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    Entries in Fabiano Caruana (141)

    Saturday
    Jun232018

    Only 99,457 Signatures to Go **UPDATED**

    I received an email from my former employer, World Chess (Agon), with Exciting News! Yes, truly! Here it is:

    US President Will Meet the Challenger to the World Championship Title (If You Want Him To!)

    More:

    Dear Friends,

    Chess fans from the US contacted us with an idea: to petition Donald Trump to invite Fabiano Caruana, the challenger to the Title, to the White House before the World Chess Championship Match that takes place in London in November.

    They published a petition today in support of this proposal at the White House’ petitions page. According to the rules, if the petition is signed by over 100,000 in 30 days, the Administration will review and possibly grant it.

    We are totally supporting the idea, not only because it would be a really strong sign of support for the sport and because it would create additional attention to the Match which is already creating headlines, but also because we feel that we actually can make it happen!

    If we take all of the chess community combined, it surely will be more than a 100,000 members -- it’s millions!

    If you would like to see Fabiano Caruana at the White House before the Championship Match in November, please support and sign the petition.

    Please share it on Social Media: #CaruanaInTheWhiteHouse

    Three potential problems:

    1. It doesn't say that the petition will be granted, only that it's possible that the White House will grant it.

    2. I don't know Fabiano Caruana's politics. Maybe he wouldn't want to meet with President Trump?!

    3. With three and a half weeks to go, only 543 signatures have been received, leaving 99,457 signatures to go.

    Okay, chess fans, let's do this for Caruana and for the sake of chess. Love President Trump, hate him, whatever - it doesn't matter. We're doing it to promote the game, and to demonstrate that we chess players have some power when it comes to social media. Heck, if any of you know someone who knows someone who knows a Kardashian or some other big celebrity, we can get it done in a day or two. Norwegians: have Magnus Carlsen ask Liv Tyler to promote it. We can do it!

    (Yes, I'm being slightly tongue-in-cheek, but with or without the irony it would be fun to make this happen, and the publicity would be good for chess.)

    **UPDATE**

    Some further thoughts and comments:

    1. I think the publicity would be good for chess. Depending on how Caruana handles it, however, it might not be good for him. That's probably not how it should be - it should be fine for him to accept the honor not as coming from Donald Trump, the man, but as coming from the duly-elected President.

    2. World Chess isn't covering itself with glory in the wording of the petition. In addition to the semi-incorrect "B.Fischer" (without a space and arguably using the wrong initial(s)), I've noticed at least three factual errors in the second paragraph of the petition. ("Since 1975, when World Champion B.Fischer resigned his title, an American chess player have never had a chance to become the World Champion. In 2018, Brooklyn-born Fabiano Caruana won the Candidates Tournament and earned the right to fight for the Championship title against Magnus Carlsen in a Match in London in Nov 2018.") Impressive! Let's see who can find the three errors the fastest.

    3. As alluded to in the first update comment, and reflected in the comments so far, Trump is a polarizing figure. (To put it mildly. In fact, it's bizarre that commenters thus far find the idea of Caruana having a White House photo-op far more repugnant than they did Sergey Karjakin's running around with a pro-Putin tee shirt and making pro-Putin comments. Just for starters: Trump, for all his flaws, hasn't annexed parts - significant parts, at that - of two countries.) I generally prefer to keep politics out of the blog, even if the opinions expressed square with my own. Politics are important, but not so important that every bit of life must pass through its grinder. I'll make a bit of an exception this time, but with some restrictions. First, Trump = Hitler comments will be blocked. Don't waste your time (or mine). Second, please be respectful of and to those you disagree with. It doesn't imply that you agree with their views.

