In an astonishing first-half charge at the 3rd Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Shakmir, Azerbaijan, US Champion Fabiano Caruana is yet again on a winning tear that brought back recent memories of another of his famous streaks, as he’s now won four games-in-a-row to move onto an unbeaten +4 score of 4.5/5, as he maintains his outright lead at the top over nearest rival Anish Giri.
Caruana, after his opening round draw against Pentala Harikrishna, has now notched up a string of impressive wins over Pavel Eljanov, Hou Yifan, Rauf Mamedyarov and Teimour Radjabov respectively. This incredible run has netted Caruana 14-points on the unofficial live rating list at the midpoint of the tournament, and now less than 40-points behind numero uno himself, World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
And many are speculating that, with recent memories of his phenomenal winning-run of a perfect start of 7/7 at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup (that rocketed him to the stratospheric heights of 2851.3 on the unofficial live rating list), it’s quite possible that Caruana - who seems to have a knack of producing such streaks - has a good chance of continuing his run, because when play resumes on Wednesday after the rest day, next up will be the local back-marker, Eltaj Safarli.
His winning run though has to infuriate Giri, who is still looking for his illusive first super-tournament win. The young Dutch elite star has an added aggression to his play (following his Candidates’ criticism, when he drew all his games), and he also won in round five for a third win of the tournament - a result that in normal circumstances would be good enough for outright first, were it not for the fact that Caruana himself is in the process of “doing a Sinquefield”.
Photo © | Vugar Gashimov Memorial
1. Fabinao Caruana (USA) 4.5/5; 2. Anish Giri (Netherlands) 4; 3. Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 3; 4-5. Pentala Harikrishna (India) Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 2.5; 6-8. Rauf Mamedov (Azerbaijan), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), Eltaj Safarli (Azerbaijan) 2; 9. Hou Yifan (China) 1.5; 10. Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 1.
GM Fabiano Caruana - GM Teimour Radjabov
3rd Vugar Gashimov Memorial, (5)
Sicilian Defence, Rossolimo Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 The Rossolimo Attack, named after the Russian/Greek/French/American Grandmaster Nicolas Rossolimo (1910-1975), who emigrated to the US in 1952. The idea behind this set-up is to exchange the bishop for the knight and doubling up the pawns on the c-file. After that, White will solidify the pawn chain with d3 and continue his development. And this is difficult for Sicilian players to maintain the sort of counter-attacking chances they are more accustomed to. 3...g6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Bf4 b6 9.Qd2 Re8 10.0-0-0 a5 11.Ne5 b5 12.Qe3 Grabbing the pawn (which is doubled anyway) is not advisable for White, as Black gets a big jump in mobilising his queenside attack: 12.Nxc6?! Qb6 13.Ne5 a4 with a very dangerous attack, which is more than enough compensation here for the pawn. 12...Qb6 13.Bh6 Bh8 14.f4 a4 15.Rhf1 e6 Stopping any ideas from White with f5 and possibly Nxf7. 16.g4 a3 This is exactly what Caruana was banking on, as he has a nice way of stopping Radjabov's attack in its tracks. 17.b4! Also good was 17.b3 - but with 17.b4!, Caruana ties Radjabov to the defence of his c5-pawn, all of which leaves the Azeri in a bit of a dilemma over how to continue now. 17...Nd7 18.Nxd7 Bxd7 19.e5! Not just allowing Caruana to access e4 for his knight, but also leaving Radjabov with two bad bishops that are blocked in behind pawns. 19...f5 20.Ne2 Bg7 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 At least Radjabov has managed to exchange off one bad bishop - but the price he has to pay is high, as Caruana now virtually has a free reign to storm the kingside. 22.h4! fxg4 23.h5! With a double pawn sacrifice, Caruana just bludgeon's his way through Black defences - and Radjabov can't do a thing about it. 23...gxh5 24.Ng3 It's a classic good knight versus bad bishop. When Caruana's knight gets to f6, Radjabov's position is doomed. 24...Kh8 And why not 24...h4, you might ask? The reason is the winning riposte of 25.f5!! and Black is quite lost here: If 25...Kh8 (White quickly mates after 25...exf5 26.Qg5+ Kh8 27.Qf6+ Kg8 28.Nh5) 26.f6 Rf8 27.Ne4 Rf7 28.Rh1 h3 29.Nd6! Rff8 30.Rdg1 Rg8 31.Nf7#. 25.Nxh5 Re7 26.Nf6 Be8 27.f5! (See Diagram) With Radjabov's pieces uncoordinated, Caruana rips open more lines for his pieces to get into the attack. 27...exf5 28.Rxf5 Qc7 If 28...Bg6 then 29.Rg5 with the deadly threat of Rxg6 mating. So now, after 29...Rg7 30.Rg1 Qa7 31.bxc5 b4 32.R5xg4 Qf7 33.Qh3! and White will crash through soon, much as in same way as happens now in the game. 29.Rg5 Rg7 30.Rh1 Bg6 31.Rxg4 More clinical was the simple 31.Qxc5, as Black is totally paralysed and awaits his fate, as there's nothing he can do here. However Caruana's position now is so overwhelming, he can even afford to take the scenic route to victory. 31...Qf7 No better was 31...cxb4 32.e6 Qe7 33.Qe5! followed by Rgh4 winning. 32.Kb1 cxb4 33.Qd4 Bf5 34.e6! Rxg4 Deadly, for now after 34...Qxe6 35.Nxh7!! Bxg4 36.Nf6+ Bh3 37.Qh4+ Rh7 38.Qxh7#. 35.exf7 Rxd4 36.Ne8! 1-0 With the knight covering g7, and also preventing any access for Black to the f8 queening square, there's no way to prevent the pawn from queening. Powerhouse Chess at its finest from the very much in-form Fabiano Caruana.