Is Caruana the next contender?

After his scintillating performance in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, fans the world over marveled at Fabiano Caruana’s resourceful play, cool demeanor and humility. During his run of seven consecutive wins, there was a furor created that he was quickly gaining on Magnus Carlsen in terms of ELO rating and that he would be the next rival. This was acknowledged by Carlsen himself.

New In Chess (2012-8)

However, it should be no surprise that Caruana is categorized in this manner. Already a force to be reckoned with, he had solid results in the past few years without all the expectations and fanfare. After he tied for first in the Sao Paulo/Bilbao tournament in 2012, he reached a career high of 2782 and vaulted to #5 on the ELO list. Two years later, he then eclipsed the 2800 barrier.

With his victory at the Sinquefield Cup there was a buzz created on how this would affect the pecking order in chess with Caruana now at #2. During the tournament Caruana took the high road and stated that he was “surprised” by his result and was unsure that he did anything differently after competing in the Olympiad. His humility won thousands of fans in two short weeks and perhaps the world knows quite a bit more about the American-born Grandmaster of Italian ancestry.

I think it does shake up the top ten… Caruana has shown that he can beat Magnus. Their personal record is 5-4. It could have been 5-5 in this tournament if Fabiano had just find one really good move. It would have been 5-5, so Magnus doesn’t dominate him. He’s right there. He knows when he sits down with Magnus, it’s like… “You win some and I win some.”

~GM Maurice Ashley after the Sinquefield Cup~

The question remains whether Caruana represents the coming of several challengers for the world championship crown. It’s clear that he and players like Hikaru Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin, Teimour Radjabov, Anish Giri and Chinese upstarts Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi are waiting for a chance. However, they will have to get in line as perhaps the last stand of the middle-aged player from India will stand in the way.

Carlsen watches two of his peers closely.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Whether Carlsen or Viswanathan Anand wins, the future is an exciting one and Caruana is ready to make an impact. It remains to be seen whether he will by the first American-born player since Bobby Fischer to hold the crown. Also… he will give legitimacy to Nabakov’s Italian character Dottore Turati in “The Luzhin Defense“. If you ask Caruana if he has what it takes to be World Champion, he will probably answer in a diplomatic fashion, but the answer is becoming obvious. Let’s review his historic result!

Caruana’s Games from the historic 2014 Sinquefield Cup

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

9 Comments

  1. Interviews with Fabiano Caruana

    Round #1
    (vs. GM Veselin Topalov)

    Fabiano talks about key moments against Topalov including the questionable 17.g4, but defers any credit since there was only one round. “It’s only one round. Still an incredibly long way to go,” he stated.

    Round #2
    (vs. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave)

    Scintillating performance based on precise preparation. “It’s one thing to be surprised, it’s another to feel that your opponent has everything prepared.” At this point, he became #2 on the live list. He calls himself a “decent” player.

    Round #3
    (vs. GM Magnus Carlsen)

    Carlsen blunders with 31.Nh2?? allowing an instant win. Caruana admits that “it’s a great start and couldn’t hope for better.” He mentioned the shock of Carlsen’s 15.Bxf7+ and criticized himself for not analyzing it deeper when he played 14…Nc5. Yasser Seirawan exclaims, “Bravo Fabiano!”

    Round #4
    (vs. GM Levon Aronian)

    After the fourth win, he was “trying not to get ahead of myself”. Citing Dominguez-Karjakin he made a novelty on 15.Na2. He cited 22.Qh5 as being decisive. He discussed pending matchup with Nakamura.

    Round #5
    (vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura)

    Another win… this time over predecessor prodigy Nakamura. Exciting game where Caruana sacrificed his queen for active rooks, but missed 44…Bh4! Asked on what he did differently, he said “I’m playing more confidently… taking less time. I made decent moves at a good pace.” Nicknames were bandied about.

    Round #6
    (vs. Veselin Topalov)

    Probably the best game of the tournament. Caruana’s 24.Bxe6! got a shower of golden coins as it was a total demolition. He bristled being compared to Karpov’s 10/11 performance in 1994. “In terms of play, I’m not even close to Karpov… I didn’t expect I could do any thing like this.”

    Round #7
    (vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave)

    “This tournament has gotten boring,” quipped Maurice Ashley. Caruana called this situation “weird”. The move 15.g3 turned out to be the Achilles Heel as the white king was chased across the board but got caught in the center. “Mr. Perfect” is the favorite nick name of Jennifer Shahade.

    Round #8
    (vs. GM Magnus Carlsen)

    A near miss to go 8/8, but now the pressure of a perfect score is over. Caruana clinches the tournament with this result. The game was an Accelerated Dragon and Caruana pressed for a win with 18.g4!? but later missed his best chance with 29.Rfd1! Calls it his best performance.

    Round #9
    (vs. Hikaru Nakamura)

    Another near miss with 40.Rxg6! Disappointed with the missed win, it was the first time he was openly critical of his play, but still pleased. Now a three-point bulge over the field.

    Round #10
    (vs. GM Levon Aronian)

    Very happy “except for rounds eight and nine”.

    Videos by uschesschamps.com.

    1. Thanks again Daaim interesting video , its been a while since ive listned to any of the traditiaonal analyzers! Kinda funny really! lol , He doesnt say whats being LEARNED which is actually a good Ultramodern concept , well i guess maybe later! Deuces.

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