    What would be interesting is to try to determine a threshold beyond which meeting with a political figure might be inappropriate. Let's say a strong pro-life advocate is invited to the White House during the administration of a strongly pro-choice President for something having nothing to do with the invitee's politics. (Maybe it's a situation like this, or a member of a national championship-winning sports team, or a great musician or scientist.) Should the recipient turn down the invitation? Alternatively, he could go in recognition that the honor is not so much from the particular man as it is from the man as president. Or he could go, and later thank the POTUS for the honor while noting that there are nevertheless strong areas of disagreement between the two. Relatedly: should the U.S. Olympic Team have boycotted the Berlin games in 1936, or was it good for them to go and have Jesse Owens and others burst the myth of the Aryan "superman"? Was the U.S. right to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, or did it just deprive hundreds of athletes from participating in something they had worked for for most of their lives? The aim isn't to debate those particular examples, but to use them to help formulate a more interesting position than "Trump is evil, and anyone who signs the petition is a Nazi sympathizer."

    4. It wouldn't be as effective, publicity-wise, but it would still be a good thing for U.S. chess and less politically charged for Caruana to receive some sort of commendation from Congress. That sort of thing has been done before, so readers might drop their congressmen and women a note.

    5. Only 99,454 signatures to go. The more realistic question is whether the petition will even get 1,000 signatories.

    Friday
    Jun082018

    Norway Chess, Last Round: Caruana Wins Another Tournament!

    I was hoping for the five-way tie followed by a blitz tournament tomorrow (Friday), but if someone had to spoil it I'm glad it was Fabiano Caruana. Aside from his poor performance at Wijk aan Zee, it has been one success after another for him: a win in the London Chess Classic in December, and then after Wijk he enjoyed victory in the Candidates and Grenke, had a very strong second place in the U.S. Championship and then won Norway Chess.

    It's also an impressive result, considering his poor start in the tournament: a bad loss to Magnus Carlsen in round 1, followed by a missed opportunity in round 2. After that he settled down, and with wins in the last two rounds wound up in clear first with 5/8. He was half a point ahead of Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, and Viswanathan Anand. His last round win was over Wesley So, and had the game finished in a draw both players would have joined Carlsen, Nakamura, and Anand in shared first with 4.5 points apiece.

    The game could have finished in a draw, too - for that matter, So even enjoyed a significant advantage at one point. But most of the time it was Caruana who was pressing, and from that standpoint the most deserved, or maybe the least undeserved, result was a Caruana win. The critical moments came just before and after the time control. With 39...Rd2 Black would have maintained equality, but after 39...Kd8 Caruana would have been winning with most normal moves. Instead, he chose 40.h3?, and after 40...Rxh3+!, the last move of the time control (and played with little time on the clock), So found the shot that should have given him a draw. Unfortunately, after 41.gxh3 So didn't use any time to stop to double-check his opportunities after the time control. Had he done so, he would easily have found that 41...Rd2 would lead to a draw. Instead, he used all of four seconds to play 41...Rd3??, and he resigned a few moves later.

    What about Carlsen? He was apparently satisfied making a quick draw with Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Levon Aronian and Nakamura played a longer game that was never in much danger of seeing anyone lose. Anand, by contrast, played sharply with Black against Sergey Karjakin, and when Karjakin made a tactical mistake with 26.h4?(?) Anand seized his opportunity and won quickly. It would have put Anand into the playoff, had it not been for So's last lapse.

    Big congratulations to Caruana, who has closed to within 20 points of Carlsen on the live list, and who showed that he can win tournaments against the very best players in the world, even when he's not in his best form.

    The last four games of the event are here, with my notes to the two decisive games. Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5/8
    • 2-4. Carlsen, Nakamura, Anand 4.5
    • 5-6. So, Aronian 4
    • 7. Mamedyarov 3.5
    • 8-9. Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin 3

    Wednesday
    Jun062018

    Norway Chess, Round 8: Four Leaders Entering the Last Round

    It wasn't impossible a round or two ago that there could have been a nine-way tie for first, but it's still pretty impressive that four or even five of the tournament's nine players could win up sharing first.

