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Fabiano Caruana, Italian Champion 2007

12/13/2007 – Our recent article which called 15-year-old Fabiano Caruana "Italy's top grandmaster" drew some criticism. While the youngster was definitely very talented, we were told, he was not the Italian champion or even clearly the strongest player in the country. Last week Fabiano put an end to the debate with a resounding three-point victory in the 2007 Italian Championship. Interview.
 

The 67th Italian Championship was held in the four-star Park Hotel San Michele in Martina Franca. Twelve players took part in in a round robin, which ended in a resounding three-point victory by the new Italian Champion, Fabiano Caruana. His performance was 2740, which exceeded a theoretical GM norm by a point and a half.

Interview with Fabiano

Congratulations, Fabiano , what an amazing victory! How does it feel?

I was very happy to win so convincingly, although after the fifth round the race was quite close. Sabino Brunello started nicely and was close to a GM norm, but in the end he collapsed and I was able to pull ahead by a few points.

But you lost to him, didn't you? Your only loss in the tournament...

In our game in round five he played 1.d4, which he probably prepared especially for this tournament, and I decided to try out the Slav, which I had never played before. My lack of experience in these structures clearly showed with moves like 9...cxd5? (although only later I made the decisive mistake 31...Qa6??, instead of 31...b3). Overall I can't say I played this game very well.

How did you recover from this defeat? You had been leading by a full point before this game, and now Brunello had caught you.


The new Italian Champion Fabiano Caruana, 15 years old

In the next round I had a one-sided encounter against Contin, and after winning I was again a point ahead of everyone else. But the next game against Fabio Bruno turned out to be a real nightmare. I can't really say what I did wrong in the opening, as I haven't analysed the game properly, but due to a clever tactic he emerged a pawn ahead in a "drawish" queen+knight ending. I think I defended this position competently in time trouble, until the time control was reached! Now with plenty of time I should have found the drawing possibility (instead of 42...Kg8, 42...f6! with the idea 43.Ne1 Qf7!!; in fact I missed this clever idea, since taking on c5 now loses to 44...d2) with ease, but instead I bungled and got a very unpleasant queen ending. Bruno has a tendency to play any kind of position until all play has been exhausted (which gained him the most combative player prize), and here he tortured me for 30 moves until I made the decisive blunder (84...Qb5, although putting my king on f5 before had made it difficult to defend). He overlooked a simple win with 86.Qe6 and eventually I salvaged a draw on move 120.

There was an incident during this game...

Yes, it happened when I claimed a draw by threefold repetition, at move 96. I told the arbiter my move, and then to clarify (I wasn't sure he understood my bad Italian) made the move on the board. Bruno contested the fact that I had made the move on the board and the arbiter (wrongly in my opinion) reversed the decision. Nevertheless, it was a dead draw at that point and we agreed some 24 moves later. I also could have claimed a draw a few times around move 105-120, but at that point the position was so dead I didn't even bother.

In the same round Brunello defeated Garcia Palermo and reduced your lead to half a point. Things were getting a wee bit tight, weren't they?

Yes. What was worse was that I would play much stronger players than he in the remaining four rounds! With this in mind, the game against Michele Godena (which I've annotated for you) was very important for the final standings. Beating a solid player like him with the black pieces is undoubtedly not a simple task (the last game he lost with white was against ... me, in May of 2007!), but with a good opening strategy and accurate play I was able to eventually defeat him. The game is very interesting strategically and tactically and despite numerous errors I believe it was generally very well played. The highlight of the game was his Re1! move, which if he had followed it up correctly with the manoeuver Re2-Be1, would have reached near equality. Despite one mistake on my part (...Kh7 instead of ...g5!, when there are some amazing variations) the final part of the game is a good demonstration of the domination of knight over bishop.

At the same time Brunello lost to Genocchio, so your lead was 1.5 points and the tournament was virtually decided. But you went on to win the next three games and to win the event by three full points. You were on fire...

Well, the final two games, after my win against Manca in round nine, were very unusual. 18.Bxb7 by Garcia Palermo is a weird blunder, and likewise Genocchio's 11...dxc5? (overlooking 12.d5 and 13.dxe6!; instead 11...g5 would have been stronger). My play was interesting but I don't think it merited 9.5/11; perhaps my greatest strength in this tournament were my practical decisions. Unfortunately too many of my games were very one-sided: against Bonafede, Contin, Garcia Palermo and Genocchio...

Your performance in this tournament was 2740.

Yes, this tournament raises me to 2611 (although it won't be sent in until the April rating list). I was also pleased I could try out some new openings here. Okay, my Slav tryout wasn't so inspiring, but my second Classical Sicilian went well against Mogranzini, and 2...d6 also proved successful against Godena.

Thanks for this interview, Fabiano, and good luck in your career! We will send you a couple of DVDs on the Slav.

The annotated game Godena-Caruana will appear in ChessBase Magazine 142. We will provide a replayable version on our news site in the next few days. In the meantime you can


Previous articles

Who was the future GM? Fabiano Caruana, Italy's top grandmaster!
18.10.2007 – He was born in Miami, Florida, in 1992, went to school in Brooklyn, played in Queens in the Susan Polgar Club, trained with Pal Benko, defeated a GM at the age of ten, moved to Spain, then to Hungary, and made his GM norms at the age of 14 years. Today, at 15, he is the strongest player in Italy and the world's youngest grandmaster. Pictorial answer to our quiz.

Fabiano Caruana – youngest US and Italian GM in history
20.07.2007 – At the "First Saturday" GM tournament in Budapest a 14-year-old lad took first place, scoring 7.0/9, a point and a half ahead of the rest. The 2631 performance gave Fabiano Caruana his final GM norm, making him the youngest US or Italian grandmaster in history (he has dual citizenship). We take you on a tour of Budapest, the tournament and end with an indepth chat with Fabiano.
Fabulous Fabiano
19.05.2003 – He's just ten years old, has trophies that are taller than himself, and travels to Europe to play in chess tournaments. Recently Fabiano Caruana of Brooklyn jetted to Nashville to win his section of the National Elementary Championship. Yet that is not his greatest triumph. Last September Fabiano beat a full-grown, certified grandmaster. More...
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