Who Won Recently? Fabulous Fabiano!
At the beginning of this month, the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, the world's strongest closed tournament in history was held in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. In this double-round robin event, no one was expected to win by a wide margin and the favorite to win was the winner of the first edition (2013) and current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
This historic event became even more epic when Italy's top Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana started the first half with a perfect score and extended his streak to 7-0 !! surpassing Karpov's 6-0 performance in Linares 1994. In this article, I will feature one of Caruana's spectacular wins. One could also argue that this could be a win that was more psychologically difficult to obtain because 5-0 in the first half of the strongest event in history was unexpected for him and may have caused him to either become too excited or overly cautious. Let's check out how "Fabi" handled his first game in the second half of the event.
Caruana, Fabiano (2801) - Topalov, Veselin (2772)
2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014 2014.09.02
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 the Taimanov Sicilian.
5...Qc7 followed by a7-a6 is another popular continuation here among Master & Grandmaster games.
6.Nxc6 Another popular continuation and set-up here is the English Attacks which begins with Be3.
6... bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.O-O Nf6 9.Re1 Be7 10.e5 Nd7 11.Qg4
Fabiano yet again confidently plays out one of the lines he's played before and has looked at in his preparations.
Topalov doesn't want to weaken the dark squares around his kingside, which can happen after a pawn push.
(11... g6 was played by Svidler against Caruana earlier this year which continued 12.Bh6 Rb8 13.Nd1!? 13... Rb4 14.c4 dxc4 15.Bxc4 Qa5 16.Ne3 Nxe5 17.Qd4 I have a good feeling the moves played was still in Caruana's prep17... f6 almost forced ( because White can obtain at least an edge in the ending after17... Qc5!? 18.Qxc5 Bxc5 19.Bg7 Nxc4 20.Bxh8 Nxb2 21.Rec1 Na4 22.Nc4 +/= ) 18.Qc3 ( here, it was better to play the more straightforward 18.a3! 18... Qb6 this resource is probably what Svidler was relying on but White can simply sac the b2-P (18... Rb8 19.b4 Qb6 20.Qh4 with strong pressure on the kingside.) 19.Qh4! after which Black actually loses more material!19... Rxb2 20.Bg7 Rg8 ( Rf8 21.Bxf8 Kxf8 22.Qxh7 +- ) 21.Qxh7 +- )18... Qc5 19.Rac1 a5 20.a3 Rb7 21.Bf4 O-O 22.Red1 a4 23.Qc2 Nxc4 24.Nxc4 Qf5 25.Qxf5 exf5 26.Bd6 Be6 27.Na5 Rd7 28.Bxe7 Rxe7 29.Nxc6 Rc7 30.Re1 Re8 31.Rc3 Bf7 32.Rxe8+ Bxe8 33.Nb4 Rxc3 34.bxc3 Kf7 35.c4 Ke6 36.f4 Kd6 37.Nd3 Bf7 38.Nb2 Be8 39.Kf2 Kc5 40.Ke3 Bc6 41.g3 g5 42.Kd3 h5 43.h4 gxh4 44.gxh4 1-0 44 Caruana,F 2791-Svidler,P 2753 Dubai UAE 2014)
12.Na4 Qa5 A novelty by Topalov's team.