    Entering the eighth round three players led with +1 scores: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Viswanathan Anand. All three had White, and not one of them won. Carlsen had an extra pawn in an endgame against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but couldn't make anything of it, and the game was eventually drawn. So didn't manage to get anything against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Najdorf, and in fact had to hold a pawn-down rook ending to get the draw. And for Anand it was even worse. He chose an especially insipid line against Fabiano Caruana's Petroff, and Caruana used the time allowed by White's slow approach to build a kingside attack. It bore fruit, as Anand had to cough up material to break the attack, and though his technique was imperfect the American managed to convert.

    Speaking of Americans, all three are tied for first with Carlsen, as Hikaru Nakamura defeated Sergey Karjakin very convincingly on the white side of a classic English line favored by Garry Kasparov in the 1980s.

    There are thus four players tied for first, and if they draw their games and Anand beats Karjakin we could have a five-way tie for first. It's not exactly Lake Wobegon, but more than half of the "children" would be above average, which is pretty good.

    The last round pairings follow. All of the paired players have played seven games; only Mamedyarov who will have the bye, has played all eight games. (Tournament website here, games - unannotated today, sorry - are here.)

    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Carlsen (4)
    • Caruana (4) - So (4)
    • Karjakin (3) - Anand (3.5)
    • Aronian (3.5) - Nakamura (4)

     

    Monday
    May282018

    Norway Chess, Round 1: Carlsen Beats Caruana; Other Games Drawn

    This is no way to throw down the gauntlet to the world champion! First Fabiano Caruana loses to Magnus Carlsen in the blitz, and then today - much more importantly - he lost to him in round 1 of the 5th Altibox Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger. In fact the challenger didn't play badly; he was just outplayed by the champion. Caruana was in a challenging but tenable position on move 25 when he played the natural but mistaken 25...Rc7. After that, Carlsen never let him back into the game. Very impressive.

    Impressive, and good enough for sole first, as the other four games were drawn. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a short but interesting game in a Gruenfeld sideline, while Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin played a longer, quieter game that also finished peacefully. So enjoyed an edge throughout, just not enough of an edge to sufficiently trouble the "Minister of Defense". Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian, who are unexpectedly the bottom seeds in this ridiculously strong tournament, drew a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin where Aronian's 8...a6 was a beautiful and surprising zwischenzug. Aronian achieved a comfortable draw.

    The fourth draw was another story. Hikaru Nakamura outplayed Ding Liren in the middlegame, but carelessly allowing Black's queen to reach e2 surrendered a winning advantage. Nakamura even overpressed and gave Ding a chance to come out of the game with good chances for the full point, but Black's error on move 30 gave Nakamura the chance to win brilliantly. He missed the tactic, unfortunately (I say this not so much because I'm taking sides but because it would have immortalized the game, or at least the combination), and the game finished in a perpetual.

    The games are here; I've commented on Carlsen-Caruana and Nakamura-Ding. (I can't promise daily commentary, but we'll see how it goes.) Here are the pairings for round 2:

    • Karjakin (.5) - Carlsen (1)
    • Caruana (0) - Mamedyarov (.5)
    • Ding (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - So (.5)
    • Nakamura (.5) - Anand (.5)

    Friday
    May252018

    Baden-Baden Wins 12th Bundesliga Title in 13 Years (Yawn)

    A team "from" Baden-Baden with no German players beat a team "from" Solingen without any German players, to win the 2017-2018 German league competition known as the Bundesliga. (Maybe each team had a German player as their last substitute, whose job it was to provide beer and munchies for the leading mercenaries players.) Baden-Baden generally romps to victory, as they are typically stocked with 2700-2800 players from top to bottom. But this year it was close, requiring a playoff, and not only did Solingen make it close in the playoff; they also beat B-B in the regular season. Baden-Baden won on boards 4 and 8, with Peter Svidler and Rustam Kasimdzhanov beating Jan Smeets and Predrag Nikolic, respectively on the way to a 4.5-3.5 team victory. The most notable result was Solingen's one victory: Anish Giri's impressive win over Fabiano Caruana on board 1.

