draw, and Carlsen clinched. (I enjoyed Nakamura's disdainful expression as he looked up at the electronic display as this was going on.) Caruana and Aronian played a real game, which also ended in a draw, and thus they finished tied for second, a point behind Carlsen. (Caruana took second on tiebreak.) Here are the full final standings:

    1. Carlsen 10 (out of 15 - the classical games were scored double)

    2. Caruana 9

    3. Aronian 9

    4. Nakamura 7.5 (he finished the rapid with a very strong 3.5/4)

    5. Anand 5

    6. Gelfand 4.5

    Saturday
    Dec212013

    Candidates 2014: Anand Out, Caruana In?

    Maybe. In the latest issue of New In Chess Magazine, there's an interview with Viswanathan Anand shortly after his lost match to Magnus Carlsen. There he tells the interviewer, Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, that he intends to play in the upcoming Candidates tournament in March of 2014. Dirk Jan seemed rather unconvinced by this, and now he seems to be leaning against playing (HT: Brian Karen).

    If he still has any aspirations to compete again for the world championship, skipping out on this seems like a big mistake. For one thing, qualifying for subsequent Candidates events from scratch is not going to be easy, so he should take the free pass while it's there. Second, he must still have a nice bank of theoretical work from the match that will still be usable. In time it will seep out in tournament and others will catch up, so he should use them while he can.

    Suppose then that he does drop out. Apparently Fabiano Caruana (send him back! [or now that he's 21, come home!]) is slated to take his place. I don't know if that's true, but he would be a very reasonable choice. Whatever the case, I hope Anand makes up his mind soon, as this would be an incredible opportunity for Caruana or whoever the replacement is, and they should have as much time as possible to gather a team and prepare.

    Tuesday
    Oct222013

    Caruana-Nakamura An Exciting Draw at the European Club Cup

    I'm not going to analyze the game, but today's fight between world #4 Fabiano Caruana and world #5 Hikaru Nakamura at the European Club Cup was worthy of their ratings and their rankings. (The earlier link may be supplanted, so go here for something more permanent.)

    Wednesday
    Oct162013

    Caruana Wins Kings Tournament, Wang Hao Finishes A Strong Second

    With two rounds to go this year's edition of the Kings Tournament was a bit of a laugher, with Fabiano Caruana at +3 while the rest of the field had a minus score or - in one case only - an even score. In the penultimate round it could have gone almost to farce, as Caruana had a substantial advantage against Wang Hao. 27.Rd3, 28.gxh5+ and 29.gxh5+ would all have given White great winning chances. The game was complicated, and a bit at a time Caruana's advantage was lost and then the game was, too.

    In the last round Wang Hao won again, getting to +1, but by then it was too late for that to matter in the race for first, as Caruana had drawn several hours earlier. (Apparently Teimour Radjabov didn't feel like playing, as he forced a quick draw in the opening with White.) So it was a bumpy end to an otherwise fine tournament for Caruana, and Wang Hao can be reasonably satisfied as well, at least with the finish. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu also has grounds for satisfaction, finishing with an even score despite being the lowest-rated player in the tournament by a fairly substantial margin. (He was outrated by 49 to 105 points by the other competitors.) Radjabov at -1 and Ruslan Ponomariov's at -2 score will be less happy.

    Monday
    Oct142013

    Caruana Wins Again In The Kings Tournament

    ...and once again, no one else does. With two rounds to go in the Kings Tournament, Fabiano Caruana has already clinched at least a tie for first place. He defeated Ruslan Ponomariov with the black pieces in a complicated, offbeat Sicilian, while Wang Hao and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu drew a short Petroff. (Not a non-game, as far as I can tell. White had a little pressure, but by the end Black had neutralized it for good, and the draw was appropriate.)

    Ponomariov sacrificed the exchange against Caruana, and while it looked inadequate at first glance (and afterwards too, checking with the computer), his initiative did lead to enough of a stumble from Caruana to give him (Ponomariov) the chance to equalize - but no more. He didn't succeed, and after 26.Bxf6? Re1+ 27.Kh2? Rxd1 28.Bxe8 Rxd5 Caruana was simply winning. (26.Bxe8 Qxc3 27.Bb5 was worse for White but still tenable.) He could have been more effective in realizing his advantage, but even so he kept sufficient control to collect the point.