( Previously played here was the more logical & standard central expansion with c5 13.b3 Bb7 14.c4 d4 White has tried several moves here in practice, and most of them involve improving the N on a4 via b2-d3 or putting more pressure on the kingside. 15.Bd2 ( 15.Qe2 Qc7 16.Be4 h5 17.Nb2! improving the worst placed piece!17... Rb8 18.Nd3 Bxe4 ( Nxe5? is too risky because of 19.Bf4 Bd6 20.Bxe5 Bxe5 21.Bxb7 Bxh2+ 22.Kh1 Rxb7 23.g3 now Black is forced play a complex middlegame a piece down for a few pawns23... h4 24.Kxh2 hxg3+ 25.Kg1 gxf2+ 26.Qxf2 Rh6 27.Re4! +/- in this position, White's piece is more valuable because it can serve both defensive and attacking duties.) 19.Qxe4 Qb7 20.Qe2 g6 21.Bd2 Kg7 22.Ba5 h4 23.Nf4 Bg5 24.Nh3 Be7 25.Nf4 Bg5 26.Nh3 Bd8 27.Bxd8 Rbxd8 28.Nf4 a5! 29.Rad1 a4 30.Rd3 axb3 31.axb3 Ra8 Black is doing great, but will soon miss a tactic based on the vulnerable position of his king. 32.Qg4 Qb6 ( a much better move was Qb8! still pressuring the slightly weak e5-P sidestepping the mine square 33.Qg5 Diagram How would you assess this position? Who would you rather be- White or Black?) 33.h3 Qc7?? 34.Qxg6+! Diagram34... fxg6 35.Nxe6+ Kh6 36.Nxc7 and White eventually converted his extra 2 pawns in: 1-0 72 Safarli,E 2660-Dubov,D 2638 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS 2013)15... Qc7 16.Qf4!? defending e5 and eyeing the f7-P16... g5 17.Qg3 we will see a similar situation in the main game17... h5 18.f4! 18... h4 19.Qf2 gxf4 20.Bxf4 Kg7 21.Re2 Rag8 22.Rf1 Qd8 23.Nb2 Qe8 24.Be4 Bxe4 25.Rxe4 Rh5 26.Qe2 Rf5 27.Nd3 Nf8 28.Bc1 Ng6 29.Rxf5 exf5 30.Qd2 Rh8 31.Re1 h3 32.g3 Qc6 33.Qe2 a5 34.Rf1 Qe4 35.Re1 Qc6 36.Rf1 Qe4 37.Re1 1/2-1/2 37 Karjakin,S 2786-Ivanchuk,V 2757 Loo RUS 2013)
In the post-game interview, Topalov was a little upset during the game that his team did not consider this move, whereas Caruana said that he had prepared this idea for Svidler in the European Club Cup last year! The lesson here is too keep preparing and studying, regardless of whether your opponent will play in your lines because you will eventually get to use your preparations/novelties if you keep playing tournaments!
Black faces White's kingside piece play with counter-attack on the same side where his king is oddly placed. Complex middlegame here we come!
(13... c5 is playable but I don't think this is the main idea behind Qa5 ( a logical follow-up to Qa5 could be13... Qb4!? but going into an ending to equalize isn't Topalov's style... 14.Qxb4 Bxb4 15.c4! and indeed Black's position is difficult to defend as well.) 14.b3 c4 may seem to win a piece at first sight but if we concretely extend our analysis 15.Bd2 Qb5 16.Nc3! 16... Qb8 (16... Qc6 (16... Qa5 17.bxc4) 17.bxc4 dxc4 18.Be4) 17.bxc4 Nxe5 18.Qh5 Nxd3 19.cxd3 dxc4 ( d4 20.Rb1! ) 20.dxc4 I believe it is White who gained from the skirmish because more lines are opened giving White better chances of attack.)
14.Qf4 g5 15.Bd2 forced, otherwise White loses his N on a4
15... Qc7?! keeping Qs on the board is simply hard to resist for a fierce attacking & counter-attacking player like Topalov.
A more prudent and safer choice was 15... gxf4 16.Bxa5 Bb7 17.c4 Rg8 after which Black has equal chances because he has good counterplay on the g-file and the e5-P.
16.Qg3 h4 17.Qg4 Rg8? Slowing down the pace of play like this was the start of Black's troubles.