    More here.

    A remark about a bit of trash-talk from Peter Heine Nielsen. In the article linked above, they show a selfie by Giri with Caruana back in March, which only praises Caruana after his win in the Candidates. There's nothing self-aggrandizing in it at all. For some reason Nielsen, who is a second for Magnus Carlsen and a very strong (but not Grand Chess Tour level) GM, tweeted this: "Two of my favorite players: Their tournament victories includes Candidates, Olympics, London Chess Classic, Sinquefield Cup, Dortmund and Zurich!" The "joke", of course, is that all of those events were won by Caruana, and none were won by Giri. This might have been funny if Giri's selfie tweet had involved any bragging, but there wasn't. So the joke makes no sense, especially since Nielsen's chess career, as impressive as it is not only to most chess players, but even to most grandmasters, would barely register as a smudge on Giri's résumé.

    To elaborate: Nielsen has never so much as played in the Candidates, the London Chess Classic, the Sinquefield Cup, or in Zurich; and in his one and only appearance in the elite round-robin in Dortmund (in 2005), he finished dead last. While we're at it, how about Tata Steel (Wijk aan Zee)? Nielsen never played in the main event, while Giri has played in it each of the last eight years, starting from the age of 16. He finished second in 2014, tied for second in 2015, and tied for first this year before losing to Carlsen in a playoff.

    Maybe there is a broader context at play here. Certainly Giri is known for poking at other people (himself included), incluing Nielsen's boss (Carlsen). If that was part of the overall picture, then the joke might have been more appropriate. If the full context was just Giri's selfie and tweet, however, the joke was pretty stupid.

    Sunday
    Apr292018

    2018 U.S. Championship: Shankland the Champion

    Quite the surprise, but Sam Shankland definitely earned it! He scored +6, went undefeated, won four games with Black, won his last three games, gained 30 rating points, surpassed the 2700 barrier (becoming the 7th player from the U.S.A. to do so), and has reached #45 in the world. That's a great tournament! The only thing he didn't manage to do was beat one of the big three, though he came close to defeating both Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. (Can you imagine if he had gone +8 in this field? That would have been Fischer-like - but to be fair Bobby Fischer never faced a U.S. Championship field like this one.)

    And despite all this, he still finished only half a point ahead of Caruana. That was the gap separating the players before the round, and they both won to maintain their relative positions. Caruana defeated Alexander Onischuk pretty easily when Onischuk sacced one pawn without any obvious justification and then blundered a second one. By the time Onischuk resigned, however, Shankland had such an overwhelming advantage against Awonder Liang that there was no real drama. Indeed, within a minute or two, Liang resigned, leaving Shankland obviously and understandably elated.

    I've annotated Shankland's and Caruana's last three games, plus Nakamura's attractive win against Varuzhan Akobian from round 10; they're all here. And here are the final standings:

    • 1. Shankland 8.5/11 (TPR 2884)
    • 2. Caruana 8
    • 3. So 6.5
    • 4-6. Nakamura, Lenderman, Robson 5.5
    • 7-8. Izoria, Xiong 5
    • 9-11. Liang, Zherebukh, Akobian 4.5
    • 12. Onischuk 3

    Sunday
    Apr292018

    U.S. Championship, Rounds 9 & 10: Caruana Good, Shankland Better

    Fabiano Caruana is having an excellent U.S. Championship. Despite having played practically non-stop for a month and a half, he is continuing to play at a very high level. His score of 7/10 has increased his already lofty rating, and aside from a bit of insanity in round 4 against Zviad Izoria he has played well and shown great resilience. In round 9 he was in serious trouble against Hikaru Nakamura, but held on grimly and saved the game, and then in round 10 he won a very impressive game - with Black - against Yaroslav Zherebukh.

