Carlsen Retains World Championship Title in Stunning Rapid Display

Magnus Carlsen, World Champion, Photo IM Eric Rosen
Magnus Carlsen retained his World Championship title in a stunning rapid display, defeating American challenger Fabiano Caruana 3-0. Post-game, Magnus had only kind words for his opponent, singling him out as his toughest opponent yet in his fourth title victory and third successful title defense. On the other hand, Magnus was not as generous with critics of his controversial round 12 draw offer, including former World Champions Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik, who both harshly criticized Carlsen's decision to offer a draw in a better position in the final classical game of the match. And still, Magnus Carlsen urged fans not to be results oriented. While his tiebreak victory was fully convincing, he couldn't have predicted three wins in a row considering Caruana's incredibly high quality chess in the classical portion of the match. Fabiano was classy and cool even after an extremely tough day at the office. Fabiano Caruana's sensational performance throughout 2018, in the Candidates and finally in this match, inspired people all over the nation and the World to delve more deeply into chess. As we watched two of the greatest players in history battle, we saw some of the most accurate games in World Championship history. US Chess Executive Director Carol Meyer said, "Fabiano's quest for the crown has been such a boon for the popularity of chess and we are so proud of his performance in London." Rex Sinquefield, founder of the Saint Louis Chess Club, echoed the positive sentiment, "“We are tremendously proud of Fabiano,” said Rex, “He has been instrumental in capturing the world’s attention and fostering renewed interest in American chess." Fabiano's many fans, longtime and newfound, flooded twitter to express their best wishes for our challenger. And on to the most painful part of the day for #TeamFabi, Magnus's dazzling display in the rapid performance, with all three wins annotated by IM Kostya Kavutskiy.

[Event "Carlsen-Caruana World Championship"]
[Date "2018.11.28"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A22"]
[WhiteElo "2835"]
[BlackElo "2832"]
[Annotator "IM Kostya Kavutskiy"]
[PlyCount "109"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Norway"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "NOR"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 Bb4 4. e4 $5 {The first surprise, somewhat
ironically transposing the game into a reversed Sicilian Rossolimo (!) which
the players discussed in three games in the match.} O-O (4... Bxc3 5. dxc3 Nxe4
6. Qg4 {and White will win back the pawn under good conditions.}) 5. Nge2 c6 $6
{This natural move with the plan of a6 and b5 turns out to not fully equalize
for Black.} ({Something like} 5... d6 6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O Bc5 8. d3 a6 {seems
like a more solid setup for Black, with a very playable middlegame ahead.}) 6.
Bg2 a6 7. O-O b5 8. d4 $1 {Gaining control over the center.} d6 9. a3 Bxc3 ({
Perhaps better was} 9... Ba5 10. b4 Bb6 11. c5 $14 {and after 11.. .dxc5 White
has his choice of recaptures, with some extra space.}) 10. Nxc3 bxc4 {Already
in danger of being worse, Caruana grabbed a pawn here, forcing White to
sacrifice it Catalan style.} 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Na4 Be6 13. Qxd8 (13. f4 $1 {
is a sharp move that seems good for White but Magnus prefers to go for the
comfy endgame.}) (13. Nc5 Qe7 14. Nxe6 Qxe6 $14 {and if White can win the pawn
back, he'll be better.}) 13... Rxd8 14. Be3 Nbd7 15. f3 $1 {A move that shows
White is in charge. Magnus is in no rush to win back the pawn as his pieces
control all of the important squares in the position. This is a positional
sacrifice.} Rab8 16. Rac1 Rb3 17. Rfe1 Ne8 18. Bf1 Nd6 19. Rcd1 $1 {This move
is tough to meet as Black's rook on d8 is hanging and the knights are getting
pinned.} Nb5 $6 {Played after a long think, realizing that Black is under
pressure.} (19... Nb7 $1 {would keep the game closer to balanced, as the rook
on d8 is protected and Nc5/Nb6 ideas are out of the question. However, Black's
position would still be under great strain here.}) 20. Nc5 Rxb2 21. Nxe6 fxe6
22. Bxc4 {Simple and strong, collecting one pawn back and amping the pressure.}
(22. Bg5 $2 {would fall into Black's trap:} Nd4 $1 {Threatening Nxf3+ and Rxh2
mate.} 23. Rxd4 exd4 24. Bxd8 Ne5 $19 {and White is dead lost.}) 22... Nd4 23.
Bxd4 exd4 24. Bxe6+ {Played after a deep think, likely evaluating the ensuing
rook endgame.} ({A few commentators, some engine assisted, others named
Grischuk pointed out} 24. Rxd4 Kf7 25. Kh1 $1 {with a huge advantage for White,
prophylactically getting out of the way of Ne5-Nxf3 tricks. After} Ke7 26. Red1
c5 27. Rd6 Rb6 28. e5 $1 $18 {White is close to winning with such a powerful
rook and bishop.}) 24... Kf8 25. Rxd4 Ke7 {The best defense, forcing trades as
otherwise Ne5 will create too much counterplay.} (25... Ne5 26. Rxd8+ Ke7 27.
Re3 Kxd8 28. f4 Ke7 29. Bf5 $18 {and White has a winning endgame with the
extra pawn.}) 26. Rxd7+ Rxd7 27. Bxd7 Kxd7 28. Rd1+ Ke6 29. f4 c5 30. Rd5 Rc2
31. h4 c4 32. f5+ Kf6 33. Rc5 (33. g4 Re2 $1 34. g5+ Kf7 35. e5 c3 36. e6+ Ke8
$13 {and it is White who needs to force a draw with} 37. f6 $11 {as otherwise
c2 and Re1+ was coming.}) 33... h5 34. Kf1 {Despite the extra pawn, this
endgame is very difficult to convert for White, as the king is stuck on the
back rank. Unfortunately for Caruana, he was running low on time here and
couldn't work out the best defense.} Rc3 $6 {This doesn't lose the game but it
seems it was unnecessary to let the king off of the back rank.} (34... c3 {
seems like the critical option, though one would have to see that after} 35.
Ke1 Rg2 $1 36. Rxc3 Ke5 $11 {Black gets enough compensation for two pawns with
such active pieces. A hard decision to make against Magnus!}) 35. Kg2 Rxa3 36.
Rxc4 Ke5 37. Rc7 Kxe4 $2 {This ends up being the losing mistake.} ({The
in-between move} 37... Ra2+ $1 {would have saved the day.} 38. Kh3 (38. Kf3
Ra3+) 38... Kxe4 39. Rxg7 Ra1 $11 {which transposes to 38.Rxg7 below, Black
threatens Kf3 and gets enough counterplay to hold.}) 38. Re7+ $1 {Instead
Magnus gets his own ultra-precise intermediate check, sealing the win for
White.} ({After the 'normal'} 38. Rxg7 Ra2+ 39. Kh3 Ra1 $1 {Black has enough
counterplay to draw, thanks to the king coming to f3 and creating mating
threats with the rook.} 40. Rg5 Kf3 41. Kh2 Ra2+ $11 {and Black can force a
repetition.}) 38... Kxf5 39. Rxg7 Kf6 ({And now Black isn't in time with} 39...
Ra2+ 40. Kh3 Ke4 41. Rg5 Kf3 42. Rxh5 Ra1 {in view of} 43. Rf5+ $18) 40. Rg5 {
Black has no way of saving the h5-pawn and with two connected passers against
one, Carlsen reaches an endgame that is usually a straightforward win.} a5 41.
Rxh5 a4 42. Ra5 Ra1 43. Kf3 a3 44. Ra6+ Kg7 45. Kg2 Ra2+ 46. Kh3 Ra1 47. h5 Kh7
48. g4 Kg7 (48... a2 49. Kg2 $1 $18 {Followed by g4-g5 and Ra7+. Eventually
Black's king will get mated on the back rank, with White's pawns coming to g6
and h6.}) 49. Kh4 a2 50. Kg5 Kf7 51. h6 Rb1 52. Ra7+ {Another intermediate
check, just in case.} Kg8 53. Rxa2 Rb5+ 54. Kg6 Rb6+ 55. Kh5 {1-0 Carlsen, who
played an excellent game to score his first victory of the match while Caruana
must have been left wondering what would have happened had he found the
miracle save with 39... Ra2+?} 1-0[/pgn]

