Weekly chess column

Fabiano Caruana, who was born in Miami and now lives in Switzerland, won the Dortmund tournament in Germany this year and was, at this writing, tied for the lead in the Bilbao Masters Final. Here is Caruana’s victory, in the second round, against Sergey Karjakin.

In this game, Caruana as Black submitted to a Ruy Lopez, a historically powerful opening for White, in which White gets an early pin and Black has great trouble shaking off White’s king’s bishop. Here, Caruana pushed the bishop back to b3 where it took a bead on Black’s king. White then prepared a fortification for an attack in the center. Caruana found resources in the middle game on the queenside and managed to anchor his king’s bishop in hostile territory. Karjakin defended on the queenside and, with Karjakin pieces preoccupied there, Caruana sacked two exchanges and proceeded to open up the White’s king for burning.

a) This setup has become popular for Black over the last 15 years and White has many alternatives over the next few moves, e.g. 8.a4 here or 8.d4 Bb6 9.Bg5. The jury is still out on what is White’s best way to strive for advantage.


b) So far White’s play has been completely routine. Black’s next few moves shakes things up!

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c) After 13…Nxe4?! 14.Nxe4 Bxe4 15.Bd2 Bxf3 (forced) 16.Qxf3 c5 (16…a5?? 17.a3 a4 18.Bd1 wins the knight) 17.Rac1 (17.a3 c4 saves the knight), only White can be better.

d) Perhaps here 15.dxc5 dxc5 (15…Bxc5 16.e5) was a better try, to play either 16.e5 or 16.Rad1. The text move is again very routine, but White’s pieces do not seem well coordinated for it.

e) White’s last few moves do not seem to express any plan, and in particular after 18.b3 Black is able to shift things to his advantage.

f) Now it is clear that Black has an extremely favorable Benoni-type setup. White’s pieces are passively tied to the defense of e4, while Black has achieved maximum activity without weakening himself.


g) Of course! With White’s pieces tied up on the queenside this exchange sacrifice that opens up lines and exposes the weak white squares makes almost plays itself.

h) There is no satisfactory defense: White must either lose substantial material or allow checkmate. Black threatens the knight on f3 and depending on how White defends he will win with … Be2 … Bd3 or ... Be5.

i) Or 35.Nxe5 Qxe5+ 36.Kh1 (36.Rg3 Bxf1; 36.Kg2 Nh4+ etc.) 36…Be4+ 37.Rg2 Nf4 etc.

j) It’s all over after 37.Kg2 Qe2+ 38.Rf2 Bxf3+.

Karjakin – Caruana

5th Bilbao Masters Final, 2012

Ruy Lopez


Karjakin Caruana

Karjakin Caruana

White Black

White Black

1. e4 e5

19. Rab1 Bc3!

2. Nf3 Nc6

20. Rec1 b4!

3. Bb5 a6

21. a4 a5 (f)

4. Ba4 Nf6

22. Bd3 h6

5. O-O b5

23. Qd1?! Ba6!

6. Bb3 Bc5

24. Bc2?! Ra7!

7. c3 d6

25. Kh2 Rae7

8. d4 (a) Bb6

26. g4 Nxe4! (g)

9. Be3 O-O

27. Nxe4 Rxe4

10. Nbd2 Bb7

28. Bxe4 Rxe4

11. Re1 (b) exd4!?

29. Qc2 Qe7

12. cxd4 Nb4!

30. Rg1 Rxe3!!

13. Qe2 c5! (c)

31. fxe3 Qxe3 (h)

14. a3 Nc6

32. Rbf1 Be2

15. d5?! (d) Ne7

33. Qf5 Bd3

16. h3?! Re8

34. Qd7 Be5+

17. Bc2 Ng6

35. Kh1 (i) Be4

18. b3?! (e) Ba5!

36. Qe8+ Nf8 (j) 0-1