    And yet, in this Championship he's playing second banana to Sam Shankland, who has caught fire after draws in his first two rounds. He won in both rounds 9 and 10, first winning against Zherebukh and then against Alexander Onischuk. Both games were long grinds, and in both cases he had to bounce back after missing chances to win the games more easily. He thus leads by half a point going into the last round.

    As for the other contenders, they have all fallen back. Varuzhan Akobian co-led through much of the first half of the tournament, but had already dropped out of the running with losses in rounds 6-8. He stopped the bleeding with a draw in round 9 before losing again in round 10, to Nakamura - who only then got his first win of the  tournament! (Coincidentally, Jeffery Xiong and Awonder Liang also won their first games in that round as well.)

    Aleks Lenderman's wins in rounds 7 and 8 turned him into a dark horse, and when he came out of the opening with a winning advantage against Ray Robson he looked like a serious contender. Unfortunately for him, he let the advantage slip away, and after drawing that game he lost a drawn king and pawn ending to Xiong in round 10.

    Wesley So began the tournament with two wins, and through round 10...still just has those two wins. No losses, but that wasn't good enough for him to retain his title. He had some advantage with Black against Akobian in round 9, but couldn't convert it, and in round 10 - again with Black - he drew with Robson in a game where neither side ever had any advantage to speak of.

    If I annotate any games I'll include them in my final round report. Here are the pairings for the final round (ongoing as of this writing):

    • Shankland (7.5) - Liang (4.5)
    • Caruana (7) - Onischuk (3)
    • So (6) - Nakamura (5)
    • Xiong (5) - Robson (4.5)
    • Izoria (4.5) - Lenderman (5)
    • Akobian (4) - Zherebukh (4)

    Thursday
    Apr262018

    U.S. Championship, Round 7: Caruana Wins, Catches Up to Shankland

    Sam Shankland entered the day in first, and exited in a tie for first. He had White against Wesley So, who was only half a point behind, and the game finished in a well-played draw. Perhaps it was more well-played by So, who wound up with an extra pawn in a rook ending, but Shankland stayed cool and drew with ease.

    Like So, Fabiano Caruana started the day half a point out of first; like Shankland, he ended it in a tie for first. He had some fine preparation ready for Varuzhan Akobian's French, and Akobian was heartlessly crushed. Caruana played a great game, and has apparently made a complete recovery from his loss to Zviad Izoria in round 4.

    Speaking of Izoria, today he defeated Hikaru Nakamura. He's only at 50%, but there are very, very, very few players in the world who wouldn't take 50% in such a field, especially if it came with wins over Caruana and Nakamura! As for Nakamura, it's almost unbelievable to think that he is winless and -1 through seven rounds. This doesn't happen to him in Grand Chess Tour events, never mind a tournament where only two players are his full peers (neither of whom he has played) and everyone else is more than 100 points lower rated than he is.

    The day's other winner was Aleks Lenderman, who defeated Alexander Onischuk in what looked like a nearly dead drawn ending. It wasn't quite, and when Onischuk failed to find the only move to stay out of trouble on move 31, he was defeated with surprising ease.

    The day's other games were drawn, though not always easily. You can replay the three decisive games mentioned above, plus Liang-Robson, with my comments, here. And now for the round 8 pairings:

    • So (4.5) - Caruana (5)
    • Nakamura (3) - Shankland (5)
    • Robson (2.5) - Akobian (3.5)
    • Liang (3) - Lenderman (3.5)
    • Zherebukh (3.5) - Izoria (3.5)
    • Onischuk (2) - Xiong (3)

    Tuesday
    Apr242018

    U.S. Championship, Round 6: Shankland, Caruana Win; Shankland the Clear Leader

    Surprise, surprise! The leader as the tournament passes the halfway point isn't one of the big three - though Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So are just half a point out of first. Instead, it's Sam Shankland, who has won three games, including a win with Black in round 6 over Varuzhan Akobian. Akobian came into the round tied for first with So and Shankland, but didn't have a good game against Shankland. He was already worse out of the opening, and though he fought his way back to a ragged equality it was almost impossible to hold without time on the clock - time Akobian didn't have. By the time he made it to the time control he was in a lost rook and knight ending, and Shankland's fine technique made the conversion easy.

