Can You Can Calculate Like World Championship Challenger Fabiano Caruana?

Fabiano Caruana during the final round of the 2016 Candidates' Tournament. Photo: World Chess
“Caruana went all out, trying to take fate into his own hands. It backfired spectacularly. And with this, there was no question: Karjakin would be the challenger to Magnus Carlsen. I remember the moment I saw 36. ... Re4 appear on the board, and my engine going wild. I was about to do the Today in Chess show with GMs Maurice Ashley, Eric Hansen and Yasser Seirawan. We were covering the Candidates, of course, and had our eye glued on the game. Seeing 37. Rxd5 on the board put a solemn gloom over the room…” -Alejandro Ramirez in his Chess Life report on the 2016 Candidates’ Tournament
It was just two years ago that I watched one of the most heartbreaking losses in modern competitive chess take place: Fabiano Caruana faced a must-win situation with the black pieces against Sergey Karjakin in the final round of the 2016 Candidates' Tournament in Moscow. Despite the questionable tiebreak system and the difficulty of playing for a win with black at the highest levels, Caruana made a valiant attempt and played the very double-edged Richtor-Rauzer Sicilian. However, in the arising tense middlegame position, Caruana tragically blundered, losing his chance to challenge Carlsen and about half a million dollars (guaranteed in the World Championship Match) all in a single move. This kind of failure in such a pivotal moment of his chess career would’ve shattered many players. Yet, Caruana took it in stride and eventually managed to turn an unfortunate story into an inspirational one. 
“I realized that the outcome is not the outcome. In other words, what we think of as endpoints to a goal are really just forks in a road that is endlessly forking. In the big picture of our lives, we really don’t know whether a particular success or failure is actually helping or hurting us. So, the metric I now use to judge my efforts and goals is: Did I do my best, given who I was and what I knew at that particular time? And what can I learn from the outcome to make my best better next time?” -Neil Strauss, author and journalist
This year’s Candidates’ Tournament was Caruana’s second chance. Undaunted by his previous result, Caruana won the event convincingly, even overcoming a substantial mid-tournament setback when he lost in the 12th round to Karjakin.  I think these kinds of stories are exactly why we watch competitive chess. When we see great competitors come back from seemingly insurmountable setbacks and failures, we realize that we can too.
“The best way I can describe the feeling is a Finnish word, “sisu”—the mental strength to continue to try even after you feel you’ve reached the limits of your abilities. I don’t think failure is sometimes part of the process—it always is. When you feel you can’t go on, know that you’re just getting started.” -Kyle Maynard, best-selling author and mixed martial arts athlete
In addition, Caruana’s Candidates victory this year affords him one huge advantage that he would not have had in 2016---After seeing how incredibly close Sergey Karjakin was to winning the New York World Championship match (in fact, Carlsen never once led the classical portion of the match), it’s clear that Carlsen is far from invincible. A close study of how Karjakin was able to stunt Carlsen both over the chessboard and in terms of nerves combined with Caruana’s often stunning playing abilities give the Challenger reasonable chances to defeat the World Champion this November.
Fabiano Caruana at the 2017 Sinquefield Cup. Photo: Lennart Ootes
"I think it's about 50-50. If I come well prepared, and I assume he will come well prepared as well, then it's going to be very close." -Fabiano Caruana in an interview with
Let's take a look at a few of Caruana's key tactical moments in the tournament.

Tactic #1

Fabiano Caruana vs. Wesley So

Alternate Variation
[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "?"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r5k1/3n1p1p/1qp3p1/2bpP1N1/2b1PB2/1p3QP1/1P3PBP/4R1K1 w - - 0 26"]
[PlyCount "2"]{Here, Caruana began a kingside attack with} 26. e6 $1 {What happens if
So had responded with} fxe6 $2 *[/pgn]
White to move and win.
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "New game"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r5k1/3n3p/1qp1p1p1/2bp2N1/2b1PB2/1p3QP1/1P3PBP/4R1K1 w - - 0 27"]
[PlyCount "4"]27. Bb8 $1 {Creating a discovered attack on the checkmating threat of Qf7+ and
Qxh7# while blocking Black's rook from reaching the kingside to defend. Black
has to give up his knight to avoid checkmate:} Ne5 28. Bxe5 Rf8 $18 *[/pgn]

