Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana – Who Will Win The World Chess Championship 2018?
The World Chess Championship 2018 is set to be a close struggle between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Who will win the epic battle and emerge as the World Chess Champion? Will Carlsen retain the title, or can Caruana pry it away from him? GM Damian Lemos says that it is actually too close to call, as close to 50/50 as you can get.
On the one hand, we all know how good a player Magnus Carlsen is. Current champion, and the greatest player of recent history, if not all time. His is a household name, and he has shown time and again why he’s the highest rated player in the world. But on the other hand, that doesn’t mean this is a sure thing – Fabiano Caruana has been consistently improving over the past few years, getting better and better.
In the Candidates, Caruana showed just how impressive he can be, coming out on top of a tough group of players, including Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who played well enough to win any tournament any other day, had it not been for the extraordinary and excelling performance Caruana put in.
On top of that, it is Caruana who has the stronger opening preparation of the two. In openings with theory battles, Carlsen regularly chooses the quiet lines, but Caruana confidently selects sharp variations. In the middlegame, these players are evenly matched.
In this video, GM Damian Lemos talks about the upcoming match for the World Chess Championship, shares some of his predictions, and looks closely at a game that was played between the two contenders back in 2013. Think of it as a teaser for what we’ve got to come later this year!
Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana, 2013
How does the game between Carlsen and Caruana from 2013 open? Let’s take a look! 1. Nf3 – this is an ever increasingly popular opening move at the top level due to how flexible it is. White keeps his options open. 1…Nf6 2. g6 and Carlsen with the White pieces goes for a Reti set up. 2…d5 3. Bg2 c6. This pawn structure for Black is a very strong approach, it creates a solid wall against White’s fianchettoed bishop. You can see the position on the left.
Next, Carlsen plays 4. 0-0 and Caruana plays 4…Bg4. This is, of course, much better than …e6, where Black’s light-squared bishop would be trapped behind its own pawns. …Bf5 is another possibility for Black, playing a London system with reversed colors.
5. c4 e6 6. cxd5 Bxf3 – an interesting in-between move from Caruana, not immediately recapturing the pawn. What is the thinking behind this move? It prevents moves such as Ne5 coming in from White which could be troublesome for Black. It’s also logical to trade off this light-squared bishop now that Black has decided to place pawns on the light-squares.
7. Bxf3 cxd5 reaching a Slav type of setup. 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. d4. White has to stake a claim to the center. 9…Be7. You can see the resulting position on the right. It is clear that both sides are pretty equal at this point, both sides have solid positions – much as it will be come November at the World Chess Championship match! So, what happened next? You’ll have to watch the video!
Carlsen vs Caruana – Biel, 2011
Next up, GM Damian Lemos analyses a game between the two great players from Biel, 2011, in order to see how they face off against each other and to see the sort of thing we may see come the World Chess Championship match in November.
In this game, Carlsen plays a Scotch, an opening with less theory than, say, the Ruy Lopez, but is still solid for both sides. It begins with 1. e4 from Carlsen, who has shifted his opening play somewhat over the years – he is more likely to play 1. d4 nowadays but we’d not be surprised to see him mix it up a bit in the championship match.
1…e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 and already we see a somewhat surprising move. Nothing too dramatic; we usually would see a move like Bc4 going into the Italian (Giuoco Piano) Opening, or Bb5 going into the Spanish (Ruy Lopez) opening. With this Scotch opening, it is still solid but can step out of theory earlier on in the game.
3…exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5. The main line is 4…Nf6. 5. Nxc6 instead of the main line of 5. Qf6 which threatens mate and therefore aims picks up the knight on c6. Usually this main line leads to a queen exchange after 5…Qf3 bxc6.
5…bxc6 6. Bd3 Qh4, an aggressive option from Black, taking advantage of the fact White has no knight defending the kingside. 7. Qe2 Ne7 and Black has a clear plan of moving the knight into f4 via g6. 8. Nc3 0-0 9. Be3 looking to trade off Black’s best piece, and at the same time opening options for castling. White stays flexible, able to castle either side.
9…Bb6 is a solid move from Black, discouraging White from trading the bishops. Doing so now would fix Black’s only weakness, namely the pawn structure. Now Carlsen has to decide where to castle. Traditionally, aggressive players would look to castle queenside and launch a kingside attack by pushing pawns up the board. The more positional player would castle kingside, looking to take advantage of Black’s weaknesses with a longer-term plan. Carlsen plays 10. 0-0 which is probably the most accurate option. Why? Well, if 10. 0-0-0, Black can play …d5 and look to create something on the somewhat open queenside. At the same time, it is not too easy for White to start pushing the kingside pawns down the board. You can see the position on the right.
The scene is set. Who will win? How will they do it? You’ll have to watch the video!
Carlsen vs Caruana – Wijk aan Zee, 2016
This time, GM Damian Lemos closely analyses a game that was played between the two contenders in Wijk aan Zee back in 2016. In this game, Magnus Carlsen went for an offbeat opening with 1.g3 and tried to surprise Fabiano Caruana right from the start. How did Caruana react?
Fabiano Caruana’s Recent Form
Next, GM Damian Lemos takes a look at Fabiano Caruana’s recent form. Of course, he was outstanding in the Candidates Tournament, but what about after? How is he playing on the board? Damian looks at a very recent game played between Fabiano Caruana and Varuzhan Akobian at the 2018 US Chess Championship.
The game started with 1. e4 e6, the French Defense. 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3. Caruana chooses the main line. Other options include 3.Nd2, the Tarrasch, 3.e5, the Advanced French, or 3. exd5, the Exchange French. The point with some of the other variations such as 3. exd5 is that the game can become very equal very quickly. Caruana wants to keep things sharp with attacking options.
3…Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5. …c5 is the choice of move that Magnus Carlsen has chosen as Black in this position, and he’s gone on to win games against Vasily Ivanchuk and Sergey Karjakin.
6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2. So far, all of White’s moves have been fairly straightforward and logical. Now, White approaches the first major decision of the game. To castle kingside, or queenside? The majority of the time, White will castle kingside? Why? Because when White castles queenside, Black can get an attack rolling extremely quickly by pushing the pawns down the board with …a6 and …b5.
8…b6 which might look odd at first, but actually sets up the idea to potentially play …f6 later on (watch the video for more details!). 9. Bb5 wins a tempo for White, attacking the knight on c6. 9…Qc7 10. 0-0-0 – Caruana castles queenside! A brave decision. We wonder if Caruana will play such sharp attacking options in the World Chess Championship match later this year!
Of course, Caruana knows what he is doing. This move leads to 10…a6 which practically forces 11. Bxc6 Qxc6. White can’t really retreat the bishop, otherwise 9. Bb5 would have been for nothing. So, where to things stand? White has given up the bishop pair, but has an advantage in tempo. In an open position, the bishop pair would be a good advantage for Black, but the position is closed. Black’s bishops, especially the bishop on c8, remain closed in and ineffective.
So how did the game continue? You’ll have to watch the video!
Caruana vs Carlsen – Gashimov Memorial 2015
In the fifth video of this World Chess Championship preview series, GM Damian Lemos takes a close look at an exciting game between the two players from the Gashimov Memorial in 2015.
Magnus Carlsen, with the Black pieces, plays a Dutch Defense, not something we see often at the top level, and we doubt we’ll see it in the big match in November.
It is a good example, however, of the creative play the current World Chess Champion can come up with, and could be a precursor to some edge-of-your-seat games in the championship match.
Let’s take a look at the opening. Caruana starts with 1. d4 and Carlsen responds with 1. f5. 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg7 – this is the main line, and here Black has to make a key decision, whether to play in a King’s Indian style and fianchetto the bishop or whether to enter the Stonewall Dutch with …e6. Carlsen opts for the latter, 3…e6.
4. c4 c6. Carlsen plays a tricky move order. Position on the left. What is the point of …c6? It is a move intended to fight against a common idea from White in this position of Nh3. For example, had 4…d6 been played instead, 5. Nh3 with ideas of jumping into e6 via f4. With …c6, …d5 isn’t forced after Nh3 and Black can instead play …d6, getting ready to push …e5 at some point, where White’s knight on h3 would look awkward.
5. Nf3 d5 6. 0-0 Bd6. The bishop is best placed here in the Dutch. White may want to trade off the dark-squared bishops as it is Black’s only good bishop. The light-squared bishop is stuck on its starting square and look at the pawn structure – they sit on light-squares, hemming the bishop in. With Black’s bishop on d6, should White try b6, preparing to play Ba3 and trade the bishop, but Black could then play …Qe7, stopping that idea, or at least making it more difficult.
7. b3 Qe7 8. Bb2 – White not only develops, but the plan to trade the bishops continues – White has ideas of Qc1 followed by Ba3. The position is on the right. So, how does Carlsen handle this pressure? You’ll have to watch the video to find out!
Carlsen or Caruana – Who Will Win?
It’s anyone’s guess who will win! Both players have great chances and it may be a very close match. These rivals will surely give it their all, and we’re looking forward to seeing who comes out on top, hopefully with some entertaining games along the way.
How do players like Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana take down their toughest opponents? There are a number of quick fixes we can apply to avoid painful defeats and take down our rivals. Sign up to the FREE masterclass from GM Lemos here.
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