    So got nothing with White against Zviad Izoria, and the game was drawn in 30 moves (the minimum permitted, except in cases of a forced repetition). Speaking of which, Yaroslav Zherebukh vs. Aleks Lenderman was another 30-move draw. Hikaru Nakamura - Jeffery Xiong went just half a move longer before calling it a day, while Alexander Onischuk's game with Awonder Liang got to move 34 before they split the point.

    That leaves only Caruana's game against Ray Robson. Like Shankland, Caruana won with Black. Caruana stayed true to the Petroff, and proved once again that it can be used to fight for a win even against very high-class opposition. His 13th move was a novelty, sacrificing a pawn for the bishop pair and an open c-file, and he put these advantages to good use. Robson's king had all kinds of difficulties (White's 25.a4 didn't help a bit), and he didn't make it to the end of the first time control before giving up.

    I've annotated the two decisive games (have a look here); hopefully that will tide you over until Wednesday, because like Shamkir the U.S. Championship is taking Tuesday off. Here are the pairings for round 7:

    • Shankland (4.5) - So (4)
    • Caruana (4) - Akobian (3.5)
    • Izoria (2.5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Xiong (2.5) - Zherebukh (3)
    • Liang (2.5) - Robson (2)
    • Lenderman (2.5) - Onischuk (2)

    Wednesday
    Apr112018

    Grenke Chess Classic: Caruana Wins the Tournament; Carlsen a Point Behind

    Finishing with two wins in his last three games, Fabiano Caruana has won the 2018 Grenke Chess Classic, a full point ahead of Magnus Carlsen and a point and a half ahead of the next three players in the crosstable. This is his third tournament victory in his last four events (he also won the London Chess Classic and the Candidates), and he's back to #2 in the world, ahead of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and 21 points behind Magnus Carlsen. Not bad at all!

    After six of the tournament's nine rounds he was tied for first with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nikita Vitiugov, with Carlsen half a point behind. In round 7 Carlsen beat Arkadij Naiditsch with Black, but at the same time Caruana defeated MVL - also with Black - to go into clear first, with Vitiugov and Carlsen half a point behind. All the other games in round 7 were drawn, and in round 8 everyone drew.

    That set up an exciting last round, with Caruana playing Black against Vitiugov and Carlsen having Black against Viswanathan Anand. The latter game was an interesting and mutually well-played draw, while Caruana's game echoed his Candidates finale against Alexander Grischuk. Once again he was paired with a Russian, had Black, played the Petroff, and faced the slightly unusual line 3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 d5 5.Nbd2. And once again, he outplayed his opponent and won.

    Congratulations once again to Caruana, who now comes back to St. Louis to try to reclaim the U.S. Championship title he won in 2016 but surrendered to Wesley So in 2017. As usual, the big three are all participating in the tournament, which begins April 18. Also starting on the 18th is the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, and Carlsen will be in that event, along with Mamedyarov, Vladimir Kramnik, and six other top players.

    Back to the GCC. The games from the last three rounds, with my notes to the three decisive games, are here. (N.B. I've analyzed the Vitiugov-Caruana game more deeply for ChessLecture.com, for those of you who have memberships there, are considering memberships, or want to watch it a la carte when it comes out.) And here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 6.5 (of 9)
    • 2. Carlsen 5.5
    • 3-5. Aronian, Vitiugov, Vachier-Lagrave 5
    • 6. Bluebaum 4.5
    • 7-9. Anand, Hou Yifan, Naiditsch 3.5
    • 10. Meier 3