Candidate Profile: Fabiano Caruana

Candidate Profile: Fabiano Caruana

| 31 | Chess Players

By GM Robert Hess and IM Teddy Coleman

Just like Rocky Balboa, Fabiano “The Italian Stallion” Caruana is getting his first shot at becoming the world champion. But unlike Rocky, Caruana isn’t a dark horse.

Caruana is ranked number three in the world and is one of the favorites to emerge as the challenger to Magnus Carlsen. No stranger to success at the board, Caruana had the third-highest rating of all time (unofficial rating of 2851), following a monumental run at the Sinquefield Cup in 2014.

In that tournament, Caruana was off to the races with a seven-game winning against other candidates Topalov, Aronian, and Nakamura. Not to mention he beat Magnus himself with Black.

Given his past success, there’s no denying a top-form Caruana is a fearsome challenger to Magnus.

Key Strengths:

Caruana has deep positional understanding and thrives in flexible middle games where he can outmaneuver his opponents. In a recent game against Chinese wunderkind Wei Yi, Caruana showed off his strength by deviating from theory and convincingly winning.

Along with his strong positional play, Caruana has top-notch tactical vision, which was brilliantly on display in his 2014 win over Carlsen.

Key Weaknesses:

While Caruana frequently outplays his opponents in middle games, he occasionally struggles in endgames.  In the below examples, Caruana loses two equal endgames against Nakamura and Aronian.  In the Candidates matches, he must do better to secure his half-points.  

Furthermore, Caruana is not known as a stellar blitz player and has succumbed to time pressure in the past, including a recent loss to Carlsen.

What to Watch for:

Expect a novelty or two from Caruana, whose thorough preparation will undoubtedly have some surprises. If Caruana can achieve flexible middlegame positions, he’ll outplay his opponents en route to a top finish. Pitfalls to avoid are time pressure and misplaying an endgame. In a 14-round event, every point is crucial; Fabiano can ill afford to let his competitors snatch victories from seemingly drawish positions.

When Caruana is at his best, he is borderline unstoppable. Here is a phenomenal victory from that magical Sinquefield Cup run for your viewing pleasure.

Will Caruana continue his own “Rocky Balboa” story and rise to face Magnus Carlsen? Or will his shot at Apollo Creed elude him?  

Can't get enough Caruana? Check out's videos featuring Fabiano Caruana

The FIDE Candidates’ Tournament runs March 10-30 in Moscow. The winner will earn the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match that will be held November 10-30 in New York.

The eight participants are Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura (both USA), Vishy Anand (India), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler (both Russia), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Levon Aronian (Armenia). is publishing profiles of each participant.

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