5 Reasons Caruana will be World Number One

Wed, 2014-09-24 13:26 -- IM Max Illingworth

[pgn][Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2014"]
[Site "Shamkir AZE"]
[Date "2014.04.23"]
[Round "4.2"]
[White "Caruana, F."]
[Black "Carlsen, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2783"]
[BlackElo "2881"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "105"]
[EventDate "2014.04.20"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "AZE"]
[EventCategory "22"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.04.28"]

{5 Reasons Caruana will be the new World Number One 1. He understands endgames
very well!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6
7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 {World no.1 + Berlin Wall = invincibility cloak? Not
this time my friend!} 9. h3 $1 h6 10. Rd1+ Ke8 11. Nc3 Bd7 {I don't really
like this mix of moves as when you play ...Bd7 you want to run your kingside
to the queenside with ...Kc8/...b6/...Kb7. Here White can think about an e6
break at some point to exploit Black's king in the middle.} 12. Bf4 Rd8 13. Ne4
$1 (13. a3 {had been seen a lot before to stop ...Bb4, but it's better to do
that in a more active way!}) 13... Be7 (13... c5 $5 14. e6 Bxe6 15. Bxc7 Rc8
16. Bh2 {is a good transition for White, who managed to open the position for
his better developed pieces. His edge is fairly modest though as Black doesn't
have any real weaknesses.}) 14. g4 $1 Nh4 15. Nxh4 Bxh4 16. Kg2 Be6 17. f3 {
Caruana was the first player to fully master the nuances of advancing the
kingside pawns; I already wrote an article for another source with plenty of
examples of this so I will save repeating myself, except to say that we want
to stop Black's counterplay with ...h5 targeting our g4-pawn (which could be a
problem in a structure e5-f4-g4-h3 vs. h5-g6-f7), and by prophylactically
securing ourselves against ...h5, we can build up our position steadily and
only push f4 when all of our pieces are on the ideal squares.} b6 (17... Ke7 {
is also possible to connect the rooks, but understandably Carlsen didn't want
to leave his h4-bishop on a limb. Still, I don't see an immediate way to
exploit that as} 18. Bg3 $6 Bxg3 19. Kxg3 Rd5 20. f4 Rhd8 21. Rxd5 cxd5 22. Nc5
b6 23. Nd3 d4 24. f5 Bd5 {gives Black quite good counterplay with his
queenside majority (which is now undoubled!) and White can't push e6 or f6
easily. I'd even say Black's better here.}) 18. b3 c5 $6 {I think Black's next
five or so moves together deserve a question mark as the plan of bringing the
Black king to the queenside is simply too slow, and White's pawn wall really
does a good job of nobbling Black's unopposed LSB.} (18... Bd5 19. Ng3 Bxg3 20.
Bxg3 c5 {would be completely fine for Black as he has the better
opposite-coloured bishop if White doesn't play} 21. c4 Bc6 22. e6 {, but then
after} Rc8 23. exf7+ Kxf7 24. Re1 Rhe8 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Bxc7 {White will
struggle to use his extra pawn and Black should draw (though he'll have to
work for it).}) (18... Ke7 {is a lot less minimalist and again probably best.})
19. c4 Rd7 20. Bg3 Be7 21. Rxd7 Bxd7 22. Nc3 Kd8 23. Nd5 Re8 $6 {Not the best
move, but Black was already quite passive and he'd just missed the tactic on
move 25.} 24. Rd1 Kc8 $6 (24... c6 25. Nxe7 Kxe7 26. f4 {and f5 is admittedly
quite horrible too.}) 25. Nxc7 $1 Rd8 (25... Kxc7 26. e6+) 26. Nd5 {We'll see
in the later games too that Caruana has great converting technique, and you
might want to keep in mind my previous post to see how he makes sure Carlsen
doesn't get a chance to swindle him.} Re8 27. Be1 Bd8 28. Bc3 g6 29. Kg3 b5 30.
