Caruana's Fireworks In The Petrov Defense

Caruana's Fireworks In The Petrov Defense

| 21 | Opening Theory

The Petrov Defense is one of the most hated openings in chess. Probably only the Ruy Lopez Berlin Defense is hated more by chess fans. Both openings are the weapons of choice in many super tournaments where the main goal of many participants playing as Black is just to equalize the game following 30+ moves of computer analysis. 

Nevertheless, such a viewpoint towards these openings is not fair. As I mentioned in my article 10 years ago: "But is this reputation justified? In my opinion, if one of the opponents wants to see blood, then there will be blood on the board!"

Fabiano Caruana
Fabiano Caruana. Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Fabiano Caruana is one of those players who is not scared by the drawish reputation of the Petrov Defense. In fact, in the last super tournament in Stavanger he was not afraid to face it in the Armageddon where a draw is equal to a loss! Seeing why the American GM has no fear of the Petrov Defense is easy: he has had pretty good results. How does he do it? First, in most of the cases, he plays this system:

This is Caruana's pet line. He prepares a queenside castle, where his doubled pawns should provide an extra shield for his King. The difference in the safety of an opponent's king can be clearly seen in the next game:

The following marvelous game demonstrates that Black is not out of the woods even if he follows White's lead and castles on the queenside too. Try to find Caruana's final combination.

By the way, although the mating construction is very beautiful, it is not unique and has happened before. Look, for example, at the following game:

Finally, look at the very recent game of Caruana and find how he could win the game on the spot:

We should give a full credit to Wesley So, who found the only way to save the game after Caruana missed the winning shot. Can you find how GM So escaped what looked like an unavoidable loss due to a double threat of 46. c4+ and 46. Rxf5?

GM Caruana avoided this trick, of course, but the clear win was already gone. Eventually the game was drawn:

I feel very sorry for Fabiano. First, for all his efforts, he got a fat zero in a cross table due to the format of the tournament. Also, his fellow super GM Vachier-Lagrave, who spotted the move 46. Qe5!! instantly, said during the live transmission of the game: "Fabi, I give free lessons if you want." While it was clearly a good-natured joke, it probably added insult to injury. But maybe it is just the recent trend among super GMs to make fun of each other.

Have you enjoyed Fabiano Caruana's creative play versus the Petrov Defense? Now you have a dangerous weapon against this "drawish" opening.

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