London Classic: Caruana wins again

by Albert Silver
12/7/2017 – Round five promised a lot more than what it yielded, but the audience won’t have left feeling the players did not deliver. Magnus Carlsen played a masterful game against Wesley So, achieving a won endgame, only to blunder it and draw. The winner of the day was once again Fabiano Caruana, who defeated Vishy Anand and now leads by a full point. Report with analysis by GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Round five

Short of an extraordinary run, the spotlight of every round will always start on board number one: Magnus Carlsen. While he has shown a desire to play and go for it, his overall performance has been slightly lacking as was seen in his first round game against Fabiano Caruana when he failed to convert a good position, one we normally expect him to win.

His game against Wesley So took that to another level and he will really be kicking himself for such a fine opportunity missed. Facing a strange novelty in the Berlin on move five(!), he proceeded to outplay his opponent in a vintage display. He maneuvered the game into a winning endgame, until he finally went astray.

Always the center of attention, Magnus Carlsen came so very close to beating Wesley So | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Magnus Carlsen ½ - ½ Wesley So

[Event "9th London Chess Classic 2017"] [Site "London"] [Date "2017.12.06"] [Round "5"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2837"] [BlackElo "2788"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "136"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bg5 (5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 Be6 7. Qe2 Nd7 8. Nb3 Bb6 9. Ng5 Nf8 10. O-O Bxb3 11. axb3 f6 12. Nf3 Ne6 13. Kh1 Qd7 {0-1 (45) Caruana,F (2802)-Nakamura,H (2786) INT 2017}) 5... Nd4 { For all practical purposes, this is the novelty since the only examples in the database are by players rated under 2100.} 6. Nxd4 Bxd4 7. c3 Bb6 8. Nd2 c6 9. Ba4 h6 10. Bh4 d6 11. Nc4 Bc7 12. Ne3 Bb6 13. Bb3 g5 14. Bg3 Bxe3 15. fxe3 Bg4 16. Qd2 Nh5 17. O-O O-O 18. Be1 Qe7 19. h3 Be6 20. Qe2 Bxb3 21. Qxh5 Bc2 22. Qe2 Ba4 23. b3 Bb5 24. a4 Ba6 25. b4 b6 26. c4 Bb7 27. a5 f6 28. d4 Qh7 29. c5 bxc5 30. bxc5 Qxe4 31. cxd6 exd4 32. Qc4+ Kg7 33. a6 $1 Bc8 34. Qxd4 Qxd4 35. exd4 Rb8 36. Bf2 Rf7 37. d5 cxd5 38. Rfc1 d4 39. Bxd4 Bf5 40. Rc7 Rd8 41. Bc5 Rdd7 42. Rxd7 Rxd7 $16 43. Kf2 Be4 44. g4 f5 45. Ke3 Kf6 46. Ra5 Bc2 47. Rb5 Ke6 48. Rb2 f4+ 49. Kd4 Bd1 50. Rb8 f3 51. Ke3 Kd5 52. Ba3 $1 {Bolstering d6 and preparing to mop up the black pawns on the kingside.} Be2 53. Rh8 $1 Kc4 54. Rxh6 $18 Kb3 {[#]} 55. Bc5 $4 {This is the culprit!} ({The right continuation was} 55. Bc1 $1 {which will allow White to capture g5 and still hold on to d6. This is essential in the war effort.} Kc4 56. Rg6 Bd3 ({ Obviously, now} 56... Kd5 {is met with} 57. Ba3 {and g5 just falls, making way for the kingside pawn rush.}) 57. Rf6 {and suddenly Black is in zugzwang. For example,} Bc2 ({Trying to maintain the status quo with} 57... Be2 {won't work.} 58. Ba3 Kb3 59. Bc5 Kc4 60. Rf5 $1 {and Black loses the g-pawn and the game.}) 58. Kxf3 Kd5 59. Ba3 Rg7 (59... Rh7 60. Kg3 Ke5 61. Rf8 Bd3 62. Re8+ Kd5 ({Not } 62... Kf6 $2 63. Bb2+ Kg6 64. Re6+ Kf7 65. d7) 63. Rg8) 60. Kg3 {threatening h4! and starting a second front with the march of the g-pawn.} Rh7 61. Rf8 { with the idea of Rg8 and Rxg5.} Rg7 (61... Ke6 62. Re8+ Kd7 63. Rg8 $18) 62. h4 gxh4+ 63. Kxh4 $18) 55... Kc4 56. Bd4 Kd5 57. Rg6 Rxd6 {The loss of the d6-pawn compromises White's winning chances, and Black now has enough resources to hold, albeit with great precision.} 58. Rxg5+ Ke6 59. Bxa7 Rxa6 60. Bc5 (60. Rg6+ Kf7 61. Rxa6 Bxa6 62. Kxf3 {is a basic draw.}) 60... Ra2 61. Kf4 f2 $1 62. Re5+ Kf7 63. Rf5+ Kg8 64. Bxf2 Bf1 $1 65. Kg3 Ra3+ 66. Rf3 Rxf3+ 67. Kxf3 Bxh3 68. Kf4 Bxg4 1/2-1/2

