Fabiano Caruana – youngest US and Italian GM in history

7/20/2007 – 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.

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First Saturday tournament in Budapest

Pictorial report by Uwe Lauer


If you take the metro you arrive at the rear of the Hungarian Parliament


Walking in the direction of Falk Miksa you pass the famous "Man on a Bridge" monument

The man on the bridge is Imre Nagy (not a relative to László Nagy), martyr and prime minister of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. He did not want to resign from his ministership, and because of this, János Kádár had him hanged (and killed thousands of Hungarians at the time).

Budapest is a beautiful city with a lot of architectural treasures. Sometime influenced by Neo Renaissance, Neo Classicism, Neo Baroque and even ideas of Art Deco are spread all over the City.


A balcony in Budapest showing a unique mixture of different styles


The long Arcades oposite the Parliament. The busts show the faces of Hungarian politicians


The Margit Bridge connects Buda and Pest across the Danube. It is the second northernmost and second oldest public bridge in Budapest.


IM Gáspár Máthé with "First Saturday" organiser Laszlo Nagy


In the GM group Fabiano faces the strong FM Michael Hammes (Elo 2390). On the left we see IM Bui Vinh (Elo 2466) from Vietnam. Bui was defeated by Fabiano in the last round.


Fabiano finished first with 7.0/9 points and a performance of 2631

Fabiano Caruana was born on July 30th, 1992, in Miami Florida. He has American and Italian citizenship, but currently resides in Budapest, Hungary. Professional achievments:

Youngest grandmasters in history

No.
 Player
Nat.
years
months
days
year
 Sergey Karjakin
UKR
12
7
0
2002
 Parimarjan Negi
IND
13
3
22
2006
 Magnus Carlsen
NOR
13
3
27
2004
 Bu Xiangzhi
CHN
13
10
13
1999
 Teimour Radjabov
AZE
14
0
14
2001
 Ruslan Ponomaryov 
UKR
14
0
17
1997
 Etienne Bacrot
FRA
14
2
0
1997
 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
FRA
14
4
0
2005
 Peter Leko
HUN
14
4
22
1994
10 
 Yuri Kuzubov
UKR
14
7
12
2004
11 
 Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son 
VIE
14
10
0
2004
12 
 Fabiano Caruana
ITA
14
11
20
2007
13 
 Hikaru Nakamura
USA
15
2
19
2003
14 
 Pentala Harikrishna
IND
15
3
5
2001
15 
 Koneru Humpy
IND
15
1
27
2002
16 
 Judit Polgar
HUN
15
4
28
1991
17 
 Alejandro Ramirez
CRI
15
5
14
2003
18
 Bobby Fischer
USA
15
6
1
1958

See also Chess Prodigies and Mini-Grandmasters


A chat with Fabiano Caruana

Uwe Lauer: Fabiano, my first question would be... there is a saying "the sky's the limit". Until now you have always been progressing in your rating, playing very successfully. How do you set your goals for the future?

Fabiano Caruana: Well, I have some immediate goals. After I get my GM title I want to become a 2600 player very soon, maybe before the end of the year. That's the immediate goal. And of course I want to become world champion (laughing). That's ambitious, I know. But I think that I can reach Super GM level, like 2700. I think I will be able to reach this level.

Uwe: 2700 is when you can make a living from chess, a fairly decent living. There are now twenty something players who are 2700 or higher. IM Dimo Werner told me that the higher the rating the thinner the air gets. And I have the feeling now that from 2500 to 2600 will be the toughest step.

Fabiano: No, I think it gets harder each time. When I was 2200 I got 50 points in one tournament. I was 2513 in the April list, and now I am – unofficially – around 2575. So I am almost there. I think the most difficult part will be to move from 2600 to 2700. Because after that every tournament is very difficult. You have to have very strong opponents to make any kind of points.


Fabiano with his mum and dad in Budapest

When I was very young I improved quite quickly, at my amateur level. Then I ran into problems. I became very nervous before my games, and even during the game my anxiety did not leave me. Have you ever had any problems with your nerves, and if yes, what are you doing about it?

Usually I don't have any problems with this. Yeah, sometimes I am nervous before the game, but during the game I am relatively calm. If I am nervous it usually has to do with openings, with some opening problem. But I am not scared of any particular opponent, even those who are much stronger than me.

In your games do you prefer a more positional style, with half open positions, or creative open positions? Or don't you mind?

I think I have some problems in the opening, and usually I just aim to get a playable position where I can outplay my opponent. I don't really care too much if the position is more positional or tactical. But I think I am better in more tactical positions in general. Yesterday I played a game where I had to defend a very unclear position – up a piece. I think these are the kind of positions that I am best at. Defend and then get some attack. Usually I think I am quite good in defence.


A budding talent: Fabiano in 2003

I don't know whether it's a secret, but here in Budapest you are also working with GM Alexander Chernin who has a very good reputation as a teacher. So, what is he focusing on when he works with you?

Usually Alex has different topics which we look at. Prophylaxis for example. Calculation is another one.
He was taught by Dvoretzky, so their teaching methods are surely quite similar.

Are factors like "patience" a topic?

No, usually we don't concentrate on these practical factors during the game. Just technical things like calculation.

So training is not divided into opening, middle or endgame training?

