Strategic Street Fight – Round 10-12



Olympic Gold medalist and the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, is known to be a slow starter of the blocks and yet we see him win races consistently with a beastly powerful flourish at the death, outperforming the rivals with massive margins and going on to win. What is the secret of success?

Yes, you got it right. Strategy!!!

Strategic Street Fight – Round 10-12 @FIDEchess FIDE candidates Click To Tweet

Fabiano Caruana has timed himself in just the similar way at the Candidates 2016 tournament. Starting the tournament at a slow pace, only to go hammer and tongs in the closing stages of the tournament. Its not over yet, but the way Fabiano ripped apart Vishy’s Kingside in Round 10 will go down in history books. This win would do a world of good for his confidence in this tournament. Interestingly, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has hinted that the World Championship in November might take place in the Trump Tower in New York. This should really pump up Fabiano Caruana.

Vishy lost Round 10, but displayed his winning resolve by extracting revenge from Sergey Karjakin in Round 11. We are seeing a completely new Anand at this event. One who is ready to grind slightly better positions for hours on end. Garry Kasparov once said that his matches with Karpov made him what he is today. Maybe the World Championship matches with Magnus Carlsen have inspired Anand to take up the slow and incremental approach towards chess!


Round 10, Wed. 23 March 2016

Svidler Peter½-½Nakamura Hikaru
Karjakin Sergey½-½Giri Anish
Caruana Fabiano1-0Anand Viswanathan
Aronian Levon½-½Topalov Veselin


Svidler Peter VS Nakamura Hikaru (½-½) – White seemed to have a slight edge that remained right until the end of the game. Maybe with 25.Bc3 Peter could have kept his extra pawn and made Black to suffer. Instead he allowed Rh4 and the game ended in a draw. In the post-game interview Nakamura did say something interesting which would be interesting for chess analysts to go over. Hikaru said that Black’s move 11…Qe7 is the best. That is also the move he played. Why did he not play 11…Qd7 which looks more logical? Hikaru said that 11…Qd7 is a mistake. Working for a few minutes with the engine I wasn’t able to find anything particularly wrong with Qd7. But maybe there is a deep point which I am missing and I invite the readers to have a crack at this position to know whether Nakamura was correct or not.

Karjakin Sergey VS Giri Anish (½-½) – Another game which will end up in the Meran books showing how Black can equalize without any problems out of the opening! Anish Giri has made ten draws on a trot in this tournament. But against Karjakin it wasn’t his fault that Sergey was not in an ambitious mood. Anish made the most solid moves out of the opening, got in …c5 after due preparation and made a relatively easy draw. Black must make sure that his bishop on b7 doesn’t become passive forever. The thing about these top players is that you will never see them making a committal decision like a5-a4 if they aren’t sure that they cannot get in c5. One can bank on Anish to find the best way to engineer the c5 break in the position. He began with 20…Qe7 and then after 21.Qc2 came the important move 21…Rfe8! 22.Bf3 c5!

Caruana Fabiano VS Anand Vishwanathan (1-0) – I might not be completely wrong to say that 12.Qc2, which was a novelty, was the winning move of the game. The reason is very simple – Rustam Kasimdzhanov found this idea on the night before the game, discussed it with Caruana. Together they must have seen quite a few variations and also understood how things flow in this line. In short Caruana had a feel for the position. When Anand got it on the board he couldn’t really unravel the details in just 10-15 minutes. The position was just too complicated. Fabiano showed a few variations which, according to him, even the computers do not understand. This shows that the move 12.Qc2 was an excellent practical choice and something that we can expect from a top level second like Kasimdzhanov, who incidentally used to be Anand’s second earlier.

Aronian Levon VS Topalov Veselin (½-½) – Aronian began the game with a slight advantage. His edge grew substantially when instead of going Bh3 Topalov decided to play Ne4. After that it seemed as if Levon would grind down his opponent, or at least put some pressure on him. But it turned out that he wasn’t in the best possible shape and let the advantage slip in a matter of four moves. The pressure is surely getting to the Armenian, who in some ways is unable to showcase his best chess here as the tournament is coming close to an end. Yet, he is just half a point behind the leaders and definitely still has chances to win the tournament.


Round 11, Thursday 24 March 2016
Aronian Levon0-1Svidler Peter
Topalov Veselin½-½Caruana Fabiano
Anand Viswanathan1-0Karjakin Sergey
Giri Anish½-½Nakamura Hikaru


Aronian Levon VS Svidler Peter (0-1) – We haven’t seen many black wins in this event – there has been only one prior to Svidler’s win against Aronian today. Going into the middlegame it definitely did not look as if Svidler would win this one. However, Aronian tried to play it a little bit too safe. Instead of going for the most decisive continuation with 24.Nh6+! he settled for the practical 24.Bxe7 followed by Ne5. As Aronian said after the game, “This practical approach was not at all practical! I should have attacked.” We could say that Svidler was lucky today, but in the event he has been one of the unluckiest players. He has drawn or lost so many better or winning positions. Finally, he was rewarded for his persistence.

Topalov Veselin VS Caruana Fabiano (½-½) – The game was a complete roller coaster ride. The opening was one of the most exciting positions that we got in the entire tournament. The opening went like a dream for Topalov, who got an excellent position. Usually such advantages are enough for Veselin to convert them into a full point, but in Moscow, he has been completely off colour. He immediately went wrong and handed the advantage to Caruana. Fabiano played the middlegame very well and was completely winning when his nerves began to show. He was low on time and made a few elementary mistakes. As soon as the time control was reached, the position was no longer so clear. He took the pragmatic decision to make a draw before things went completely out of control.