Winning with the Ruy Lopez Vol. 1: Berlin Wall and others

Among the open games the only opening with which White can really fight for an advantage in the long term is the Ruy Lopez. But in order to make this serious effort, he has buckle down and learn a whole series of sub-variations. That is what the professionals do, including of course Viktor Bologan, who now reveals the secrets of his own grandmaster repertoire.

The missed win will grate at him, being the perfectionist he is, but it did show flashes of the brilliance his fans are waiting for him to unleash (and his opponents praying he won’t).

Another game that failed to live up to its promise was that between Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Frenchman is the one player with a genuine chance of denying Carlsen of the overall Grand Chess Tour, but he absolutely needs to outscore him. In his game against the Armenian, he had black in an 3.f3 line of the Grunfeld. A novelty by Aronian with 15.Bc5 quickly went sour, and Black got the upperhand. This was the window of opportunity MVL needed and now had his chance. After two moves he made an imprecision and was in danger of losing his advantage in its entirety.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave missed a good chance to challenge Carlsen for the Grand Chess Tour | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Black seemed to lose confidence in his ability to fight to win it, and rushed to simplify and draw the game with 19…Ne3, which concluded the game in a repetition a few moves later. However, he could have played 19…b5! and fought for his place under the sun.

After facing the task of fighting to equalize... with white, Levon Aronian is given a reprieve | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Afterwards Aronian explained what happened, including a mild ribbing of commentator Maurice Ashley:

Levon Aronian post-game with Maurice Ashley | Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube

Finally, the last and most impacting game was obviously the win by Fabiano Caruana over Vishy Anand. Without further ado, here are the instructive explanations by GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson.

Fabiano Caruana 1-0 Vishy Anand (annotated by GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson)

