Chess by Jonathan Speelman
Apologies first for the missing start of Naiditsch v Wojtaszek last week. The moves were: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7.
The world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana is now under way at The College in London’s Southampton Row. It’s too late to say anything substantive here but there will be plenty to talk about next week and for the moment here are some general observations.
This was the final game of Carlsen’s previous world championship defence in New York, 2016. Can you see how Carlsen ended the match with a bang?
The Carlsen v Karjakin match was perceived as something of a mismatch, though through his immense defensive abilities, Karjakin frustrated Carlsen and even took the lead before the world champion managed to equalise and then win the rapidplay. The match against Caruana will surely be nothing like that, with the two players separated by just three rating points – Carlsen 2835, Caruana 2832.
The two have played many times, with Carlsen having a better record, but quite a lot of it was garnered at rapidplay and especially blitz. In any case, past results aren’t much of an indicator; their form at the time will be much more important.
Carlsen played rather indifferently by his own stellar standards in his final outing before the big event at the European Club Cup, while Caruana was superb at the Batumi Olympiad, but this is only a weak indication of what will happen under the extreme tension in London when both are deploying the full venom of their opening preparation. One question that should have been answered by the time you read this is the players’ main avenue of attack – presumably either 1 e4 or 1 d4 – and their primary defences. Against Karjakin, Carlsen adopted the unusual Trompowsky (1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5) in game 1 and so failed to glean any information as to Karjakin’s intentions against main line 1 d4 openings; against Caruana, I imagine he will have been less profligate. Both players have savaged the other at times. I guess Carlsen is the favourite but only 60-40 at the very most, perhaps 55-45.
Caruana’s best result was in the 2nd Sinquefield Cup when he began the world class six-player double-rounder with 7/7(!) before coasting to victory with three draws. This was what he did to Carlsen during the run of wins:
Magnus Carlsen v Fabiano Caruana
St Louis 2014 Bishop’s Opening
Avoiding Caruana’s favourite, Petrov 2 Nf3 Nf6.
1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 2... Nf6 3 d3 c6 4 Nf3 d5 5 Bb3 Bb4+ 6 c3
This takes the square away from the b1 knight. Instead, Carlsen played 6 Bd2 Bxd2+ 7 Bxd2 against Caruana in the Norway Chess Tournament this May and eventually won.
6... Bd6 7 Bg5 dxe4 8 dxe4 h6 9 Bh4 Qe7 10 Nbd2 Nbd7
With his pieces nicely developed, Black is already very comfortable.
Allowing his pawn structure to be damaged in pursuit of tactics. If 13 Nh4 Ndf6 14 Nf5 Bxf5 15 exf5 Nxg3 16 hxg3 0-0-0 17 Qe2 h5 with an attack.
11 Bg3 Bc7 12 0-0 Nh5 13 h3 13... Nxg3 14 fxg3 Nc5
Morally forced since otherwise White is simply worse, but it doesn’t quite work and Caruana called Carlsen’s bluff.
15...Qxf7? loses to 16 Nxe5 Qxf1+ 17 Nxf1 and if Bxe5 18 Qh5+
16 Nxe5+ Kg8 17 Ng6 Qg5! 18 Rf8+ Kh7 19 Nxh8 Bg4
Perfectly reasonable but the best was 19... Qe3+ 20 Kh1 Bg4 21 Qxg4 Rxf8 22 Ng6 Rf7! 23 Nf1 Qg5 24 Nh4 Qxg4 25 hxg4 Nxe4 with a clear advantage.
20 Qf1 Nd3 21 Qxd3 Rxf8 22 hxg4 Qxg4 23 Nf3 Qxg3 24 e5+?!
24 Nf7 was better when if 24... Rxf7 25 e5+ Kh8 (probably he should try 25... g6) 26 e6 Re7 27 Re1 White should be OK.
24... Kxh8 25 e6 Bb6+ 26 Kh1 Qg4 27 Qd6
After some thought, Caruana found this clear line.
28 Qe5 Rd5 29 Qb8+ Kh7 30 e7 Qh5+ 31 Nh2?
A blunder in a very difficult position. 31 Qh2 Qe8 32 g4 was vile but he might have tried to fight on.
31... Rd1+ 32 Rxd1 Qxd1+ 33 Nf1 Qxf1+ 34 Kh2 Qg1+
And Carlsen resigned.
In diagram 1, Carlsen finished off with
And Karjakin resigned since 50... Kxh6 51 Rh8 and 50... gxh6 51 Rxf7 are both mate.
49 Rc8+ Kh7 50 Qh6+!
1 Magnus Carlsen (to play) v Sergey Karjakin 2 Magnus Carlsen (to play) v Fabiano Caruana 3 Magnus Carlsen v Fabiano Caruana (to play)