Anand Vishwanathan VS Karjakin Sergey (1-0) – “Vishy Anand simply outclassed Sergey Karjakin! Karjakin is not in the same league as Anand.” These are the words of Garry Kasparov who describes Anand’s win with the words, “Hats off!” and recognizing that he “beat a very strong player 20 years ago!” Anand really did play one of the most profound endgames ever. Sergey Karjakin is known to be a tenacious defender. However, he completely underestimated Vishy’s endgame play and was handed his first defeat of the tournament. 10.Nxe5 was the first new move of the game. In the post-game interview Anand credited his second Grzegorz Gajewski with finding that this line was not as equal as it looked and that the endgame could get quite unpleasant. Many people thought that 19.Qg5 was synonymous to a draw offer by Anand. But little would they have thought that the game would go on for another 50 moves! The opposite coloured bishop endgame was definitely drawish, but the crucial period of the game came around move 35 when Sergey was already under some time pressure and needed to find the accurate moves to hold the balance. 36…Rc8 was played by Karjakin, and it turned out to be a mistake. Instead he should have broken back with 36…f5!, when the game would have ended in a draw. After 36…Rc8 Anand made two extremely accurate moves 37.f5! Bd7 and now 38.h4! And with these two pawn moves he had already secured a near to decisive advantage.

Giri Anish VS Nakamura Hikaru (½-½) – There is a cruel mime being spread on Twitter: “Anish Giri was in deep trouble and in danger of winning. But he has managed to fight back and save the draw.” If Anish had taken all the chances that he has got until now, he would have been the leader of the event. Unfortunately he is simply unable to win his games. Today he had a very pleasant position against Hikaru right until the very end of the game. Then he made a tactical oversight and was lucky that he still had a possibility to make a draw. But in any case Anish will be the one who would be depressed with his result as he was in driver’s seat for most of the game.


Round 12, Friday 25 March 2016
Svidler Peter½-½Giri Anish
Nakamura Hikaru1-0Anand Viswanathan
Karjakin Sergey1-0Topalov Veselin
Caruana Fabiano½-½Aronian Levon


Svidler Peter VS Giri Anish (½-½) – A long game between Peter Svidler and Anish Giri of the Netherlands never strayed far from equality and was drawn after 85 moves. Both Svidler and Giri remain at 50 percent, which almost mathematically eliminates from winning. It was also Giri’s 12th draw.

Nakamura Hikaru VS Anand Vishwanathan (1-0) – The comeback man, to the chagrin of a billion fans, has been beaten back – Anand was defeated in only 26 moves by Nakamura. Anand, who was tied for the lead heading into the round, had Black against Hikaru Nakamura of the United States. Unfortunately for Anand, he ran into a great piece of home preparation by Nakamura, who baited him into a risky advance on the kingside. After only 15 moves, Anand’s position was already lost. He resigned by Move 26. It was Anand’s third loss of the tournament and Nakamura’s second victory.

Karjakin Sergey VS Topalov Veselin (1-0) – The first two games to finish in Round 12 changed the leaderboard, as has happened in each of the last four rounds. One day after losing to Viswanathan Anand of India, Sergey Karjakin of Russia bounced back by beating Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria. Karjakin, who was White, capitalized on risky and ultimately poor play by Topalov to win his third game of the tournament.

Caruana Fabiano VS Aronian Levon (½-½) – The game between Fabiano Caruana of the United States and Levon Aronian of Armenia was also important for the standings. Caruana began the round tied for the lead, while Aronian was a full point behind. Caruana, who was White, used an anti-Marshall plan in the Ruy Lopez. Following an unusual sequence of exchanges, Caruana gained a pawn majority in the center, but Aronian had a pawn on c3. With some difficulty, Aronian was able to protect that pawn. After exchanges left each side with a queen, rook and pawns, it seemed that only Caruana had any chances to win. But Aronian organized a pawn breakthrough on the kingside that gave him a pawn on h2. After a forced exchange of queens, it seemed that Caruana was in trouble, but his pawns saved him as Aronian could never attack them without losing his h pawn or allowing Caruana’s center pawn to advance, so the players agreed to a draw.


Leader Board after Round 12

1Caruana, Fabiano7
Karjakin, Sergey7
3Anand, Viswanathan6.5
4Giri, Anish6
Svidler, Peter6
Aronian, Levon6
7Nakamura, Hikaru5.5
8Topalov, Veselin4


With only 2 rounds to go, it is a 3 way fight between Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin and Vishwanathan Anand.

Fabiano Caruana has games with Peter Svidler and Sergey Karjakin in Round 13 and 14 respectively. The game against Peter should be an easier one for Fabiano, while the one with Sergey Karjakin could turn out to be the tournament decider.

Sergey Karjakin has games with Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana in Round 13 and 14 respectively. Both of these games are going to be tough ones as Levon has nothing to lose from here and he plays for glory, whereas, Fabiano is leading along with Sergey and knows that he has to win.

Vishwanathan Anand has games with Anish Giri and Peter Svidler in Round 13 and 14 respectively. Anish being out of form and Peter being Vishy’s alltime bunny, it would be a good opportunity for Vishy to go in for 2 wins and stake a claim to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship.

If Round 10,11 & 12 were anything to go by, we surely have a “Mortal Kombat” of sorts on our hands. We will witness the selection of a Lui Kang (Candidates winner) to challenge Shang Tsung (Magnus Carlsen) for the World Championship.

Don’t move from your seats folks, as they say, it isn’t over till it’s truly over!

Please read previous articles in this series here:

  1. Black and White – An insight about FIDE Candidates Tournament 2016

  2. Mesmerizing Mindgames – The story uptil Round 3

  3. 2016 World Chess Candidates Tournament: The Rollercoaster Begins – Round 4-6!

  4. The Tiger Strikes – Round 7-9


Featured Image source: Flickr

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