Candidates Tournament 2016: Round 10, Caruana Catches Anand in Prepared Net

Karjakin and Caruana lead by a half point, 4 rounds left

Giri, Caruana, Aronian, Svidler, Anand, Nakamura, Topalov, Karjakin battle it out in Moscow.Official logo ©
Giri, Caruana, Aronian, Svidler, Anand, Nakamura, Topalov, Karjakin battle it out in Moscow.
Official logo ©

Round 10 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2016 took place on Wednesday 23rd March.

Fabiano Caruana, came out obviously refreshed after the rest day and took his second win of the tournament. Following up his round eight win over Hikaru Nakamura, he took a point from former World Champion, Viswanathan Anand in this one.

Playing with the white pieces, he wielded the English Opening, deviating from Aronian-Anand, Saint Louis 2015, which was drawn in 31. He chose 12.Qc2 instead of Aronian’s 12.Bg5. However, the game transposed to Capraro-Schafer, Lugano 2000 (1-0) and then came the real novelty, Anand’s 13…Ne4 rather than the horrid-looking 13…Ne7. From there, 14.Rad1 lured Black in to playing the natural 14…Bf5 and after 15.Ne5 Black had a decision to make.

In the diagram position, …Nxg3 is absolutely begging to be played. Not only would a pawn fall, but the f1-rook would be attacked, and there would be a discovery on the White Queen. This looks bad for White at first glance. If we cast our mind back to the previous round, Caruana looked to be in all kinds of trouble against Anish Giri, also getting into a bit of a fix in the opening. Is this the second opening error in as many rounds?

Well no, it was actually a rather nice, obviously prepared, bluff from White. And it was also a goad to Black – “go on, I dare ya”. Anand declined, opting instead for 15…Nd6.

So what if he had accepted, and played 15…Nxg3? Well, it does not seem to work out as badly for White as one might think. White replies with 16.e4! Anything other than 16…Nxf1 obviously works out better for White, and then there comes 17.exf5 and the forced 17…Nxh2. Here, White has a few respectable options, 18.Bxh2, 18.Bxc6, 18.Nxc6. No doubt Anand got here quite quickly, and either did not feel comfortable taking Caruana on in an obviously prepared line, or didn’t like his position, or felt it drew and he wanted to play to win. It certainly does seem absolutely level pegging after 18.Bxc6 and 18.Nxc6.

So, after 15…Nd6, White continues still with 16.e4 Bh7 17.Qe2, nicely prepared, Caruana knows what he’s doing and the Queen is eyeing the h5-square. He has only one thing on his mind here, and that is going for the Black King. 17…Ne7 was a bit negative from Anand, who knows that White has his tail up and is battening down the hatches. A bit too much, though, he is hugely inactive and hampering his forces. Ne7 also takes the knight off of covering the e5-square. This validates White’s next – 18.Bxh6!

This move looks like a huge error from White, chess engine lights go off all over the place, and advocate, instead, Rb1, Nxc4, Rde1, a4, with a plus to White. Here, it could have appeared that Caruana has fluffed it – even the best evaluations give only 0.00. However, this is where human triumphs over computer in all cases, the purpose of preparation, is to achieve a playable position. Not only this, but to know it better than the opponent.

From the diagram position, above, there came 18…gxh6 19.Qh5 and Caruana is keeping to his plan with the knowledge that he can. He does not focus on mere mathematical evaluations, taking the top line and getting distracted by moving an irrelevant rook or pushing a pawn over on the opposite wing. He wants the Black King and he takes the route that keeps to the point, maintains the initiative, and presents the problems for Black to solve. And he does this while constantly giving Black options – while knowing which are valid and which are not. This is human chess at its finest, dear reader.

Anand’s choice to attempt to relieve the pressure on his position, was 19…Nf5. It is now bare knuckle stuff, giving material to try and change the situation, distract White, throw him off course, somehow. To be quite honest, the knight was nothing but a liability anyway. With its sacrifice, Anand frees his position a little, and can challenge the White Queen. However, after 20.exf5 Qg5 21.Qxg5+ hxg5, the situation remains largely unchanged — White still holds the better positional stance, only now with equal material.

All credit to Anand for trying, but from here his position deteriorated rather rapidly. I don’t think there was very much he could have done, honestly. He probably ended up trying a bit too hard for active defence, but had nothing to throw at White and White knew it. This all led to a further surrendering of the exchange by Black, rook for bishop. Soon after, Caruana had the point. A very nice game indeed by the American, who brought Anand back down to Earth with a bump from his win against Aronian in the previous round, and joined Karjakin in the lead.

Karjakin himself got in to a semi-slav with Anish Giri who did not break his trend so far in this tournament of drawing his games. Niether player played very ambitiously, and the position quickly simplified as the players exchanged down to a draw in 32.

Svidler-Nakamura and Aronian-Topalov got some online onlookers a little excited as they brought out the exact same opening. I think the fact that it was a four-knights English rather than a Najdorf or Berlin was partly the reason for the excitement, the games separating around move 9. Svidler-Nakamura ended in repetition on move 30 without too much event.

The other game was also a repetition draw, but a little more eventful, with White being better for a considerable part of it before Black managed to swing things. Topalov pressed, as one would expect, but the position became quite fixed, and the players split the point.

Position after 10 rounds:
Caruana, Karjakin – 6
Anand, Aronian – 5½
Giri – 5
Svidler – 4½
Nakamura – 4
Topalov – 3½

Round 11, 24 March, 15:00 local time
GM Levon Aronian – GM Peter Svidler
GM Veselin Topalov – GM Fabiano Caruana
GM Viswanathan Anand – GM Sergey Karjakin
GM Anish Giri – GM Hikaru Nakamura

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