Tactic #2

Fabiano Caruana vs. Levon Aronian

[fen]3q4/5p1k/Pbpr3p/4nPr1/1P2BQ2/2P1N3/8/R1B2K1R w - - 0 38[/fen]
White to move and win.
Level: Warm-Up
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Candidates 2018"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.03.30"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "1-0"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3q4/5p1k/Pbpr3p/4nPr1/1P2BQ2/2P1N3/8/R1B2K1R w - - 0 38"]
[PlyCount "23"]38. f6+ Ng6 39. Rxh6+ $1 {and Aronian resigned. If} Kxh6 (39... Kg8 40. Qxg5)
40. Qh2+ Rh5 41. Nd5+ Kh7 42. Qxh5+ Kg8 43. Ne7+ Nxe7 (43... Kf8 44. Nxg6+ fxg6
(44... Ke8 45. Qe5+ Kd7 46. Bf4 Bc7 47. Bf5+ Re6 48. Bxe6+ fxe6 49. Rd1+) 45.
Bh6+ Ke8 46. Qxg6+ Kd7 47. Qf7+ Kc8 48. Qb7#) 44. Qh7+ Kf8 45. Qh8+ Ng8 46.
Qg7+ Ke8 47. Qxg8+ Kd7 48. Qxf7+ Kc8 49. Qb7# 1-0[/pgn]
Fabiano Caruana at the 2017 Sinquefield Cup. Photo: Austin Fuller

Tactic #3

Vladimir Kramnik vs. Fabiano Caruana

[fen]r3r2k/pR5p/2BP4/5pb1/8/8/PPP2Ppn/1K1R4 b - - 0 28[/fen] Kramnik has just played 28. Bc6, attacking Caruana's rook and further supporting the advance of his passed d-pawn, how should Black respond?
Black to move.
Level: Intermediate
Show Solution
[pgn][Event "World Championship Candidates"]
[Site "Berlin GER"]
[Date "2018.03.14"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Vladimir Kramnik"]
[Black "Fabiano Caruana"]
[Result "?"]
[ECO "C42"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r3r2k/pR5p/2BP4/5pb1/8/8/PPP2Ppn/1K1R4 b - - 0 28"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2018.03.10"]28... Rad8 $1 {Remember to use all of your pieces! If Kramnik captures the
rook with} 29. Bxe8 ({Caruana went on to win a long game after:} 29. d7 Re2 30.
Bxg2 Rxf2 31. Bc6 Ng4 32. Rxa7 Ne3 33. Rg1 h6 34. Rc7 Kg7 35. a4 Kf7 36. Bb5
Ke7 37. a5 Rf4 38. c3 Kd6 39. Rb7 Rg4 40. Re1 f4 41. a6 h5 42. a7 Ra8 43. b4 h4
44. c4 h3 45. c5+ Ke5 46. Rb8 Rxa7 47. Rg8 Bf6 48. d8=Q Bxd8 49. Rxg4 Bf6 50.
Rg6 Rb7 51. Be2 Rxb4+ 52. Ka2 Nc2 53. Rc1 Nd4 54. Bd3 Ra4+ 55. Kb1 Nb3 56. Re1+
Kd5 57. Kc2 Nd4+ 58. Kb1 Nf3 59. Rd1 Ra1+ 60. Kc2 Rxd1 61. Ba6 Rd2+ 62. Kc1
Bb2+ 63. Kb1 Kxc5 64. Bb7 Ne5 65. Rf6 f3 66. Rf5 f2) (29. Bxg2 Rxd6 30. Rxd6
Re1+) 29... Rxd6 30. Rd7 (30. Rg1 Nf3 31. Rxg2 Rd1#) 30... Rxd1+ 31. Rxd1 Nf1 {
and Black wins.}*[/pgn]   The chess world Twittersphere was thrilled to congratulate Caruana on his victory:  
  For more on the 2018 Candidates' Tournament, check out:  
Vanessa West is a regular writer and digital assistant for US Chess News. She won the 2017 Chess Journalist of the Year award. You can follow her on Twitter: @Vanessa__West    

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