cxb5 Bxb5 31. Ne3 Re6 32. f4 Ra6 33. Rd2 h5 34. gxh5 gxh5 35. Nf5 Rg6+ 36. Kh2
Bc6 37. Nd6+ Kb8 38. f5 Rg8 39. f6 Bb6 40. Nc4 Re8 41. Nd6 Rg8 42. Nxf7 c4 43.
h4 Rg4 44. e6 Be3 45. Be5+ Ka8 46. Rd8+ Kb7 47. Bg3 c3 48. Rb8+ Ka6 49. Rc8 Bd5
50. Rxc3 Bd4 51. Rd3 Re4 52. Rd2 Rxe6 53. Ng5 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2014.08.28"]
[Round "2.2"]
[White "Caruana, F."]
[Black "Vachier Lagrave, M."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[WhiteElo "2801"]
[BlackElo "2768"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2014.08.27"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.09.01"]

{Reason 2: He is very well prepared in every opening! In this game he beats
the French number one almost entirely on opening preparation. That's
especially impressive in the days of super-computers!} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5
Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. Be3 Qb6 {A super sharp system, going for that
b2-pawn while White tries to destroy Black with his lead in development!} 7.
Nc3 Nc6 (7... Qxb2 8. Qb1 $1 {is some more hardcore theory you may want to
look at; note for now that} Qxc3+ $4 9. Bd2 Qxc2 10. Qxb7 {wins for White.}) 8.
O-O Qxb2 9. Qe1 {A funny looking move, but the idea is to get out of the
attack on the queen after the capture on c2.} cxd4 10. Bxd4 Nxd4 11. Nxd4 Bb4
12. Ndb5 Ba5 {This has been worked out by theory as best.} (12... Bxc3 13. Nxc3
Qxc2 14. Rc1 Qb2 15. Na4 Qa3 16. Qa5 {leaves Black too far behind in
development with his king still in the centre.}) 13. Rb1 Qxc2 14. Rc1 Qb2 15.
g4 $1 {This is the big novelty, trying to win Black's light-squared bishop.}
Bg6 16. f4 $1 {Black needs to be very accurate here, and even after a long
think MVL was unable to solve the problems.} Be4 {This gets out of the f5
threat, but also an option was} (16... Ne7 17. Nd6+ Kf8 18. f5 exf5 19. gxf5
Nxf5 $1 20. Nxf5 Rc8 {, when Black has three pawns for the piece and some sort
of initiative that makes up for his bad king position. I don't pretend to have
any clue of what's happening.}) 17. Rf2 Nh6 $2 {The decisive mistake, which
doesn't really address White's threat of Bd3.} (17... Kf8 $1 18. Bd3 Qb4 19.
Rb1 Qc5 20. Nxe4 dxe4 21. Qxa5 exd3 $11 {is the most practical defence, when
Black will play ....Ne7, ...h5 and ...Kg8-h7 to complete development and save
his skin.}) 18. Bd3 Qb4 19. Rb1 Qc5 20. Nxe4 {This is the key difference -
Black now loses a piece.} dxe4 (20... Bxe1 21. Nxc5 Bxf2+ 22. Kxf2 O-O 23. g5
Ng4+ 24. Kg3 {is winning for White, who will pick up b7 to establish a
material advantage, and then the minor pieces dominate the rooks.}) 21. Qxa5 {
Threatening Nc7.} O-O (21... exd3 22. Nc7+) 22. Be2 e3 23. Rff1 {Again, it's
quite easy to win from here and I won't waste my time covering the rest.} Rfc8
24. Qe1 Qd5 25. Rb2 f6 26. Qg3 fxe5 27. fxe5 Rf8 28. Rxf8+ Rxf8 29. Qxe3 Nf7
30. Nc3 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2014.09.03"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Vachier Lagrave, M."]
