Fabiano Luigi Caruana, 25, is the official challenger for the world championship title currently held by Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. He is the first US challenger for the title since Gata Kamsky vied for the title in 1996 against Anatoly Karpov. Kamsky came up empty, losing by a 10.5-7.5 score. This year’s championship match will be played in November in London.
Caruana won the Candidates Tournament by a clear point over Shak Mamedyarov (second, +2) and Sergey Karjakin (third, +2). He clearly played the best chess, losing only to Karjakin. His job was made easier with the complete collapse of Levon Aronian (a shocking -5, 6 losses) and the indifference of Vladimir Kramnik (fifth, -1). A late charge by Karjakin, who went from -2 to +2 with wins over Wesley So, Kramnik, Aronian, and Caruana, put pressure on Fabiano. This propelled the Russian into a tie with Caruana, but Caruana’s next opponent was the completely sunk Aronian, whom he beat in a fine game, while Karjakin just managed a draw with So.
In the last round, Caruana beat Alexander Grischuk when the Russian lost his objectivity in a desperate winning attempt. Even with White, Karjakin, also desperate to win, ran into the immovable object that was Ding Liren and was held to a draw. We should mention that Liren had a great tournament for a first-time player at this level. He was +1 (13 draws), with his sole win over the overreaching Mamedyarov in the 12th. He was a bit lucky when Grischuk missed a winning line in the 4th and when Caruana missed one in the 9th. There was a joke going around whether he would pull a “Giri” and draw all his games, as Anish Giri did in the 2016 Candidates. So finished a disappointing 7th (-2), with Grischuk in 6th (-1).
In handicapping this match, we have to give a sizable edge to Carlsen, given his big-time experience and technical expertise. Overall, at classical time controls, Magnus holds a 9-5 lead, but it will be a new day. It should be great to see how Caruana holds up to all the pressure and media attention, and just maybe we will have another American World Chess Champion.
Coming events: April 7, Boylston Quads, Cambridge, www.BoylstonChess.org; April 8. 107th Chelmsford Burger King Tournament, Burger King, Chelmsford, 77 Drum Hill Road, Chelmsford, MGosselin454@gmail.com
Recent results: Boylston Shamrock Open (33 players): 1st: Digeng Du, 4/4, U1900, 1st: Nial Renshaw, 4/4; Concord-Carlisle March G/30;d5, (45 players) >11, 1st: Henry Booth, 4/4, =<11, 1st: Sritan Devineni, 4/4
Answer to today’s problem: White is faced with a seemingly hopeless task as Black threatens mate starting with 1…Qh1+ for which there seems no good defense but…1.Qf8+ Kf6 2.Qh8+ Kf5 3.g4+! hxg4 (3...Ke4 4.Rd4# (4.Qd4#)) (3...Kf4 4.Qd4#) 4.Rd5+! exd5 (4...Kf4 5.Qe5#) (4...Ke4 5.Qe5#) 5.Qc8+ Qxc8 stalemate