[Event "9th London Chess Classic 2017"] [Site "London"] [Date "2017.12.06"] [Round "5"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C48"] [WhiteElo "2799"] [BlackElo "2782"] [Annotator "Tiger Hillarp"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 (3. Bc4 {has never been more popular, but the Ruy Lopez still leads to more complex positions and is the more ambitious option.}) 3... Nf6 {The Berlin Defence is known to be super solid since the time when Kramnik used it to win a World Championship Match against Kasparov. I believe it was Julian Hodgson who pointed out that the downside of playing 1.e4, is that it is not defended.} 4. d3 $1 {My "!" might seem a bit puzzling, but it is the only way to keep a reasonable amount of pieces left on the board while not ending up with a swap of the e-pawns.} ({The old main line} 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 (5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 {is another, more popular, line. It seem to me like squeezing water out of a stone. But, let us be clear, I can only get away with such a statement because I'm strong enough to have some inkling of what I am saying, while not being strong enough to actually understand what I am saying. Really, much of what goes on in these games is beyond our understanding; especially how hard it is to actually handle these things over the board without an engine as help. The drawing tendencies in the Berlin are impending and it takes a whole lot of energy, focus and knowledge to be able to win against another strong player here. This is what the game is like today. It is a struggle with the thinnest of margins.}) 5... Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 {is not seen often between the top players. Only Vachier Lagrave seems happy to play this in long games nowadays.}) 4... Bc5 {The bishop is not very well placed here if White takes on c6, but against every other set-up it is optimal.} 5. Nc3 {This move is generally played in tandem with a Bxc6-followed-by-long-castling-strategy.} ({Caruana usually plays} 5. c3 { , when lately} O-O 6. O-O Re8 7. Bg5 {has done very well for White.} h6 8. Bh4 a6 9. Bc4 {leads to a position that can arise from the giuoco piano, minus the rook on e8. Because of this detail, Black should avoid} Na5 {due to} (9... g5 10. Bg3 Ba7 11. Nbd2) 10. Bxf7+ Kxf7 11. b4 $14) (5. O-O Nd4 {gives Black an easy game.}) (5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 {has been popular too, but in the last year Black has done well with} Be6 $5 7. O-O Bd6 8. d4 Nd7 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Nxe5 Bxe5 11. f4 Bd4+ 12. Kh1 f5 {The engine likes the position for White after} 13. Qe2 {, but it could be a superficial evaluation:} O-O 14. Rd1 Qe7 15. Nf3 Bc5 16. Re1 Rae8 17. exf5 $2 (17. e5 h6) 17... Bd5 $1 18. Ne5 Rxf5 $15 {and Black went on to win, in Robson,R (2665)-Nakamura,H (2790) ch-USA 2017.}) 5... O-O 6. Bxc6 dxc6 {Caruana has lost two rapid games against Grischuk from this position, but he seems to have faith in it still.} 7. h3 (7. Ne2 Re8 8. h3 Nd7 9. g4 Bb4+ $5 10. Kf1 {I find it hard to believe that this move fits with White's set-up.} (10. Bd2 Bxd2+ (10... Bf8 $1) 11. Qxd2 c5 12. O-O-O $13) 10... Bf8 11. Ng3 Nc5 12. Be3 f6 13. Nf5 {White's plan looks menacing, but if Black can defend (which should be quite possible) then the bishop pair could become a factor in the latter part of the game.} Ne6 14. Rg1 Kh8 15. h4 g6 16. Nh6 Qe7 $17 {and White's attack came to a complete halt as g5 is met with Bxh6 and h5 with Bxh6 followed by g5. Caruana,F (2795)-Grischuk,A (2780) Champions Showdown G30 rapid 2017}) 7... Nd7 {Black starts rearranging his minor pieces. The knight is headed for e6 and Bc5 will be solid on d6 or tucked away on f8. It will be difficult for White to open up the position without simultanesly opening a pandoras box of awesome bishop power.} ({Having seen the course the game takes, I went back to this moment to ask myself if there is no way for Black to get the bishop to f8 in one go. Indeed there is:} 7... Re8 8. Be3 Bf8 {, intending a fast Nf6-d7-c5-e6, will win a tempo for Black compared to the game if White continues along the same lines. In a blitz game Caruana made use of a different version of the same plan we will soon see:} 9. a4 a5 10. O-O b6 (10... Nd7) 11. Nd2 Be6 {As I understand it, the bishop should only go here when f6 has been played (so that it can retreat to f7).} (11... Nd7) 12. Ne2 Nh5 13. g4 Nf6 14. Ng3 {The plan is back on track.} Nd7 15. Kh2 g6 16. Rg1 Be7 {Black is drifting.} 17. Nf5 Bg5 18. Nf3 Bxe3 19. fxe3 Kh8 20. Qe1 c5 21. b3 gxf5 $2 22. gxf5 Bxf5 23. exf5 e4 24. Ng5 Ne5 25. Kh1 f6 26. Ne6 {and White went on to win, in Caruana,F (2800)-Nakamura,H (2785) Speed 3m+2spm 2017. It is a nice illustration of the g4/Nc3-e2-g3-f5 plan.}) 8. Be3 $1 Bd6 9. Ne2 Re8 10. g4 Nc5 ({Grischuk's idea} 10... Bb4+ {is not out of the question here.}) 11. Ng3 Ne6 {White would like to push the pawns forward on the kingside, but as long as Bc8 keeps an eye on g4, it is not possible ot play h4, while g4-g5 doesn't solve the problem as h4 is still (annoyingly) answered with ...Bg4. However, this is why the knight was rerouted to g3. It will act as a plug on f5 and allow White to continue to push the pawns. Ergo, there is no reason for Black to keep the c8-g4-diagonal open anymore.} ({The engine likes} 11... g6 {, but it looks illogical to give White something to bit into on the kingside. I don't trust it.