[Black "Caruana, F."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D31"]
[WhiteElo "2768"]
[BlackElo "2801"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "78"]
[EventDate "2014.08.27"]

{Reason 3: Caruana stays objective regardless of the tournament situation and
knows how to induce mistakes in quiet positions.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7
4. Bf4 Nf6 5. e3 O-O 6. Rc1 {Meet the Blackburne without Nf3! White wants to
have some extra flexibility on offer in case Black goes for ...b6 or ...Nbd7
setups as opposed to the old fashioned ...c5 lines.} Nbd7 (6... c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5
8. Nf3 Nc6 9. a3 d4 10. exd4 Nxd4 11. Be2 {is still enough for a small edge; I
have secrets to keep so you can do the analysis yourself.}) 7. c5 Ne4 $1 {
Black doesn't have ...Nh5 unfortunately because of White's move order, but
this makes the best of the situation.} 8. Bd3 (8. Nxe4 dxe4 9. Qc2 {is fine
for Black after any decent move, but I like the sacrifice} e5 $1 10. Bxe5 Nxe5
11. dxe5 Qd5 {to grab the initiative and bishops, and even regain the pawn if
Black wants it.}) 8... f5 9. Nf3 (9. Nge2 {would have been my choice to kick
the knight back with f3 at some point. Maybe Vachier-Lagrave wanted to make it
hard for Black to break with ...e5 but he achieves it in the game anyhow.})
9... c6 10. Ne5 Nxe5 11. Bxe5 Bf6 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. Ne2 e5 {Black has
liquidated the hole on e5 and I would even find his position easier to play as
White's queenside play with b4-b5 rarely dents Black in such a position,
whereas the central/kingside pawn storm can be quite a problem.} 14. Qa4 $2 {
Kasparov: You would be kicked out of the Botvinnik School of Chess for such a
move! That could be a bit harsh, but it is true that moving your pieces to the
edge of the board isn't generally a great idea.} (14. O-O {was correct.}) 14...
Qh4 {Even Caruana is human - as it was,} (14... Qg6 $1 15. Bxe4 (15. O-O f4 $1)
15... fxe4 16. O-O Bg4 {was much better for Black.}) 15. g3 $6 {Played out of
fear of} (15. O-O Nf6 {and ...Ng4, but this attack isn't mating or anything
and is definitely better than what White was hit with in the game.}) 15... Qg4
16. Rf1 $2 (16. Qd1 {was the only chance to defend.}) 16... Ng5 $1 17. Kd2 Nf3+
18. Kc3 Nxh2 19. Rh1 Nf3 {Black is up a pawn and White's king is ridiculous,
so advancing from 6/6 to 7/7 was quite easy for Caruana.} 20. Qa5 Qg5 21. dxe5
Qe7 22. Nd4 Nxe5 23. b3 b6 24. cxb6 c5 25. Nb5 Bb7 26. bxa7 d4+ 27. exd4 Nxd3
28. Kxd3 Bxh1 29. Rxc5 Qe4+ 30. Kc4 Qe2+ 31. Kb4 Qd2+ 32. Rc3 Bc6 33. a4 Bxb5
34. Kxb5 Qxd4 35. Rc7 Rfd8 36. Qb6 Rd5+ 37. Ka6 Rd6 38. a5 Qd3+ 39. Kb7 Qd5+
0-1 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "30th ECC Open 2014"]
[Site "Bilbao ESP"]
[Date "2014.09.18"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Caruana, F."]
[Black "Mamedyarov, S."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D11"]
[WhiteElo "2801"]
[BlackElo "2756"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "127"]
[EventDate "2014.09.14"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.09.22"]
[WhiteTeam "Obiettivo Risarcimento"]
[BlackTeam "SOCAR Azerbaijan"]

{Reason 4: Caruana isn't just a one-hit wonder - he followed up with another
3000+ performance at the European Club Cup in Bilbao.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3
Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. cxd5 (6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O {is more usual, but Caruana
decided on a more unusual line to make the creative Mamedyarov think on his
feet early on.}) 6... cxd5 7. Bb5+ Nc6 (7... Bd7 {is more usual.}) 8. Ne5 O-O (
8... Bd7 {makes more sense; the pawn sack doesn't seem 100% sound.}) 9. Nxc6
bxc6 10. Bxc6 Rb8 11. O-O Ba6 (11... Qd6 {gives White the extra option of} 12.
