American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana won the elite World Championship Candidates Chess Tournament in Berlin on Tuesday by an impressive full point. He outplayed Russia’s Alexander Grischuk in the final game and therefore has qualified to face World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen for the title. Caruana will play Norway’s Carlsen in a 12-game title match in November, in London. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov from Azerbaijan placed second and Grischuk was third.
The Candidates Tournament was full of speculation and excitement. The signature competition featured the finest in-form chess players in the world. Eight contenders began the 2018 competition, and only one could qualify as the challenger for Carlsen; hence the ferociousness of the competition.
Big names were mathematically eliminated at the halfway mark of the competition. I was rooting for Armenia’s Levon Aronian to win, based on his 2017 performances and the fact that he participated in two previous tournaments. He was suppressed early and failed to recover. He finished last with a series of draws and a few losses.
I didn’t see Caruana emerging as the winner.
Some news reports indicated that one billion people followed the competition. The World Chess Federation’s followers are second only to those who follow FIFA. It is a remarkable distinction for a nation to enter the Candidates Tournament. China had one entry for the first time in its history; Armenia, one; Azerbaijan, one; the USA, two and Russia, three.
Caruana’s victory marked the first time since the late, great Bobby Fischer won the Interzonal Tournament (the former name for the Candidates Tournament) in Spain, in 1970, that America emerged victorious. Fischer won the 1970 Interzonal by a massive 3.5 points margin. In the succeeding one on one matches the following year, he crushed the Soviet Union’s Mark Taimanov 6-0, Denmark’s Bent Larsen 6-0 and the Soviet Union’s Tigran Petrosian 6.5 to 2.5 points. The structure of qualifying as the challenger for the world champion was different in those days. The difficult Interzonal Tournament was followed by three matches. The winner qualified as the challenger for the world championship match.
Caruana has bestowed a distinctive honour on his country.
But while Fischer went on to win the world championship, I cannot say that the same will happen for Caruana. Carlsen will be very difficult to beat. I recall Harold C Schonberg attesting in the New York Times:
“… the Fischer aura is the will to dominate, to humiliate, to take over an opponent’s mind. Fischer’s enormous appetite to win sometimes assumes Dracularian proportions…” Simply put, Carlsen has already bested the chess world. Caruana has to prove he can better the best in November. Fischer did it.
On the local chess scene, Guyana is currently participating in the 7th Junior Carifta Chess Tournament in Suriname for the first time. The junior participants of the national championship are representing Guyana.