}) 12. Nf5 c5 {Now White's options in the center has been radically diminished. It's a all eggs in one basket situation where the basket is the kingside.} 13. h4 a5 14. h5 Ra6 $5 {A flexible way to get the rook to participate.} (14... Bd7 $6 {is a sorry excuse for a move. Not only is the bishop not fulfilling any function on d7 that it didn't carry out from c8, but also it is more in the way of the other pieces. Never play Bc8-d7 or Bc1-d2 unless you have a clear idea of why you are doing it.}) 15. Qd2 { Black's pieces are in good spots and no further slow improvement is in sight, so it is time for some activity.} Nd4 $1 16. Rh3 Bf8 $1 {It is often good to retreat the bishops to the last rank when the opponent has active knight which lack real outposts. This is such case. The bishops could actually not be more active than they are (while not stepping on the toes of the other pieces); not without a major change in the pawn structure.} 17. O-O-O Be6 {Finally Anand decides to move the bishop. As I said before; I like the bishop on c8. Both} ( 17... a4 {and}) (17... b5 {, looks promising for Black and more flexible. Still, it is not a bad move, at all.}) 18. Kb1 f6 {Anand has built a convincing case against Caruana's set-up and it is White who has to find equality.} 19. c3 $1 {If you have a chat with the pieces the will all say: "The knight on d4 is too strong. It has to go."} Nxf3 20. Rxf3 c4 $5 {Black is much happier in a position where he gets to play c4, than one in which White gets to do it first.} (20... Qd7 21. c4 {looks like a strategical improvement from White's point of view. However, it is not easy to neutralize Black's initiative after} Kh8 22. Rg3 Rb8) (20... h6 {is the engines fav move, but it has long reaching negative consequences in that the knight is now safe on f5, while g7 becomes a future weakness. White can put all his resources into the defence for some time and then aim to play d2-d4 at an opportune moment.}) 21. Qc2 $6 (21. g5 $1 {White cannot enter an endgame without taking the g7-g6 option away from Black first. Otherwise the knight will be kicked back. One way to achieve this is} Qxd3+ 22. Qxd3 cxd3 23. gxf6 gxf6 24. Rxd3 {and since Nf5 is as strong an the opponents bishop, this is an equal position.}) 21... cxd3 22. Rxd3 Qc8 {Black has managed to keep the bishop pair and White has little in the way of compensation.} 23. g5 $1 {White must immediately mess things up, before Black gets time to exchange a pair of rooks and run for the ending.} fxg5 24. Bxg5 Bf7 $5 ({Perhaps even better is} 24... h6 25. Bc1 Bf7 { , when the h5-pawn looks weak, while it is unclear that White can pose any real threats to Black's king.} 26. Rg3 Kh8 27. Rd1 a4 $1 {and with Qe6 coming next, White is in trouble.}) 25. h6 $1 gxh6 26. Bc1 {Now, objectively speaking, Black is still better, but White has significantly more ideas to play around with as Black's king has become much more exposed.} Qe6 27. b3 a4 $2 ({This lets Caruana back in the game. It was necessary to forestall c3-c4 with} 27... b5 $1 {when, after} 28. Bb2 a4 29. Rg3+ Bg6 30. f3 axb3 31. axb3 h5 {Black is clearly better.}) 28. c4 $1 {With this move White achieves a state of stability on the queenside. It is a temporary stability, but that is all he needs in order to get in some decent threats of his own.} axb3 29. axb3 Qc6 $1 (29... Rea8 30. Bb2 Ba3 31. Qd1 $1 Bxb2 32. Kxb2 Ra2+ 33. Kc3 $18) 30. Rg3+ Kh8 31. Rd1 b5 $1 32. c5 ({My eye was immediately caught by} 32. Bb2 $5 bxc4 33. Rd8 $1 {, but Black seems to be able to defend in more than one way.} Ra5 34. Nd4 $1 (34. Qc3 $4 Qxe4+) 34... Qb7 35. Ne6 (35. Rxe8 Bxe8 36. f4 {is also "=" according to the engine.}) 35... Be7 36. Rxe8+ Bxe8 37. f4 Bc6 38. Bxe5+ Rxe5 39. Qc3 Bxe4+ 40. Kb2 Ba3+ {is one way. Easy to spot. (Not.)}) 32... b4 $2 { A second mistake and this time there is no coming back.} ({Instead} 32... Qxc5 33. Qxc5 Bxc5 {was right. White has some pressure, but it doesn't really go anywhere. One possible defence is} 34. Rd7 Be6 35. Rxc7 Bxf5 36. exf5 Bd4 37. Rgg7 e4 38. Bb2 Bxb2 39. Kxb2 Rf6 40. Rxh7+ Kg8 41. Rhg7+ Kh8 {with a draw.}) 33. Bb2 {Suddenly Black is in a lot of trouble. The e5-pawn is shaky and the king depends on it for survival.} Bg6 (33... Ra5 $1 {is a better defence, but this time} 34. Rd8 {is stronger:} Qxc5 35. Rxe8 Qxc2+ 36. Kxc2 Bxe8 37. f4 Rc5+ 38. Kd3 Bg6 39. Bxe5+ Kg8 40. Ne3 {and Black has a very difficult time.}) 34. Rd5 $1 Qb5 {A tricky move (the only one) that has a counterattack in mind.} 35. Rg1 c6 $4 {For someone of Anands calibre, this qualifies as chess-blindness. It is quite obvious that one cannot let the e5-pawn fall without, at least, being able to take the bishop out of circulation (sack the exchange).} (35... Rae6 36. f4 {is also much better for White, but Black can fight on.}) 36. Rxe5 Rxe5 37. Bxe5+ Kg8 38. Bd4 Kf7 39. Nh4 {A prosaic move that threatens Nxg6 followed by e4-e5. There is no defence anymore. Although Anands play deserved a better destiny, Caruana had excellent timing in creating his counterplay.} 1-0

How to crack the Berlin Wall with 5.Re1

Alexei Shirov shows on this DVD how White can develop pressure and seize the initiative with 5.Re1 against the Berlin Wall.

Round five commentary

Commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Cristian Chirila, with GM Maurice Ashley reporting from London | Source: Saint Louis Chess Club on YouTube


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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