Bb5 $1) 12. Re1 Qd6 13. Ba4 Rfc8 14. Bb3 $1 {A very strong prophylactic move
to stop ...e5. But if Black is unable to open the position, White will
continue with Bd2, Rc1 and Na4 and just be a pawn up, hence the next move...}
e5 $5 15. dxe5 Qxe5 16. Nxd5 Ne4 17. f3 Nc5 18. Bc2 Bd3 $5 {Continuing to mix
it up.} 19. Bxd3 Qxd5 20. Bf1 Qe6 21. e4 $1 {A very wise decision, returning
one of the pawns to regain control of the position and catch up in development.
} Bxb2 22. Bxb2 Rxb2 23. Re2 Qb6 (23... Rb4 {might be better to keep more
pieces on and thereby make the bishop on f1 less of an advantage over the
c5-knight.}) 24. Rxb2 Qxb2 25. Rc1 Qb6 26. Qd4 {This should be winning for
White, although Caruana actually nearly blew it later on when he gave
Mamedyarov a chance to draw. However the Azeri GM missed the opportunity.} Rc6
27. h4 h5 28. Qe3 Kh7 29. Rd1 Qc7 30. Bb5 Rb6 31. Bc4 Rb2 32. e5 Ne6 33. Bb3
Kg7 34. Rc1 Qd7 35. Rd1 Qc7 36. Rd6 (36. Kh2 $5) 36... Qc5 37. Qxc5 Nxc5 38.
Bd5 Rd2 $1 39. Bc4 Rxd6 40. exd6 Nb7 41. d7 Kf6 42. Ba6 (42. g4 $1 Ke7 43. gxh5
gxh5 44. f4 Nd6 45. Be2 Nf5 $1 46. Bxh5 Nxh4 47. Bxf7 Kxd7 {should be drawable
for Black.}) 42... Nd8 43. Kf2 Ke7 44. Bb5 Nb7 45. g4 Nd6 46. Ba4 hxg4 47. fxg4
Ne4+ 48. Ke3 Nf6 {Now White lost the extra pawn and it's not clear he can win
with best play due to the reduced material.} 49. Bd1 Nxd7 50. Kd4 Kd6 51. a4 a5
52. Kc4 f5 53. gxf5 gxf5 $2 (53... Nb6+ $1 54. Kb5 Nxa4 {was an unlikely draw:}
55. fxg6 (55. Kxa4 gxf5 {is a simple fortress draw as Black's king is in the
square of the pawn - put the Black king on h8 and White cannot win.}) 55...
Nc3+ 56. Kc4 Nd5 57. h5 Ne7 58. Bc2 Ke5 59. h6 Kf6 {and Black makes a draw as
g7 is met by ...Ng8! and otherwise Black will stop the h-pawn and take on g6
with a draw. It's easy to think the pawns will just queen by themselves
without the time to analyse the position though.}) 54. h5 {Now it's pretty
easy for White to win as the bishop both supports the h-pawn and stops the
passed f-pawn. The Black knight can't do this sort of multitasking.} Ke7 55.
Kb5 Kf6 56. h6 f4 57. Bh5 Ne5 58. Kxa5 f3 59. Kb6 Nc4+ 60. Kb5 f2 61. Be2 Nd2
62. Kb4 Nf3 63. Kc3 Ng5 64. a5 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2014.08.29"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Carlsen, M."]
[Black "Caruana, F."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C24"]
[WhiteElo "2877"]
[BlackElo "2801"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "68"]
[EventDate "2014.08.27"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.09.01"]

{Reason 5: Caruana has the edge over Carlsen in recent games, and quite a good
lifetime score to boot! None of his rivals can claim as good a score over a
large number of recent games, except maybe Svidler. This is no doubt due to
his nerves of steel and generally more powerful calculation.} 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 {
Carlsen saw what happened to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in that Caro game earlier
and therefore tries to get Black out of book! But Caruana is very well
prepared in the sidelines too...} Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ $1 {A
nice move to inconvenience White's deployment.} 6. c3 (6. Bd2 Bxd2+ 7. Nbxd2 {
also leaves White unable to put pressure on that d5-pawn with Nc3, which is
the key way for White to fight for an edge in this line of the Bishop's
Opening.}) 6... Bd6 {White would really like to be able to play Nc3 here!} 7.
