Too close to call
FABIANO Caruana lost narrowly to Magnus Carlsen in last Sunday’s Clutch Chess International final. The world number two inflicted four defeats on the world champion in 12 games; Carlsen won five games and three were drawn. The match was played online at a fast time limit of 10 minutes plus a five second increment per move and the result finally laid to rest the notion that Caruana is relatively weak at faster-paced chess.
As Carlsen himself pointed out, this reputation arose partly as a result of the American losing a Rapid chess play-off 3-0 to Carlsen that decided the 2018 World Championship final in London.
Caruana performed poorly in some of the Grand Chess Tour speed chess events, but he’s clearly upped his game with less time on the clock. This could have implications for a future title contest, Carlsen commented: “Fabi’s made incredible strides in Rapid & Blitz. I think he’s very much a force to be reckoned with … Judging by the way we played today, he was as deserving a winner as I was and he deserves credit for a very good match”.
Carlsen defended the Sicilian Rossolimo five times in the Clutch Chess final and scored just one point. Caruana’s must-win victory in the 11th game was both convincing and aesthetic.
Carlsen played the zany 4…Bd6!? three times. It discourages Bxc6 by defending the e-pawn. The game soon morphs into a Ruy Lopez, where Black moves the dark-squared bishop twice but saves time by not having played Nc6–a5–c6. White’s light-squared bishop ends up on b3 via a4 and c2, so Black ought be OK.
F. Caruana – M. Carlsen
Clutch Chess International
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e5 4.0–0 Bd6!? 5.c3 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.Bc2 Nge7 (7…Nf6 8.d4 could be awkward, Black strongpoints e5) 8.d3 Ng6 9.Be3 0–0 10.Nbd2 Be7 11.Bb3 d6 12.Bd5 Qe8!? (12…Bd7) 13.d4 exd4 14.cxd4 Rb8 15.Rc1 Nb4 (15…c4 looks reasonable, as White cannot use the rook on c1, if 16.b3 Nb4) 16.dxc5 dxc5 17.Bxc5 Nxd5 18.exd5 Bxc5 19.Rxc5 Bb7 (Black has some compensation for the pawn, but is thoroughly outplayed from here) 20.Nb3 Qd7? (20…Rd8) 21.Na5 Ba8 22.Nc6 (Depriving Black of the d8 square and cementing the d5 pawn)
22…Rbe8 23.Nfd4 Qd6 24.b4! Re4 25.Qf3 Rfe8 26.Nf5 Qd7 27.g3 h6 28.h4 Kh8 29.Ne3 Kg8 30.Rfc1 (Black’s rooks are move-bound, he can only wait) 30..Nf8 31.Nf5 Nh7 32.Kg2 Kh8
33.Nb8! Qd8 (33…Rxb8 34.Qxe4) 34.Nc6 Qd7 35.Nb8 Qd8 36.Nxa6 Bxd5 37.Nc7 Bb7 38.Nxe8 Re7 39.Qxb7! Rxb7 40.Ned6 Nf8 1-0 41.Nxb7 or 41.Rc8 win material
Amin-Harikrishna, World Stars Sharjah International on ICC. For today’s puzzle, Black to play and win: