Fabiano Caruana: What Went Wrong? – Chess.com

The world championship match is over and now it is a part of chess history. Just like any big chess event, it has provided a lot of food for thought.

For many chess fans the main takeaway from the match is that something should be changed so we don’t have world championship matches where all games are drawn. While I am not particularly happy with 12 straight draws in the classical part of the match, I prefer to concentrate on the games. The readers of my column know that I consider Magnus Carlsen a genius, so it is “mission impossible” to beat him in a match. Nevertheless, Fabiano Caruana was a worthy opponent, and in my opinion was capable of beating Carlsen. So, what went wrong?

It turns out that I was absolutely correct in my preview of the match. I predicted that we wouldn’t see the Berlin in the match since Carlsen would go for unbalanced positions, since relying on pure technique didn’t work quite well for him against Caruana. Indeed, the world champion chose the Sveshnikov Sicilian that generally leads to a sharp, dynamic play. I think it was a brilliant decision that ultimately decided the fate of the match!

Let me explain my reasoning.

fabiano caruana

Caruana addressing the audience at the world championship closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In a world championship match, the goal of the opening is not to get a winning position right from the start. It is simply unrealistic! I think it was Tigran Petrosian who said that during his preparation for the world championship match he didn’t see how to get an advantage playing White and at the same time he didn’t see how to equalize playing Black!

It is especially true today, when computers have pretty much equalized opening preparation for all the players and therefore getting even a tiny advantage out of the opening is already a huge success. So, the real goal of the opening is to get a middlegame position that fits your style and ideally doesn’t fit your opponent’s style. When I was a student of the Botvinnik-Kasparov school, Garry Kasparov told us many fascinating stories about the just-concluded match that made him the youngest world champion in history.

I remember how he described the 15.g4 move played by Karpov in the decisive game of the match:

Kasparov said that even though it was Karpov’s home preparation, Karpov’s facial expression and the body language were saying that Karpov was uncomfortable. Yes, he knew that the move was good, but for the last game where Karpov was in a must-win situation, the move didn’t fit Karpov’s style. He ultimately paid the price for playing a “foreign” position.

It is not a big surprise that in the critical position of the game, where the move 23. f5! would give White a practically unstoppable attack, Karpov spent just three minutes and played a prophylactic move 23.Be3?!

Being a practical player and a very smart person, Karpov learned his mistake and never played the Sicilian (or 1.e4 for this matter) against Kasparov again! You see, he never played the opening that gave him a practically winning position because he realized that this particular opening simply doesn’t fit his style. 

Kasparov correctly described the discrepancy between the sharp Sicilian Defense and Karpov’s positional style of play. Therefore I could never figure out why he made the same mistake himself and kept playing the Berlin endgame in his match vs. Kramnik.

This strange, illogical decision ultimately cost him his world crown!

How could Kasparov play the fifth Berlin in the row when he was in an essentially must-win situation? There is simply no room for famous Kasparov’s creativity in this dry desert.

Let’s get back to the last world championship match. In my opinion Caruana got into a similar situation with the Sveshnikov Sicilian. His chess engine promised him an advantage out of the opening, but you have to be a computer to play like a computer. I know, this is a very profound statement . Unfortunately, these days when chess players spend hours with their favorite chess engines, they sometimes forget that we are not computers!

Case in point is one grandmaster who heavily criticized both Carlsen and Caruana on his Facebook page.  He was rhetorically asking how was it possible to play 24.h3?? in the following position:

He also couldn’t believe how Carlsen could agree to a draw in the last game in an absolutely winning position:

I kid you not, he really gave a double question mark to Caruana’s 24.h3 and insisted that Carlsen’s position in the 12th game was not just winning but completely winning! I wish this grandmaster himself played that “completely winning position” against Caruana and see how many points he would score.

Unfortunately, Caruana was also blindsided by the computer evaluation to some extent; otherwise he wouldn’t have kept playing the same line again and again. When Botvinnik was asked for advice before the match Fischer-Karpov, the Patriarch said: “Fischer should be constantly restricted!”

Exactly the same can be said about Carlsen. I wouldn’t call the following game “restricting Carlsen.” It is just the opposite!

So, how could Caruana beat Carlsen’s Sveshnikov variation? Well, if I knew how to beat Carlsen, I would probably play the world championship match myself. My guess is that a following variation of the Sveshnikov Sicilian gives White more chances to restrict the opponent:

Yes, Giri didn’t get much out of the opening, but modern computers can find new ideas in almost any position, so you just want to make sure that the position fits your general plan of the battle!

Look for example at the following unbelievable idea played in this variation:

I still cannot believe that this fantastic positional sacrifice works! By the way, this game is another proof of a very poor opening choice of Kasparov in his world championship match vs. Kramnik. You simply cannot play like this in the Berlin endgame!

Even before the match vs. Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana was an almost perfect chess player, with top-notch opening knowledge, great calculating skills and an impeccable technique. The match gave Caruana invaluable experience. In his next world championship quest Caruana, will be even more dangerous!

Nakamura Beats So In Bullet, Wins Speed Chess Championship – Chess.com

Making the difference in the bullet portion, Hikaru Nakamura defeated Wesley So on Sunday to win his first Speed Chess Championship title. The final score was 15.5-12.5 for Nakamura.

This Speed Championship event started with an invitational qualifier on June 26 followed by an open qualifier July 10. In the bracket rounds between July and December, Nakamura ( @Hikaru) beat Hou Yifan 27.5-2.5, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 21.5-13.5 and Levon Aronian 17-12 to reach the final. So ( @GMWSO) beat Wei Yi 18.5-9.5, Vidit Gujarathi 16.5-10.5 and Jan-Krzysztof Duda 20-7.


What about the mutual history of the finalists? Well, in OTB (over-the-board) rapid and blitz play, Nakamura (who will turn 31 in a week) beat So (who turned 25 in October) 11 to 4, with 14 draws.

Nakamura reached a Chess.com final for the third straight year, with only Magnus Carlsen being a mountain too high in the 2016 GM Blitz Battle and the 2017 Speed Chess Championship. (This year the Norwegian didn’t participate.)

So has had his speed successes as well. For instance, he came second in both the 2016 and 2017 Leuven Grand Chess Tour rapid and blitz, and finally won the event this year.

The SmarterChess model said Nakamura was a two-to-one favorite over So:


The match started at noon Pacific time, which was 2 p.m. for So but 9 p.m. for Nakamura, who was playing from Italy. As always, the first part of the match consisted of 90 minutes of 5+1 blitz.

It was So who took an early lead with a fine positional game as Black. Allowing the pawn endgame was a mistake from Nakamura, but the endgame seemed lost anyway.

After a draw in game two, a crazy third one followed—despite a rather timid opening sequence. Nakamura was constantly better and showed one of the typical advantages of having the bishop pair: you can trade one set of bishops, and you still have a bishop versus a knight!

However, in this case the trade (and subsequent pawn sac) involved a tactical error after which it was just equal, but So played too passively and got into trouble anyway. Nakamura then missed a simple win and shook his head as he only noticed it after playing a different move, but ended up winning anyway. 

After a draw and a win for both sides, Nakamura played one of his best games of the whole match in game seven. With lots of head-bobbing (to the music he was listening to), he showed great endgame play based on superb calculation.


Commentators GM Robert Hess and IM Danny Rensch managed to show and explain almost all the critical lines, but were still stunned when they noticed the checkmate on h8 at the end of the variation in the final position.

So made a good comeback, but Nakamura won game nine to take the lead again. However, in the final five-minute game it was So again who took the point home, and so the score was all equal once more. I didn’t help that Nakamura lost about 90 seconds during the game being absent from his computer (probably due to a toilet break) and maybe at that exact moment he could have tried an exchange sacrifice.

5+1 segment | Score

# Fed Player Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 @Hikaru 3043 2972 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 1 0 1 0 5
2 @GMWSO 2972 3043 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 0 1 0 1 5

After a solid draw, So again was the first to take the lead, now in the three-minute portion. Nakamura managed to double White’s f-pawn in another Italian Game, but this was actually favorable for White. But, as it happens in blitz, that was not the end of the story.


Nakamura once tried the Giuoco Pianissimo as White and drew. The opening was seen 12 more times in this match with So as White.

Afterward, Nakamura said that the Italian was good opening to keep playing as Black as he wasn’t too happy with how he was playing initially. “I felt it made sense to stay solid. If that wasn’t good enough then that’s how it goes and Wesley deserved the win.”

Three decisive games followed: first another for So, who thus took a two-game lead, but then two in a row for Nakamura. As the players ended with four straight draws, the score was still equal going into the bullet segment!

The first of those three decisive game saw a rather instructive knight endgame.

It’s interesting to note that, also after this match, So kept his unbeaten record in all three-minute segments he has played so far.

3+1 segment | Score

# Fed Player Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 @Hikaru 3034 2981 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5
2 @GMWSO 2981 3034 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5

Nakamura won the first bullet game to take the lead in the match, a joy he hadn’t felt for 11 games. This time, he wouldn’t let go anymore—whereas he had in fact lost the bullet portion against Aronian the day before, he wouldn’t lose a single bullet game this time around.

Together with the commentators, So got confused over a pawn endgame and lost a drawn position, but it was understandable as he had been playing more or less on his one-second increment for about 10 moves already. (Earlier in the game, Nakamura had been winning.)

With the following game, the last decisive one in the match, Nakamura took a three-game lead. It was a typical example of his bullet prowess. The endgame might have been a draw several times, but So couldn’t hold against this opponent.

In the next battle Nakamura showed a well-known tactic that he’s used before 9along with e.g. Alexander Grischuk): using the match clock against the opponent by winning as much time as possible in a game that would normally have been agreed to a draw already. First, he premoved dozens of moves with his bishop and then, when So took that bishop (thereby missing a chance to end the game quicker based on the 50-move rule!), Naka then also premoved a bunch of king moves. Luckily, So could be seen laughing about it on the camera as well.

1+1 segment | Score

# Fed Player Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 @Hikaru 3142 3087 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 5.5
2 @GMWSO 2950 3005 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 2.5

According to the regulations, $5,000 would go to the winner and an additional $5,000 was going to be split by win percentage. As a result, Nakamura won $7,767.86 in this final and So got $2,232.14.

Asked whether he would have signed for going into the bullet on an equal score, So said: “The shorter the time control, the bigger Hikaru’s advantage gets. Before the match I was hoping maybe I can try to get some lead because I knew that when the bullet comes, it’s very hard to control the situation. As you can see from the match, once the bullet game starts, Hikaru just played fantastically.”

“In general I felt if I am not down more than two points than I would have very good chances in bullet,” said Nakamura. “Wesley played much better than I did pretty much the first two hours, maybe a little more than that. I think I was quite lucky.”

2018 Speed Chess bracket

So continued complimenting his opponent: “Hikaru is not only good at complex and complicated positions but also in endgames, so I have to choose the least of two evils. I either get outplayed in an an endgame, or I go for a complex position and I somewhere blunder a piece, that’s always the issue.

“I think I was just playing too slow in the bullet. It’s very hard to compete against Hikaru in that regard. Congratulations for winning the Speed Chess Championship.”

Nakamura agreed that having certain opening systems ready for bullet, like an early Nf3 and b3 which he plays often these days, makes sense: “In general the reason for that is to avoid theory and basically make it where you have to find good moves really quickly. I’m probably gonna keep doing that. I think in bullet, playing main lines is a bit silly. (…) In general you have to play good moves, play on intuition.”

Replay the live broadcast of the final.

And so another Speed Chess season has come to an end. You can find all information about the competition here. Chess.com’s next big event will be the 2019 PRO Chess League season which starts on January 8, 2019.

Fabiano Caruana welcomed home from Chess World Championships – STLtoday.com


Fabiano Caruana welcomed home from Chess World Championships
Chess fans welcomed home Fabiano Caruana to St. Louis at the Chase Park Plaza after Magnus Carlsen of Norway defended his Chess World Championship in London. Photos by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com …
Good news feels goodMail Tribune
Valiant effort from Caruana, but Carlsen is the greatestStabroek News

all 3 news articles »

So Ends Duda Fairy Tale, Reaches Speed Chess Final – Chess.com

After eliminating Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk, Jan-Krzysztof Duda couldn’t score another upset in yesterday’s Speed Chess semifinal. In fact, Wesley So was way too strong and won with a big 20-7 score.

At the start of the match, few would have predicted such a lopsided final score. The players were quite evenly matched, and things could have gone differently perhaps if Duda had grabbed a few more of his chances in that early stage.

The very first game was, in hindsight, quite typical. The Polish grandmaster reached a completely winning endgame, with a knight and five pawns versus a rook and one pawn, but suddenly allowed a draw that came out of nowhere.

Admittedly, So on his turn missed a win in game two, but then won game three. Game four was another example of Duda’s misfortune.

“In the beginning I played very, very badly and well, I was in real shock when I didn’t win this Italian game two pawns up,” he said afterward. “I was almost about to lose this game. I thought that when I would win some game the match would take a differente course but it wasn’t the case unfortunately.”


After some more adventures and three more draws, So won game eight and took a two-point lead for the first time. Duda’s Trompowsky wasn’t very successful and he ended up in a lost position. What he didn’t notice is that the evaluation jumped to 0.00 for one moment. Duda’s frustration started to show as he continued playing until one move before the mate.

After the next game, the last in the five-minute portion, So’s lead was back to just one point as he blundered terribly in a better position, forgetting that the b6-pawn defended the rook on c5 as well.

5+1 segment | Score

# Fed Player Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Score
1 GMWSO 2951 2898 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 5
2 Polish_fighter3000 2859 2912 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 4

In the first three-minute game Duda got another huge chance, but this time he didn’t notice. Commentator IM Danny Rensch said he was curious about the pawn endgame and that the news report should discuss it, and as it turns out there’s a good reason to do just that:

The story might be somewhat monotonous, but in game 12 Duda again missed a great chance. He played  33…Qh8+ a bit too quickly, forgetting about 34.Qh2 where 33…Qxg3 would have won easily. Timetrouble was definitely a factor here.


After a draw in game 13 (the last draw in the match!) in game 14 Duda disconnected and lost. A few games and some research later, Chess.com decided that this hadn’t been his fault and so this loss was removed from the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, Duda’s suffering on the board continued with moments like this…

3+1 segment | Score

# Fed Player Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score
1 GMWSO 2938 3086 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 6
2 Polish_fighter3000 2869 2721 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 0 2

The bullet portion was a complete massacre, with nine wins for So and just one for Duda. It was Murphy’s Law all over for the Polish fighter. Caissa didn’t even award him an honorable last win, which he definitely deserved:

1+1 segment | Score

# Fed Player Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score
1 GMWSO 2925 3255 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 9
2 Polish_fighter3000 2874 2544 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

So won So $5,222.22 and advanced to the finals, whereas Duda earned $777.78. So’s opponent in the final is either Hikaru Nakamura or Levon Aronian, who play the other semifinal today at 10 a.m. Pacific (7 p.m. Central Europe).

Asked which opponent he would prefer, So replied “Levon!” with a big smile. “Nothing personal against him. I’ll probably be the underdog in both matches but Hikaru is kind of the king of online blitz. My score against Hikaru online has been really horrible so I don’t really want to know. I am very glad to win the match today.”


“Everything was wrong for me today,” said Duda. “Wesley of course played very good; he was very resourceful.”

In many games, Duda got in time trouble. “I played too slowly definitely. It just wasn’t my day. In some moments I wanted to play good. Time management was also a factor of course. But even if I had more time it would be difficult because Wesley played just much better than me.”

“Coming to the match I didn’t think I was the favourite,” said So. “Jan-Krzystof has improved a lot recently and also he beat Sergey [Karjakin] and Alexander Grischuk. I didn’t know what to expect.”


WIM Ruth Haring, 1955-2018 – Chess.com

After a life in chess, the former US Chess Federation president WIM Ruth Inez Haring died Thursday, November 29. She was 63.

Haring was also the current FIDE zonal president for the United States.

Haring lived in Chico, California and her death was confirmed by her son, Theodore Biyiasas. She is also survived by her other children, Lauren Biyiasas and Tina Biyiasas.

If that last name is familiar to readers, that’s because Haring was once married to now-retired GM Peter Biyiasas. According to Theodore, they met at a chess tournament in the 1970s. The two divorced in 2005.

US Chess Federation executive director Carol Meyer said, “US Chess has lost one of its most treasured members. Ruth was a thoughtful, principled leader who relentlessly promoted the mission of US Chess. She was a mentor to me in the short time I knew her, and I valued her guidance in navigating this community. Ruth’s passing is a terrible loss for US Chess and the world chess community. Her legacy is our enduring gift.”

Ruth Haring

WIM Ruth Haring at the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. Photo courtesy: Panu Laine.

Haring was born on January 23, 1955 on an Air Force base in Maine. She began playing tournament chess in 1969. Haring spent some time in Alaska, then moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she said that any tournament within 700 miles was fair game. Haring traveled to Kansas City, Tulsa, Memphis, Dallas, and other cities for events.

She graduated from the University of Arkansas and married her first husband, Bill Orton, who was also a chess player. They once even had to play each other on top board for their respective colleges at the Pan-Am Intercollegiate Championship (a draw).

Haring quickly rose to represent the national team at five consecutive Olympiads from 1974-1982. She played in several U.S. women’s championships. In her first iteration, in 1974, she went undefeated and finished second to the legendary seven-time winner Mona May Karff. Haring won $150 for that finish but pocketed $50 extra for this “best game” prize:

In 1976, the same year that the U.S. won Olympiad gold as a team in the open section, Haring took an individual bronze medal on the first reserve board.

Also that year, she played in her only interzonal. A good example of her fighting spirit came there:

Haring will remain better known for her role in chess politics and governance. She was elected to the US Chess (then USCF) executive board in 2009, beginning as vice president. Two years later she rose to president, where she remained until 2015. She then ended her term on the board one year after that. Prior to those public postings, she was even president of her high school and college chess clubs.

“I love chess and I want to see it grow,” Haring once said. “I want to see more people play, more events, greater recognition of our sport amongst the general public, and better media coverage.” Indeed, in her seven years on the board, membership in US Chess increased by more than 13 percent.

One of those tournament players she recruited was her son, Theodore. 

“My dad had trouble teaching my sisters as they called the knights ‘horsies’ and were very young, so my mom did most of that,” Theodore said. “When I was a kid I’d play my dad and he’d go easy on me to keep me interested. Ruth didn’t believe in that. She crushed me every time we played until I became a tournament player.”

Ruth Haring

Theodore Biyiasas and Ruth Haring in 2016. Photo courtesy of her family.

Interestingly, Theodore didn’t take up competitions as a child, as is the case with most chess families. His first tournament didn’t come until his late teens.

“There was pressure and encouragement on all of us to pursue chess which kind of turned us off to it,” he said. “When she started playing again and got involved in the politics in 2008 she invited me to play a tournament, the U.S. Open in Texas, and it became a huge part of my life. We traveled to tournaments together all the time after that.”

Theodore has played in more than 100 tournaments in the last decade and would go on to become an expert. In 2016 he was only 20 points away from national master. He remains active to this day.

Current US Chess president W. Allen Priest said, “I have always looked up to Ruth as a mentor and treasured her as a friend. I was honored to serve with her on the board and was inspired by her efforts to change the culture of US Chess.”

Ruth Haring

Haring at a tournament in Berkeley, California in 2016. Photo courtesy of her family.

In remembrance, one common theme kept reappearing: that Haring rose above the fray, managing to keep up relationships of sometimes disparate groups. She also represented her state association (CalChess) on its board of directors. According to one colleague, she served in politics without being political.

“For me, Ruth loved chess, and always tried to avoid politics,” coach Jay Stallings said. “She eagerly listened to everyone so she could help out in any way that her position would allow.”

“Ruth was a class act, kind and gentle to anyone who she came in contact with,” GM Maurice Ashley said. “Her incredible contributions to US Chess will be felt for years to come. She will surely be missed.”

“Ruth was one of the most dedicated chess promoters and supporters on every level,” former U.S. women’s champion WGM Sabina Foisor said. “She has supported me in my transition to US Chess, but also taking to first step to becoming a U.S. citizen.”

Haring wasn’t done with service in the chess world. Just this year she ran as general secretary on GM Nigel Short’s FIDE president ticket. Short didn’t win, but Haring went on be elected to the FIDE ethics commission. While in Batumi, she also attended the meeting for the FIDE commission for women’s chess.

Nigel Short Ruth Haring

Ruth Haring and Nigel Short at the Batumi Olympiad. Photo courtesy: Nigel Short.

“I grew to appreciate her immensely,” Short said. “She was very positive and someone I could depend on. She was really looking forward to changing things within FIDE. She was a wonderful woman.

“[She] could not stand chess politicians who only cared for their own advancement.”

Her son also seemed keen to the fracas happening in domestic chess around the time she entered chess governance.

“It was important to her that USCF promote chess and help the players,” he said, “which was the opposite of what was happening when she returned to the chess world in the midst of the infamous Polgar lawsuits.”

Ruth Haring

In September, 2018, Haring stood to watch a blitz game with former women’s world champion GM Nona Gaprindashvili. Photo courtesy of her family.

That diplomacy may have been learned in her more than two decades of experience in corporations she worked for like IBM, Lockheed, TRW, and eBay. Indeed, in a past issue of Chess Life she conflated the success of her chess and business careers:

“These experiences helped to form who I was, provided valuable life lessons about teamwork and leadership, and were part of the essence of the computer professional I later became—and it was all due to chess. I can’t imagine a better way to be educated and learn about people and the world.”

Ruth Haring

The U.S. delegation in 2017 in Antalya, Turkey: (Left to right) Walter Brown, Grant Oen, Ruth Haring, and Michael Khodarkovsky. Photo courtesy of her family.

According to Theodore, there is no official cause of death, although he said she had entered the hospital recently and had been recovering from the flu and pneumonia. Her home in California was right next to the devastating forest fires that nearly wiped out the nearby town of Paradise, California. Theodore said she struggled with the poor air quality so he forced her to evacuate for a few nights.

He said she loved large national events. Her twice-yearly visits to tournaments in Reno, Nevada were her favorites.

“One of her favorite memories was bearing witness to one of Emory Tate’s legendary post-mortems, or listening to Viktors Pupols eccentric rants about the Latvian Gambit,” Theodore said. “She took great interest in the games of strong young American players at tournaments, particularly Aleksander Lenderman and Timur Gareev [The last two U.S. Open champions —M.K.].”

Here’s how Theodore would like his mother to be remembered:

She wasn’t anywhere near as strong as she was in the 80s when her peak was around 2200, but she just loved to play. She didn’t care she was on her floor, thought occasionally she’d find her form and casually crush masters or experts. She wasn’t afraid of anyone either. She approached all her games the same way: playing to win, regardless of if she was playing a GM, a club player, or an aspiring youth. I hope she is remembered for her love of chess. And as a player even though her political contributions overshadow her playing career, she got involved because she loved to play.