( It is best to keep up the counter-pressure with h3! Diagram ( Taking the pawn right away loses Nxe5?? 18.Rxe5 Qxe5 19.Bc3 +- ) 18.g3 ( 18.gxh3?? ( 18.Bxg5 Bxg5 19.Qxg5 hxg2! we can already see that Black has counterplay as opposed to a passive position which Black got in the game. 20.c4 ( 20.f4 Qa7+ 21.Rf2 Qe3)20... Bb7 21.f4 Qd8 getting rid of White's most active piece.)18... Rh4 19.Qg3 Rxa4)18... Nxe5 19.Rxe5 Qxe5 20.Bc3 Diagram So what now? Can Black avoid losing material?20... d4! Maybe this nuance is what Topalov missed... 21.Bxd4 Qd5 22.Bxh8? 22... Qg2#)
18.Rae1 Now White completes his development and plans to open lines of attack with either c4 or f4, while Black has no clear plan of play to distract White from improving his position.
18... c5 19.c4 dxc4 20.Bxc4 Bb7 21.h3! eliminating any future h4-h3 possibilities.
Now all Topalov can do is place his pieces on good squares, and hope to get his N to the dreamy d4 square... The question is, will he have time?
22.Bc3 Nb8 the N-maneouvering operation begins, and what is Caruana's reply?
23.Re3!! "Okay, come here Knighty, come to d4 now" (with a thinking smile). Caruana plays a strong prophylactic move- a move that both prevents the opponent's plans and improves one's position.
Topalov doesn't miss the deep idea behind Caruana's previous move, but he overlooks a tactic in his analysis rendering his N-move a mistake.
In retrospect, I'm sure Topalov will have played the preparatory23... Rg7 24.Bd3! 24... Nc6 25.Rc1 and even though his N can't still get to d4, his position isn't losing yet.
24.Bxe6! a destructive sac that blows up the Black king's hideout
24... fxe6 25.Rf3+ Ke8 (Topalov's originally intending to play 25...Kg7 26.Qh5 Rdf8 Diagram but later sees... Can you spot what he missed? 27.Rf6! an important tactic that gives White a winning attack!27... Rxf6 28.exf6+ Bxf6 29.Nxc5 +- ( 29.Qxg5+))
With all of his pieces involved, including his central pawn, Caruana correctly evaluated before move 24 that the piece sac leads to a winning attack
26... Rg7 (26... Nd4!? was probably the most stubborn defence but White is still much better after (26... Rf8 27.Nxc5 Rxf3 28.gxf3 and despite being a piece down, Black cannot defend his king.) 27.Qxg8+ Kd7 28.Qf7 Nxf3+ 29.gxf3 Kc8 30.e6 +- )
27.Qh6 Nd4 28.e6!
Not the only winning move, but it's the best one! Caruana keeps displaying brilliant move selection and calculation skills.
28... Nxf3+ 29.gxf3 Bf8 ( other moves don't save Black Qf4 ( Rg8 30.Qh5+ Kf8 31.Qf7#) 30.Qxg7 Bd6 31.Qxb7 Qh2+ 32.Kf1 +- )
Caruana keeps his concentration level up and accurately calculates the best way to win!
( Some players may be tempted to play the "fancy" 30.e7? but this is where the top players get their chance to escape, and sometime even come back to win the game!30... Qxe7 31.Rxe7+ Rxe7 is a sample line in which one slip can make the task of winning difficult for oneself.)
30... Ke7 31.Bxg7 and seeing that White will soon win decisive material following
31... Bxg7 32.Qf7+ Kd6 33.e7 +- Topalov resigned.
A great game by Caruana not only from a competitive but also from an artistic perspective! In this game, as in most of his games recently, Fabiano Caruana has displayed deep opening preparation, accurate calculation, and good concentration that enabled to effectively break his enemy's resistance.
As a result of this performance, Fabiano has not only won the strongest event in a dominant fashion but also convincingly establishes himself (as far as rating is concerned) as the second best player in the world!
World Champion Magnus Carlsen & Current World #2 ranked-player Fabiano Caruana
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