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24 Mar

Absolutely Fab-ulous!

This wheel's on fire! The dream of the first American since Bobby Fischer 44-year’s ago going forward to contest the world chess championship could well be set to become a reality, as Fabiano Caruana chose his moment to turn in an absolutely fabulous performance to demolish the co-leader and five-time ex-champ, Vishy Anand, to now jump into the joint-lead with just four rounds left to play in the Moscow Candidates' Tournament.  

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Anand fell into a well-worked out opening trap against Caruana, who had clearly done all his homework beforehand - but the coup de grace of the stunning bishop sacrifice was delivered with more than a certain élan to it, as Caruana quickly and somewhat clinically converted his huge advantage into an easily won game.

And going down what will become a tense homestretch, Caruana now joins Sergey Karjakin of Russia as the new co-leader at the top on 6/10 a half point ahead of Anand and Levon Aronian - but Caruana’s defeat of Anand could well be crucial, as it gives him a slight edge in the tie-break scores should both players finish tied for first place. And just to add a further bit of dramaturgy to the proceedings, Karjakin and Caruana will face each other in the final round!

Next to Karjakin, Caruana has played some of the most enterprising chess in Moscow; even playing the the Benoni and a very risky four-pawn sacrifice in the opening against Anish Giri in the quest for wins rather than draws — and he’s clearly there in the Russian capital to make a statement that he’s the man to challenge Magnus Carlsen. And like Fischer before him, a Brooklyn-raised challenger contesting the world title later this year in New York could well be a shot in the arm for chess in America, as it would encourage a media frenzy and could well attract major US corporate sponsorship.

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Carlsen himself said that he believed Caruana was the best chance of the two Americans to win the Candidates. And Caruana’s unbeaten performance in Moscow has also made his rivalry with Carlsen even more intense, because he’s now back in the "2800 Club" after beating Anand, as he leapfrogs Vladimir Kramnik on the live rating list to reclaim the world No.2 spot behind the world champion.

Photo © | Moscow Candidates Tournament 

Round 10
Karjakin draw Giri
Caruana 1-0 Anand
Svidler draw Nakamura
Aronian draw Topalov

Standings
1-2. Fabiano Caruana (USA), Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 6/10; 3-4. Vishy Anand (India), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 5.5; 5. Anish Giri (Netherlands) 5; 6. Peter Svidler (Netherlands) 4.5; 7. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 4; 8. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 3.5.

GM Fabiano Caruana - GM Viswanathan Anand
FIDE Moscow Candidates, (10)
English Opening
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 e4 7.Ng5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Re8 9.f3 exf3 10.Nxf3 d5 11.d4 dxc4 12.Qc2! Caruana has clearly done his homework for Anand, with an improvement over 12.Bg5 h6 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.e4 where White had an edge (but eventually drawn) in Aronian-Anand, Sinquefield Cup 2015. With 12.Qc2!, Caruana finds a more dynamic way to take the centre - and at the same time launch a devastating attack on Anand's king. 12...h6 13.Bf4 Ne4 14.Rad1 Bf5 15.Ne5! It had to be around here that Anand must have realised he had fallen into a trap carefully worked-out by Caruana and his team - and falling into such unexpected traps worked out by teams of seconds and top playing engines for world championship and the candidates' can often lead to a disaster, as Anand was about to discover. 15...Nd6 This was Anand's practical choice amidst the looming storm. He chose this because he  probably didn't like going down the most obvious line that Team Caruana and their silicon friend had probably crunched to the umpteenth decimal place, after: 15...Nxg3 16.e4 Nxf1 17.exf5 Nxh2 18.Bxc6 bxc6 19.Qxh2. The engines may well say there's not much in this with White having a small edge, but I would hazard a sporting guess that the further down this line you get, the likelihood is that Caruana had something well-worked out. And I guess this is what Anand feared, and couldn’t work it all out at the board, so instead took what looked the second-best practical choice. And you can’t really blame him, can you? 16.e4 Bh7 17.Qe2! The threat is not just to recapture the pawn on c4, but more worryingly a swift queen sally over to the kingside to launch a devastating attack on Anand's king. Caruana was almost effortlessly gliding through his moves by here, and clearly he'd had such positions on his computer and board at home - and from such well-worked out opening traps, it is not surprising the end now comes swiftly with a crescendo of sacrifices and tactics. 17...Ne7 18.Bxh6!! "Boom!", as John Madden might say here. What an impressive take-down of a five-time ex-champ and the tournament co-leader. 18...gxh6 19.Qh5 Nef5 Anand can't hold f7 and the rest of his shaky defence together at the same time. If 19...Rf8 20.Qxh6 and there's no way to stop Rf4-g4 (or -h4) winning. And no better is 19...Bg6 20.Qxh6, and again the unstoppable threat is Rf4-h4 mating. Therefore Anand - not unsurprisingly, considering the circumstances - decides to close the f-file with his …Nef5; but there was another option available  to him of 19...Nd5 20.exd5 Qg5 21.Qf3 Re7 22.h4 Qg7 23.Rde1 and White also has a clear winning advantage. So Anand is losing, but I guess he decided the best way option now was to exchange the queens off, in the minuscule hope that Caruana might make a misstep. As if. 20.exf5 Qg5 21.Qxg5+ hxg5 22.f6! The knight on e5 is now a monster; it controls just about everything. 22...Ne4 23.Rfe1 Nxc3 24.Rc1 Nb5 25.Bxb7 Rad8 26.Bc6 Nxd4 27.Bxe8 Rxe8 28.Kf2 Nc2 29.Red1! A spinoff benefit from 22.f6! - Anand now has to be aware of the backrank mates thanks to his bishop on h7. Now, it's a nice clinical mop-up from Caruana. 29...Be4 30.Nxc4 Re6 31.Rd8+ Kh7 32.Kg1 Rxf6 33.Rf1 1-0 A very impressive win from Caruana - and one that could signify his readiness to challenge Carlsen. 

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