Caruana Wins FIDE Candidates' Tournament 2018
Agon's Ilya Merenzon, Fabiano Caruana, and FIDE's D.V. Sundar. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana Wins FIDE Candidates' Tournament 2018

| 301 | Chess Event Coverage

Fabiano Caruana won the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin convincingly, and earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title in November. He earned 95,000 Euros ($117,845) with his victory.

Caruana defeated Alexander Grischuk in the final round with the black pieces. Sergey Karjakin blundered but held the draw vs Ding Liren, and both Kramnik-Mamedyarov and Aronian-So were also drawn. 

Caruana Press conference Candidates 2018

Caruana was all smiles at the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"I’m absolutely thrilled," said Caruana, in his first statement at the winner's press conference.  "Coming into today I wasn’t sure what would happen, and things couldn’t have gone better. A few days ago I thought the tournament was already out of my hands when I lost the game, and somehow things just came together perfectly at the end, so I really couldn’t be happier."

The 25-year-old grandmaster, who was born in Miami, grew up in Brooklyn and who played for Italy between 2005 and 2015, won the tournament by a full point. The next step for him is the world championship. 

Caruana's statement included an aspect that made his win in Berlin so impressive: after losing his game in round 12, he managed to recover fully, and finish the tournament with two straight wins. A psychological victory of the highest order.

Caruana beats Grischuk Candidates 2018

Caruana also beat Grischuk to finish with two wins. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The last round of the tournament was an incredibly tense one for three of the four boards. (So and Aronian, who had absolutely nothing to play for, drew in 17 moves.)

Because of the controversial tiebreak rules (isn't it about time we have a playoff to decide?), the players were often walking back and forth to other boards, looking at the position of the others. All the while, that left players wondering: Is a draw enough?

Spectators looking at Grischuk-Caruana Candidates 2018

Spectators looking upon Grischuk-Caruana. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The second game to finish was Sergey Karjakin vs Ding Liren, a game both players needed to win (even Ding still had a theoretical chance for tournament victory), but which ended in a draw. A dramatic moment came on move 27, when Karjakin completely missed a simple tactic which blew away his last hopes for a second match with Carlsen in an instant. Or so it seemed.

Karjakin-Ding Candidates 2018

A big mistake killed all winning chances for Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

As he held the draw, Karjakin could still hope for both Caruana and Mamedyarov to lose, but that was never going to happen. “I’m a bit upset that I didn’t put any problems for my opponent,” he said afterward. Asked what he could have done better this tournament, the Russia GM replied: “Maybe I could have tried not to lose two games with White at the beginning of the tournament!”

Ding Liren can look back at an excellent Candidates' debut. He finished the tournament as the only player who remained undefeated, and won one game. At 25, he will surely get another shot. 

Karjakin press conference Candidates 2018

This time it was not meant to be for Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

By the time Karjakin-Ding ended, Vladimir Kramnik and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had reached an endgame that was probably going to end in a draw as well, and so things were looking very good for Caruana at the time control.

Kramnik-Mamedyarov was a complicated game where anything was possible. “Thanks for Vladimir because he really wanted to play and he gave me chance for [a] win also,” said Mamedyarov afterward.

On move 31 Kramnik missed a chance for an advantage, and Mamedyarov immediately grabbed his chance with a tactical shot. By force, he managed to get a pleasant ending, but it wasn't enough to win the game.

Mameyarov Candidates 2018

Mamedyarov got a bit emotional when he knew he couldn't get more than a draw. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

That left Fabiano Caruana in a wonderful situation. He knew that he could offer a draw at any moment to Alexander Grischuk, while enjoying an overwhelming advantage in an endgame, with basically zero losing chances.

"If my position wasn't completely winning I might offer a draw," Caruana said. "There was no counterplay for him either. I thought it would be a shame to not play this position, especially since it was just so automatic.

"After the time control I still wasn't sure if I was really much better, but after Shakh finished his game I already felt like my position was winning." 


