Can you play like Fabiano Caruana?

Can you play like Fabiano Caruana?

GM Gserper
Sep 7, 2014, 12:00 AM |
38 | Strategy

The Sinquefield Cup is a fantastic event! It is the strongest tournament in chess history, the players demostrate fighting, very "tasty" chess, and the coverage on the official website is amazing. Of course, the whole chess community must thank Rex Sinquefield for this amazing gift to all of us!

Right now the tournament is a one-person show. As I am writing this article, Fabiano Caruana has an unbelievable 7 out of 7! (Update: He finished with the excellent score of 8.5/10.)

This phenomenal result can be only compared to Bobby Fischer's famous massacare of two 1971 candidates matches, with the same lopsided score 6-0 (vs. Taimanov and Larsen).

But to tell you the truth, to me Caruana's result is even more impressive.  First of all, both Taimanov and Larsen were psychologically broken somewhere around the 3-0 mark, and couldn't play their best chess after that. Besides, with all due respect, those great chess players weren't world's number one or two (like Carlsen or Aronian).

So, what's Caruana's secret? As Nigel Short put it: "Whatever Fabiano Caruana is taking, I want lots of it!"  

In my opinion, his secret is very simple and similar to Fischer's : he practically makes no mistakes and severely punishes his opponents for the slightest inaccuracy. In a sense, he is playing like a human computer!


Let's check one of his wins that made the biggest impression on me. I was watching the game live and tried to guess Caruana's moves. Let me put it this way: I failed!

Of course, I guessed many of his moves correctly (mostly obvious ones!), but I totally missed his big strategical and tactical concepts!

I offer you my dear readers an opportunity to play like Caruana... or at least better than me! Smile

My guess was 15.Qe2, but I wasn't too upset that I missed Fabiano's move, since at that point I didn't see a big difference between our moves, and also I suspected home preparation here (later Caruana indeed confirmed my suspicion). The text move intends to improve the position of the knight.

I was proud to guess this move correctly, but to be fair the idea is pretty obvious since Black's only real counterplay is a6-a5 break, so White wants to discourage it.

I really like this little move. Now Black needs to worry about the c2-c3 break! My move was 20. Rf1 with a vague idea to play at some point Ne1, g3, Ng2 and f4. Now it looks pretty stupid compared to Caruana's idea.

Since Black prevented the c2-c3 break by playing 20...Rd8 and attacking the d3 pawn, a move 21.Ne1 protecting the pawn and resuming the c2-c3 threat looks pretty logical to me.  Here is the only point of the game where I am not sure if Caruana's move is the best.

I know, threatening a checkmate in two is a no brainer, so I think most of you played like Fabiano here!


I wanted to play this move long time ago, when its benefits were not obvious, so here it was an easy choice since the Nf3 needs to be unpinned.

You'll be laughing, but I again had the same weird idea of preparing the f2-f4 break by 26. Nh4, then g3 and f4. Immediately after Caruana played his move, I realized that his idea to play Nh2-g4 was extremely strong!

And when I thought that I had guessed Caruana's move for sure, he proved me totally wrong. While my move 29.Nh2 wins an exchange by force, Fabiano sacrifices a knight! Even after he played his brilliant move, it took me some time to appreciate its strength. 

The rest of the game is pretty much just finishing the opponent off:

For some of you this game might look "too positional," even boring. I understand that Caruana's win over Topalov that featured an attractive attack and neat sacrifices could be more appealing for general audience.

But with all due respect, in that game Topalov committed clear mistakes, and besides, White's attack was pretty typical and straightforward. Meanwhile, Aronian lost his game almost with no visible mistakes and Caruana's play throughout the whole game was far from obvious.

I hope you enjoyed this game as much as I did!


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