    Caruana has 4.5 points out of 6 games, ahead of Nisipeanu (3.5/7), Ponomariov (3/7), and Wang Hao and Teimour Radjabov (who had the bye this round), both of whom have 2.5/6. Another half a point by Caruana clinches clear first, while +1 in his last two games puts him over 2800 and, to my mind, probably guarantees him a wildcard in the next Candidates.

    Friday
    Oct042013

    The Grand Prix Ends With Pusillanimousness In Paris

    Congratulations to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who is the recipient of the second qualifying spot for the next Candidates' tournament from the 2012-2013 Grand Prix. Fabiano Caruana would have taken that spot if he managed to finish ahead of Boris Gelfand, with whom he was tied for first going into the last round of the final Grand Prix event of the cycle, which concluded today in Paris.

    The task would not be easy, as Gelfand was due for the white pieces in his last-round game, against Ruslan Ponomariov, while Caruana had black against Leinier Dominguez. Caruana played a Taimanov Sicilian, and faced a new move early on, 13.Rd2. Caruana thought for about 40 minutes, and then played 13...Rc8, which is a typical move in that line of the Taimanov. The following moves quickly ensued: 14.Bxb5!? axb5 15.Nxb5 Qc6 16.Na7 Qc7 17.Nb5 Qc8 18.Na7 Qc7 19.Nb5 Qc6 and draw.

    WHAT???

    If the tournament in Paris were an end in itself, that would be a sensible decision, but it wasn't, on both counts. Winning meant qualifying for the Candidates tournament, the gateway to the world championship! If he lost the game, so what?? He'd lose something like six rating points, which he could easily regain in his next tournament. He would some prize money too, and that's not nothing. But he's a very successful tournament pro, and unless he's investing with a Bernie Madoff-type his financial future is bright. The loss is something, but not much in the big picture. And if he wins, he not only wins a bigger prize in the tournament (and maybe from taking second in the overall Grand Prix?), he's also guaranteed a further payday by making it into the Candidates, with a shot at serious money and a match for the world championship.

    Now, if refusing the repetition entailed a losing position, I'd be with him. Risk is one thing, pointless risk another. But starting with the position after the move, 13.Rd2, Caruana had several reasonable ways to avoid the repetition, none of which entailed a position that would be more than slightly worse and a few that offered approximately equal chances. Rather than take the slightest risk, however, he bailed out and took the draw. I'm dumbfounded.

    He could still take clear first in the tournament if Gelfand lost and Nakamura and Etienne Bacrot didn't win. As it turned out, nobody won in the last round, which meant that Gelfand tied with him for first place in the event (his third super-tournament win over the year - two ties and one clear first), and they were half a point ahead of Nakamura and Bacrot.

    Six of the eight spots have been settled for the next Candidates event: Vladimir Kramnik and Dmitry Andreikin qualified through the World Cup, Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin qualified by rating, and Veselin Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov qualified through the Grand Prix. The seventh qualifier will be the loser of the upcoming world championship match between Viswanathan Anand, the champ, and his challenger Magnus Carlsen. The eighth spot is a wildcard, to be determined by the organizer. The only official requirement is that the player have a rating of at least 2725.

    Who will get it? The obvious candidates (small "c") are Nakamura (rated #4 in the world), Caruana (#5, one tenth of a point below Nakamura), Alexander Grischuk (rated #6 but less likely to be chosen, I think, unless the Candidates are held in Russia) and Boris Gelfand (#7 in the world; if he gets in it will be because he will have had the best year of anyone not already qualified for the Candidates or better). If Caruana had gone out on his sword today, then he would have been a reasonable pick for that wildcard. If I were an organizer, what I saw would tell me that he doesn't really want it that badly, and so I would give the spot to someone (like Nakamura) who will give it his all, someone who will risk losing when the situation demands it.

    Thursday
    Oct032013

    Paris Grand Prix: Caruana and Gelfand Lead Going Into The Last Round

    There is one round to go at the Grand Prix tournament in Paris, and the double race is heading for a thrilling finish. Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand are tied for first with one round to go in the tournament, and unless Caruana can finish ahead of Gelfand it will be Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who wins qualification from the overall Grand Prix series to the next Candidates' tournament.