No, not really. We have different topics, like I said. For example one is calculation, where I am given difficult positions e.g. a Benko study. He gives me a clock and we play. He has analyzed everything before and I have to make a correct move – usually in the defence. The positions are very difficult and the problems aren't just one-move calculations. I have to solve a problem and then I am confronted with a new one, and I have to solve that too. Finally it's over.


Memories of Alekhine: the young GM and his cat

There is still this fight going on between human beings and computers. Chess is a mathematical game but do you believe in something like intuition on the chessboard?

Of course, sometimes you can't just calculate the position, you have to play intuitively, because it's too complex to just calculate. But usually when I play I have some problems trusting my intuition during the game. Maybe it's a problem. Sometimes I just calculate too much, and since I have to check all the variations I waste a lot of time doing this. In general I don't think that humans can compete with computers now. And for example the last game of the Kramnik Deep Fritz match with Re1 and Re2, Nb1 – this shows that computers are able to play more like humans. In the next few years I think it will just be impossible to compete with a computer at all.

In this tournament, in your game against the Hungarian GM Fogarasi, you had rook takes g2. How many moves before did you see the chance for that sacrifice?

Fogarasi,Tibor (2425) - Caruana,Fabiano (2549) [B43]
First Saturday 2007 julius IGM Budapest (1), 07.07.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.0-0 Bc5 8.Nb3 Ba7 9.Kh1 Nc6 10.Bg5 h5 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.f4 d6 13.Be2 Bd7 14.Qd2 0-0-0 15.Rad1 Be8 16.Rf3 h4 17.h3 Rg8 18.Qe1 Ne7 19.f5 Bc6 20.Nd4 Bxd4 21.Rxd4 d5 22.exd5 Nxd5 23.Rc4?

23...Rxg2 0-1.

Actually I did not expect his last move, Rc4, and it turns out that was just a decisive mistake. I was looking at all the possibilities. Black had some advantage but it was not so clear, and then for some reason I noticed that I could take on g2, and if he takes, Ne3 wins, completely. Yes, because the rook is pinned on f3. After Ne3 my fork is king on g2 and rook on c4. So he will lose his rook on c4, and then his rook on f3 also. So he just loses all his pieces.

I am told that when you play against Kasparov you play against pure energy. You feel his mental and physical presence at the board. Do such factors somehow influence you? For example if you play against a woman – does that change your way of thinking, or is it just the position on the board that counts?

I am not really sure, but I think that I do think differently in some sense when I am playing someone like Michal Adams – a terrible game for me, actually. I sensed his presence. I sensed that he was a very strong GM, and I have never played a player of that strength. I was aware of that, but I don't think it influences my thinking too much.

Did Michael's reputation discourage you?

No, I sensed that he was confident, very confident. But I was hoping that I would be able to give him a good fight in that game, that I would be able – even if I lost – to creaet a lot of problems for him, to play an interesting game. But the tournament in Gibraltar was just terrible for me. I lost ten Elo points, and I played terribly. I lost like in 20 moves. It was one of my worst games ever.

Yes, but we cannot make progress without taking some blows, occationally. For sure you will play guys like Michael Adams on many more occations. But then your opening repertoire becomes decisive. Do you develop new openings, or do you work on improving variations?

Well, I am trying to improve my openings right now, because I think I have a lot of problems with both colors. And I am also trying to add some new openings to my repertoire, because I need more variety to surprise my opponent. If I have some problems with one variation I could switch to another. Right now against e4 I really only have two openings I can play. And I have problems with both. This is my plan in my opening work: first I have to clean up the variations I play, and then I want to add some new variations, to start playing them. And then I can begin to add them to my repertoire.

Do you do anything to improve your physical strength? Swimming, sports, something?

When I was living in Spain I used to run ten kms every day. Now in Hungary there are some problems, I don't have a track. Well, I have a track, but it is very far away. And so it's more difficult now. Also recently I have been getting sick for some reason. So, I think right now my physical form isn't so good, but I hope to improve it. I also do weight lifting every day, quite a lot actually. That's about it. I play some ping-pong, but that's just for fun.


Fabiano Caruana, 14. Profession: chess grandmaster

Chess players, especially "Wonder kids", are often only interested in the field of their special talent. Let's say the figures did not exist any more, what would you be interested in doing?

I like to write quite a bit. What I'm most interested in are movies. I know quite a bit of movies, I research them a lot. Those are my two main interests besides chess. I also like few sports like table tennis. But in general I don't have too many interests besides chess.

Well, then Budapest is a good place for you. Many Hollywood productions are right now coming to Budapest, because it's cheap to work here. One of the biggest movie studios in the world is under construction in Etyek, very close to Budapest. Could you imagine being a story board writer or even working as a movie director?

I don't think so. I usually, prefer mystery thrillers. My favourite movie is Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, I don't know if you have heard of it?

Yes, it's based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk. It is very anarchistic. A part of the plot is about some guys who are working on changing themselves and society through very simple and basic subversive actions. Very realistic. Do you like its anarchistic atmosphere?

I don't really relate to the message, what the people are trying to do. I like the film because it's very different and it's very creative in general. The entire idea behind it, and also the ending, which surprises you, because it's not something that you would expect. So, I guess it is the surprise I enjoy.

Thank you for the interview, and we all hope you get some kind of mystery thrillers on the board pretty soon.

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