Battle Royale – The Fight to the Finish!



Chess is not just a game, it’s a battle ground where the opponents fight it out violently. It’s a battle of wits, intellectual superiority and nerves. One of the most famous battles off the Chessboard has been the Cold War between Russia and USA, where the opponents faced off each other in a rather non-violent (off-board) way, maneuvering their forces, making scientific discoveries, locking horns over the space race, pushing the boundaries of intellectual prowess determined to prove their superiority. But, there wasn’t any real direct one on one action on the ground to differentiate the two opponents.

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This lack of ‘real’ action later escalated into an on the Chessboard one on one battle between Boris Spaasky (Russia) and Bobby Fischer (USA) in 1972, where the respective governments were actively involved to win, and prove to the world at large, who the real superpower was! USA was victorious at last..

It was flashback time again in Round 14, when Sergey Karjakin (Russia) and Fabiano Caruana (USA) locked horns to decide the winner of FIDE Candidates 2016.

Would history repeat itself? Or would Mother Russia get her revenge?

Round 13, Sunday 27 March 2016
Caruana Fabiano½-½Svidler Peter
Aronian Levon½-½Karjakin Sergey
Topalov Veselin0-1Nakamura Hikaru
Anand Viswanathan½-½Giri Anish


Caruana Fabiano VS Svidler Peter (½-½) – Svidler equalized after the opening without any particular difficulties. But an impatient break in the centre with d5 gave Caruana a clear advantage. Caruana misplayed it and Peter held the edge, which was once again handed over to the American due to a tactical oversight. Caruana won a pawn in the endgame and kept grinding. Svidler at the right moment gave up his bishop for all of white’s pawns to take the game into rook+bishop vs rook endgame. On the 102 move Svidler went wrong and handed over a winning Philidor position to Caruana.  Fabiano still had 14 moves left to win and with best play he could have mated Svidler or won his rook on the 50th move. “I have studied it many times but never seem to remember how to win this endgame!”, was Fabiano’s statement after the game. The game ended in a draw and a heartbreak of some sorts for Caruana.

Aronian Levon VS Karjakin Sergey (½-½) – It was a beautifully played game by Levon. Through nimble manoeuvres he was able to obtain a clearly superior position. However, the position was so complicated and filled with so many possibilities that it was impossible for Aronian to calculate everything in the limited time that he had. As is usual with Sergey, he just didn’t give up. He fought on and on, finding compensation for his missing piece and defended that inferior position to hold the draw. “It is like you are in the process of making a beautiful painting and then you just throw the brush away!” was Aronian’s way of describing how the game went for him. Sergey on the other hand was pretty much happy with the outcome.

Topalov Veselin VS Nakamura Hikaru (0-1) – Topalov opened the game with 1.d4 hoping for an interesting King’s Indian by Nakamura. But the American was in a solid mood and played the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Right out of the opening Hikaru equalized and also got a slight edge. But it wasn’t sufficient to play ambitiously for a win. However, Topalov’s poor form in the tournament continued and he couldn’t keep the balance in the game. He let Nakmura win a pawn and also double his rooks on the seventh rank. The rest way just easy! Nakamura can now fight for the top spots in the tournament. As for Topalov, as he said after the game, “I just want this tournament to end!”

Anand Vishwanathan VS Giri Anish (½-½) – After doing it on previous two occasions – winning with the white pieces, could Anand do it once again? To beat Anish Giri in this tournament is close to an impossible task. It was a must-win game for Anand if he had to have any chances of winning this tournament. Vishy chose the Guioco Piano and the players repeated the first eight moves from the game Anand versus Aronian from the ninth round of this tournament. On the ninth move Anand unleashed the novelty – 9.Bg5. Vishy had a chance to gain an opening advantage, but he made an inaccurate move and suddenly the initiative was with black. Anish played well, slowly but steadily increasing the pressure. Anish, who is usually very solid and careful decided to let things spin out of control today. He sacrificed his bishop for two pawns and unclear compensation. For the first time in the game it seemed as if Anand had the chance to win. But the position was extremely complicated and the time on the clock was ticking down. Vishy made a few inferior moves and ended up in an inferior position. But the Indian kept finding important resources and after 52 moves the game ended in a draw.


Round 14, Monday 28 March 2016
Svidler Peter½-½Anand Viswanathan
Giri Anish½-½Topalov Veselin
Nakamura Hikaru½-½Aronian Levon
Karjakin Sergey1-0Caruana Fabiano


Svidler Peter VS Anand Vishwanathan (½-½) – This was the second most important game of the day as its result could have had a big impact on Karjakin and Caruana’s decisions in their game. Svidler, as usual, began with the English Opening. This time Anand opted for the more solid 6…Re8 rather than 6…e4. Svidler’s manoeuvre with Ne1-c2-e3 looked a tad time consuming, and already after the opening Black had equalized. Anand had no real problems to hold the game and thus Vishy fiished third.

Giri Anish VS Topalov Veselin (½-½) – A typical Catalan where White had a tiny pull but Black slowly and steadily equalized. This was perhaps the dullest game of the day. It was the 14th draw in a row for Anish, while Topalov finishes at minus 5.

Nakamura Hikaru VS Aronian Levon (½-½) – Hikaru Nakamura went for the solid Qa4+ Variation in the Ragozin. The players followed a few of the old games until move 13, although it seemed as if the moves they were making were not prepared at home. Hikaru won a pawn but Levon had sufficient compensation. In the end al the pieces were exchanged and the players agreed to a draw.

Karjakin Sergey VS Caruana Fabiano (0-1) – Sergey Karjakin could have begun the game with the safe 1.Nf3 but he decided to play the opening that he has the most experience in: 1.e4. Fabiano Caruana replied with the Sicilian Defence, a natural choice. If Fabiano had gone for a safer opening and reached an equal position, and realized that Vishy was drawing his game, there would be no way to win the title. By playing the Sicilian he sent out a clear message: he didn’t really care what’s going on on other boards, he wanted to win this game. By the third hour of play all the other three games had ended – it looked like even the other players wanted to get over with it and focus on this all important game. Anand’s game against Svidler had ended in a draw. This meant that Sergey could become the champion with just a draw. However, instead of letting such external factors affect him, Karjakin played the moves that were demanded by his position. Fabiano’s 36…Re5-e4 turned out to be the crucial blunder of the game. Karjakin spotted the tactical opportunity and immediately sacrificed his rook with Rxd5! As Sergey said after the game, “This was not such a difficult move to spot.” The black king was just too exposed and on the 42nd move Caruana stretched out his hand in resignation. The entire playing hall erupted: Sergey Karjakin had done it, he had become the World Championship Challenger!

Karjakin vs Caruana Finale
Karjakin vs Caruana Finale


Final Standings

1Karjakin, Sergey8.5
2Caruana, Fabiano7.5
Anand, Viswanathan7.5
4Giri, Anish7
Svidler, Peter7
Aronian, Levon7
Nakamura, Hikaru7
8Topalov, Veselin4.5


Sergey Karjakin, the youngest Grandmaster in the world made Mother Russia proud! The ghost of 1972 has finally been put to rest with the powerful play of this phenomenally talented player.

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen declared himself the ‘favorite’ when asked about his views about Sergey Karjakin as his challenger for the World Championship to be held in Nov, 2016.

The excitement never ends!

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

  5. Strategic Street Fight – Round 10-12

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