    Today, round 10 showed both Caruana and Gelfand rising to the occasion. Caruana did what he needed, defeating Evgeny Tomashevsky with the white pieces to keep his hopes alive. Meanwhile, Gelfand had the more challenging task, facing Hikaru Nakamura, then the tournament leader, with Black. Nakamura made the practical mistake of going head-to-head with Gelfand in the Najdorf. Gelfand won a fantastic game, and now he and Caruana have 6.5 points apiece heading into the last round. Nakamura has 6, as does Etienne Bacrot, who obliterated Laurent Fressinet on the black side of a Bayonet King's Indian.

    About this last game: if someone can explain it to me that would be wonderful. (Insomnia? Illness?) In an extremely well-known theoretical line, Fressinet suddenly stopped to think for more than 40 minutes and played the near-novelty 15.exf5. (It was played once before in a non-correspondence game featuring a 2000 vs. a 1900.) This is by no means a typical capture in the variation, and to all appearances it gives Black what he wants. It's hard to know what Fressinet had in mind or what he may have overlooked, but five moves later he was a pawn down without much compensation. His 22nd and 23rd moves were both blunders, and he resigned after Black's 24th move. He was down two pawns with a horrible position and further material losses to come. Anyone can blunder, but this game was just odd from move 15 on.

    Key Last Round Pairings:

    • Gelfand (6.5) - Ponomariov
    • Dominguez - Caruana (6.5)
    • Giri - Nakamura (6)
    • Bacrot (6) - Grischuk

    Thursday
    Oct032013

    Paris Grand Prix, Rounds 8 & 9: Caruana Beats Gelfand; Nakamura Leads

    After nine rounds of 11 of the Paris leg of the Grand Prix, Hikaru Nakamura is the sole leader with 6 points, half a point more than Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand. Gelfand led after seven rounds, but lost to Caruana in round 8. Gelfand's 12...e5 was an inaccurate move he singled out after the game; instead, he should have played 12...Nf4 and only after the bishop retreated from c2 played 13...e5. That way his knight could retreat (as needed) to e6, keeping very good control over the dark squares. After that slip, Caruana played very well. He took over the queenside and won a pawn, and then put out the flames of Gelfand's desperate attack.

    That let him catch Gelfand, but Nakamura's win over Vassily Ivanchuk put him in clear first. It was a very strange game, as Ivanchuk played extremely well before the first time control, achieving a big, possibly decisive advantage, and then let it slip. In the final position, however, chances were event when Ivanchuk let his flag fall. (Again, couldn't he have done this against Kramnik in London??) It wasn't even a particularly complicated position and there was an increment...incredible.

    As you may recall, the larger importance of this tournament is that if either Caruana or Alexander Grischuk can manage to take clear first, then that player will obtain the second automatic qualification from the Grand Prix cycle to the next Candidates' tournament. (Veselin Topalov has the first spot wrapped up, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will qualify if Caruana or Grischuk fail in their quests.) So about Grischuk: he was in dire straits entering the round, trailing Gelfand by two points and Nakamura by a point and a half. As he won his game (and Gelfand lost his), he finished the eighth round a point and a half out of a tie for first and two points away from the sole first place that he needs.

    In round 9...everyone drew. There were some key moments in the top games though. First, Nakamura pressed a bit in the late opening, and wound up lost as a result. Had Ruslan Ponomariov played 17...Rac8, the pin would have been White's undoing. Caruana, in the meantime, was under serious pressure by Anish Giri, but defended well and saved half a point. As for Gelfand, Ivanchuk found a nice idea with 14...Ke7, and he was able to keep Gelfand's forces at bay. Finally, Grischuk had some advantage in the opening against Tomashevsky, but seems to have let it slip with the natural 15...Nd3. (He missed Tomashevsky's great 18.e5!) Instead, 15...Nfd7 would have kept the initiative, cutting out all the e5 ideas.