Bg5 {Carlsen shows up his main soft spot already - playing Bg5 in the 1.e4 e5
systems.} dxe4 8. dxe4 h6 9. Bh4 Qe7 10. Nbd2 Nbd7 {This is a pretty normal
position, and the sort of quiet manoeuvring struggle where you'd think Carlsen
would be in his element. He recognised that his bishop on h4 isn't doing so
much and tried improving the worst-placed piece, but that only made it worse...
} 11. Bg3 $6 Bc7 12. O-O Nh5 $1 {Why is Caruana exchanging the bad bishop?
Well, Black can take that piece whenever he pleases. Carlsen urges him to take
it right off the bat but weakens his position considerably to do so.} 13. h3 $2
(13. Nh4 Nxg3 14. hxg3 {would be a more solid continuation. Black must be a
bit better because of the bishops, but even after} g6 {to stop Nf5, White's
position is not atrocious.}) 13... Nxg3 14. fxg3 Nc5 $1 {Allowing a sacrifice
on f7, but Caruana has everything worked out as accurately as a machine.} 15.
Bxf7+ {This looks desperate, but what else can White do?} (15. Nh4 Nxb3 16.
axb3 g6 {for instance would be clearly better for Black - White's knights
don't have any good squares, White's pawn structure is full of holes and the
bishops will be quite ferocious once things open up a little.}) 15... Kxf7 16.
Nxe5+ Kg8 17. Ng6 Qg5 18. Rf8+ Kh7 19. Nxh8 {Black is winning here, but he
needs to play like a wizard to prove it. Caruana's up to the task.} Bg4 $1 (
19... Qe3+ 20. Kh1 Bg4 $1 21. Qxg4 Rxf8 22. Ng6 Rf7 {was also very strong,
again because White has problems saving his errant knight, and also his
position is quite passive and exposed.} 23. Nf1 Qg5 24. Nh4 Qxg4 25. hxg4 Nxe4
{and White's irish pawns are an insult to the Irish!}) 20. Qf1 (20. hxg4 Rxf8 {
traps the knight on h8, leaving Black a piece up.}) 20... Nd3 $3 {This might
be the best move of the tournament.} 21. Qxd3 (21. Rxa8 Qe3+ 22. Kh1 Nf2+ 23.
Qxf2 Qxf2 24. hxg4 Qxd2 {is winning for Black despite the momentary material
deficit, as White's pawns are falling off, his king is weak and he has no
harmony between his pieces.}) 21... Rxf8 22. hxg4 Qxg4 {Black settles down to
take the knight and pluck off some weak pawns!} 23. Nf3 Qxg3 (23... Kxh8 24. e5
Qxg3 {transposes.}) 24. e5+ Kxh8 25. e6 Bb6+ 26. Kh1 {Black is winning here,
but he has to again find the best move every move to do it. And again, Caruana
finds the moves that some would call 'machine lines'.} Qg4 $1 {Threatening ...
Qxe6 and ...Qh5.} 27. Qd6 Rd8 28. Qe5 Rd5 $1 {The only way to win, and the
rook lift to h5 is a brilliant conception.} 29. Qb8+ Kh7 30. e7 Qh5+ 31. Nh2 (
31. Qh2 {was the only way to keep playing, but} Qe8 32. g4 {(else ...Rh5 is
fatal)} Qxe7 {leaves White a pawn down with a weak king and inferior minor
piece. In short, a piece of cake for Fabi.}) 31... Rd1+ 32. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 33. Nf1
Qxf1+ 34. Kh2 Qg1+ {For what it's worth, Ian Rogers also annotated this game
for Chess Life and you may want to read his analysis too for all the awesome
music references! Caruana is the world's strongest player today, but time will
tell whether he'll be the world's strongest player in the next
super-tournaments. Well, you know my opinion!} 0-1 [/pgn]