Caruana Wins Kings Tournament With Two Rounds to Spare
With two rounds to go in Bucharest, Fabiano Caruana has secured at least a shared victory at the 7th Kings’ Tournament. In round 8 the Italian GM beat Ruslan Ponomariov with the black pieces to reach 4.5 out of 6 while Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, who drew with Wang Hao, is the only player on 3.5 points.
The annual Kings’ Tournament in Romania, sponsored by Romgaz, this year has five players, and so each round one of them has a rest day. Wang Hao, one of the three players who came straight from the Grand Prix in Élancourt, probably didn't mind to start with his rest day!
Fabiano Caruana, shared winner in Paris, took an early lead in the Romanian capital with a first-round win over local hero Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. With Black, the Italian faced the trendy 5.h4 in the Grünfeld and his reaction was not something you see often at this level: answering h4-h5 with g6-g5! Soon Black got a doubled pawn on the kingside that protected his king quite well and then on move 20 he found a nice way to win a pawn.
Nisipeanu, however, found an amazing knight sac that turned out to be fully correct, because the computer wants to go 27.d5! and White will have a perpetual somewhere. In the game, Caruana lost four pawns (three of them with check!) but when his king was out of danger, the extra knight was still more important.
The second round, Wang Hao-Radjabov and Ponomariov-Nisipeanu, finished with two draws. In both games Black didn't have opening problems and equalized rather comfortably.
The next day, in both games the players with the White pieces put considerable pressure on their opponent's. Caruana achieved a pleasant strategic advantage against Ponomariov, but converting it into a full point proved to be impossible and the draw was agreed on move 41. Wang Hao, with the black pieces, was constantly under pressure against Nisipeanu and lost an exchange in a complicated middlegame. The arising endgame was difficult for Black and Nisipeanu converted his advantage by sacrificing back the exchange and creating a passed pawn, which decided the game. White won on move 42.
In round 4, Wang Hao-Caruana ended in a draw and the other game as well, but only after a big fight. Radjabov with the white pieces against Nisipeanu achieved an advantage after the opening and at some point Black's position looked highly unpleasant. However, with accurate defense the Romanian GM neutralized his opponent's initiative and practically equalized the position, only to blunder a pawn just before the first time control. After that Radjabov was trying to convert his extra pawn in a rook and bishop endgame versus rook and knight, which finally resulted in a pawnless, theoretically drawn endgame rook and bishop versus rook. Nisipeanu demonstrated his knowledge and finally achieved the desired draw on move 116.
In round 5 Ponomariov-Wang Hao, a Petroff, ended in a draw while Caruana increased his lead by beating Radjabov with the white pieces. The opening looked very okay for Back, but the Azerbaijani GM overestimated his position and gave up a pawn for attacking prospects. Caruana took the pawn and prepared for defence, when suddenly Radjabov miscalculated something and wrongly sacrificed the rook, only to resign few moves later.
Round 6 saw two balanced games that finished in draws. In both Caruana-Nisipeanu and Ponomariov-Radjabov Black didn't have opening problems and at some moment even took over the initiative, but in neither of them did White have any problems to achieve the draw. The next day both games, Radjabov-Wang Hao and Nisipeanu-Ponomariov, ended in draws as well.
In the 8th round Caruana made another important step to overall victory: the Italian GM won with the black pieces against Ponomariov. In a rare sideline of the Sicilian, Caruana played quicker and more precise than his opponent, who had one of those bad days when nothing works out well.
Wang Hao-Nisipeanu saw another quiet draw in the Petroff Defense. Thus the Romanian GM is solely in second place with a 50 percent score. Ponomariov, Radjabov and Wang Hao didn't win any games in Bucharest yet and find themselves on the bottom of the table with a "minus one" result.
Kings’ Tournament 2013 | Round 8 Standings
Fabiano Caruana plays Wang Hao and Radjabov in the last two rounds but runner-up Nisipeanu has only one game left, against Radjabov on Tuesday. Only if he wins that game and Caruana loses both, they will finish shared first. Normally speaking, the world's number three in the live ratings list wins this event outright.
Photos courtesy of the Kings’ Tournament; round reports thanks to GM Dorian Rogozenco