    At this point Grischuk may not be mathematically eliminated, but it's close enough. Caruana still has a decent chance, however. Here are the key pairings for the last two rounds:

    Round 10:

    • Nakamura (6) - Gelfand (5.5)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Tomashevsky

    Round 11:

    • Giri (currently in last place) - Nakamura
    • Dominguez - Caruana
    • Gelfand - Ponomariov

    Monday
    Sep302013

    Paris Grand Prix, Round 7: Gelfand Wins, Caruana Loses

    It was a great day for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, as the only two players to lose were the only two players who could still pass him in the Grand Prix standings. Alexander Grischuk was a point out of first, but with a win over one of the leaders, Boris Gelfand, he would have helped his cause greatly. Had he won, he'd have been just half a point behind Hikaru Nakamura heading into the final four rounds. Instead, he's two points behind Gelfand and almost surely out of contention.

    By contrast, Caruana was in very good shape, coming into the round tied with Gelfand for first. Unfortunately for his cause, he lost to Nakamura thanks to a blunder in the opening. When I first replayed the game, zipping through, it looked as if 15...Qxd4 was some sort of spectacular scholastic chess-style blunder. Obviously 15...Bxd4! But look for a few moments, and you'll realize that Black is just as dead after 16.Qh6, which threats like 17.Qh7+ Kf8 18.Rxd4 Qxd4 19.Qh8+ Qxh8 20.Rxh8+ Kg7 21.Rxd8, winding up with an extra piece. The real blunder came the move before, when he recaptured on g6 with the h-pawn. Capturing with the f-pawn was a must, when the position is complicated and both sides have their trumps.

    So after seven rounds of this, the final Grand Prix event of the current cycle, Boris Gelfand leads with 5 points, half a point ahead of Nakamura and a point ahead of Caruana. By no means is all lost for Caruana, however, as he has the white pieces against Gelfand in the very next round. Meanwhile, I'd really love to know what is Gelfand's secret. The last six years he has been improving like a teenager or at least a young adult, and is in the running for player of the year this year. Of course Magnus Carlsen will get that award, and deservedly so if he defeats Anand, but if Gelfand holds on and wins this tournament is there anyone else whose year compares with his? But Gelfand fans shouldn't count their chickens yet, as he will also have Black against Nakamura in round 10.

    Saturday
    Sep282013

    Catching Up on the Grand Prix

    (Or Grands Prix, if you prefer. You can find all sorts of interesting discussion about this on the interweb.)

    In the men's/open Grand Prix in Paris two more rounds have passed since we last took notice, and at the end of these two rounds - making six in total of the eleven to be played - Boris Gelfand is still in front, but sharing the lead with Fabiano Caruana. Gelfand has drawn his last two games, whlie Caruana just won, taking advantage of the precipitously plummeting Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Ivanchuk had shared the lead after four rounds, but it was very shaky, as he was lost or nearly lost in the two games he went on to win. In round five against Alexander Grischuk he got another lousy game early on, but this time there was no reprieve. Despite having the white pieces, he was crushed in just 31 moves. In round six, as already mentioned, he lost to Caruana - weirdly. First, he committed a fingerfehler on move 16, intending or at least calculating 16...f6 and then playing 16...Bd7. (Chalk this up as another of the horrors we discussed here some weeks ago, as well as yet another odd episode in Ivanchuk's strange [though often spectacularly successful] career.) Second, he resigned rather prematurely, even if his position may have been lost with best play by Caruana. Ivanchuk should have continued, but he just couldn't stand his position!

    All the other round 6 games were drawn, while in round 5 there was a second decisive game: Etienne Bacrot defeated Anish Giri with the black pieces. So Gelfand and Caruana lead with four points, and remember that if Caruana takes clear first in the tournament he qualifies for the Candidates'. Likewise if Grischuk wins, but for the moment he's a point behind, in a six-way tie for 4th-9th place. Just so I don't have to be accused of "forgetting" something, I'll note that Hikaru Nakamura is in third, half a point behind the leaders.

    In the Women's Grand Prix (in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), round nine was very strange. After eight rounds Humpy Koneru was plowing through the field with a great score of 6.5/8, gaining tons of rating points and making steady overall progress towards winning a spot in the 2015 World Championship match. She led by a point over the persistent peleton led by Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno, both of whom were a full point behind. So what happened in round 9? All three lost!

    Their relative positions are obviously the same, and no one has passed any of them. Someone has joined the tie for second, though, and that's Bela Khotenashvili, who defeated Humpy in round 9. Two rounds remain, and as Humpy's last two opponents aren't doing very well in the tournament she's still a strong favorite to take clear first.