Grischuk vs Caruana Candidates 2018

Grischuk going 3.d4 against Caruana's Petroff. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"Going into this game I thought a draw would be a good result," said Caruana. "I thought, if I do something crazy I might have a higher chance of losing, especially since the other two games were likely to be drawn. In a game between two top players, a draw is always a very likely result. It was only after Ding played 27...h3 that I kind of felt very safe about that game."

Ding, Caruana at Candidates 2018

Caruana checking out Ding's board. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"I didn't really have the chance to look at Shakhriyar's game until after the time control because we were in our own time pressure. So I don't know what happened there, and after the time control it was just a dead draw, so that didn't worry me too much. But I thought I should just play normally, not go crazy. I thought a draw would be a good result and in case one of the other players had won, then it would just be bad luck. I mean, if Sergey just goes plus-five in the second half, what can you do?"

Caruana USA flag

Someone gave Caruana an American flag right after his win. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

By winning this tournament, Caruana became the first American challenger since Gata Kamsky played Anatoly Karpov in 1996 for the FIDE world championship, but those were the days when the chess world was split in two camps. Garry Kasparov was the Professional Chess Association (PCA) champion at that time. So, Caruana can be called the first "undisputed" U.S. challenger since Bobby Fischer in 1972, when chess experienced its peak in worldwide popularity.

"I really hope chess becomes more popular in the U.S. and in Italy," said Caruana. "I think the popularity is growing, and maybe has been for the last 10 years but there's still a very long way to go. Hopefully, me playing against Magnus in London will boost the popularity a bit. I will try to help with that as well."

After the press conference, Caruana, his second Rustam Kasimszhanov, his former manager Lawrence Trent and two more friends went to dinner in an Italian restaurant at Potsdamer Platz. While enjoying an excellent Chianti Classico and great food, tweets, text messages and phone calls were coming in. A proud Kasimdzhanov gave a toast and joked about a victory that came two years late.

It was also discussed how the two were going to get to Karlsruhe, because in only a few days from now, Caruana will play there for the Grenke tournament (where he will face Carlsen, among others) and both Kasim and Trent are playing the open tournament. Chess never stops.

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,F 2784 2887 ½½ ½0 ½½ ½1 11 9.0/14
2 Mamedyarov,S 2809 2832 ½½ ½0 ½1 ½½ ½½ 8.0/14 54.75
3 Karjakin,S 2763 2838 ½1 ½½ ½½ ½1 01 8.0/14 54.75
4 Ding Liren 2769 2812 ½½ ½1 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ 7.5/14
5 Grischuk,A 2767 2764 ½0 ½0 ½½ ½½ 01 ½½ 6.5/14 44
6 Kramnik,V 2800 2759 ½0 ½½ 10 ½½ 11 6.5/14 41.5
7 So,W 2799 2734 ½½ ½½ ½½ 6.0/14
8 Aronian,L 2794 2655 00 ½½ 10 ½½ ½½ 00 4.5/14

Games via TWIC.

Where there are winners, there are losers. The tournament was also marked by a terribly disappointing result for Levon Aronian, who not only failed to find his best form at a Candidates' once again, but in fact was completely out of form this time. He even (surely temporarily) dropped out of the world's top 10.

Live ratings

Live ratings after Candidates


The tournament was also marked, once again, by the organizers starting off badly, but then improving things along the way. For the players, the toilet situation (only one toilet was available at a normal walking distance) and the quality of the hotel were the biggest issues. For the chess fans, the official website was the main problem, but during the last few rounds it was functioning reasonably well. Let's hope things will be OK for the world championship, this time from day one.

Karpov at Candidates 2018

Anatoly Karpov visited the tournament for the last round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana Karpov stamp collection

The players checking out part of Karpov's stamp collection that was put up at the venue. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana, Trent, Kasimdzhanov

Caruana, Trent and Kasimzdhanov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana wins Candidates 2018

Caruana with the winner's medal. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Crowd of journalists Candidates' 2018

The media crowd. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana winner speech Candidates' 2018

The winner's speech. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Selected tweets on the news:

Previous reports:

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