The Berlin qualifying tournament to determine the challenger to world champion Magnus Carlsen has ended in victory for the American grandmaster and Olympiad gold medallist Fabiano Caruana. Caruana will be the first homegrown American contender since the days of Bobby Fischer in 1972. The world championship match will take place in November in London. This is the first time it will have been held in London since 2000. (Before that, they were held there in 1986 and 1993.)
It is clear that mental preparation will form a key part of Carlsen’s approach to the London shootout. I have a theory that his style is based on that of Emanuel Lasker, world champion from 1894 to 1921, whose forte was to keep the position in flux, either with a slight advantage or even disadvantage, so long as a draw was not on the horizon. Eventually, his less skilled opposition would crack and Lasker would pounce. After the Berlin tournament, I put this assessment of Carlsen to Caruana, who was of the same opinion.
Here are some extracts from Caruana’s victory.
Kramnik-Caruana: Fidé Candidates,
(see diagram 1)
In this very complicated game Kramnik has gained the upper hand which he could now maintain with 46 Bc6. Instead he played a very natural move that appears to be immediately decisive. 46 Rb8 Rxa7 47 Rg8 This seems to win as there appears to be no good counter to the threat of 48 Rxg5. However, Caruana found an incredible resource. 47 … Bf6!! Now after 48 Rxg4 Black has the reply 48 … Kf5! which wins by attacking the white rook and threatening 49 … Ra1 mate. Kramnik found the only way to stay in the game. 48 d8Q Bxd8 49 Rxg4 Bf6 50 Rg6 Rb7 51 Be2 Rxb4+ 52 Ka2 The position is now about equal but, after further adventures, Caruana went on to win. 52 … Nc2 53 Rc1 Nd4 54 Bd3 Ra4+ 55 Kb1 Nb3 56 Re1+ Kd5 57 Kc2 Nd4+ 58 Kb1 Nf3 59 Rd1 Ra1+ 60 Kc2 Rxd1 61 Ba6 Rd2+ 62 Kc1 Bb2+ 63 Kb1 Kxc5 64 Bb7 Ne5 65 Rf6 f3 66 Rf5 f2 White resigns
Caruana-Aronian; Fidé Candidates,
(see diagram 2)
Aronian has made an imaginative piece sacrifice and should now continue with the amazing 31 … Nxb4!! 32 cxb4 Rd4 when, despite the two piece deficit, Black has a huge attack and stands better. Instead Aronian chose the wrong plan and Caruana wrapped up easily. 31 … e4 32 Rh1 Rd6 33 Bxe4 Rg8+ 34 Kf1 Ne5 35 Qf4 c6 36 axb5 Rg5 37 bxa6 Qd8 38 f6+ Ng6 39 Rxh6+ Black resigns