[Event "Carlsen-Caruana World Championship"]
[Date "2018.11.28"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B33"]
[WhiteElo "2832"]
[BlackElo "2835"]
[Annotator "IM Kostya Kavutskiy"]
[PlyCount "56"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Norway"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "NOR"]

1. e4 c5 {Sticking to his guns, Magnus did not switch to his more usual 1...e5,
as many thought he might, but instead keeps to the Sicilian repertoire he
prepared for the match.} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6
7. Nd5 {And Caruana sticks to the line he felt gave him his best chances
against the Sveshnikov.} Nxd5 8. exd5 Ne7 9. c4 Ng6 10. Qa4 Bd7 11. Qb4 Qb8 {
A deviation from Game 12, where Magnus played 11...Bf5.} 12. h4 h5 13. Be3 a6
14. Nc3 a5 15. Qb3 a4 16. Qd1 Be7 {Continuing the highly strategic mode of
play we saw in Game 12, where Magnus was able to outmaneuver Caruana in a
similar structure.} 17. g3 Qc8 18. Be2 Bg4 19. Rc1 {This is a much more solid
setup compared to what Caruana got in Game 12, but he ends up quickly losing
the thread of the position.} Bxe2 20. Qxe2 Qf5 $1 {Placing the queen perfectly,
where it covers the h5-pawn and stops White from putting the knight on e4.} 21.
c5 $2 {This sharp break ends up overextending White's position, and Magnus is
able to snag the initiative. Curiously, the break 21.c5 also took place in
Game 8, where I (among others) criticized Caruana for not playing it sooner!} (
{After} 21. O-O O-O {White would have a small edge, but nothing more.}) 21...
O-O $1 {Ignoring the break and simply focusing on development. This is a tough
position for White to play in rapid, as in many cases the rook on h1 will
simply end up out of play.} 22. c6 bxc6 23. dxc6 Rfc8 24. Qc4 ({Unfortunately
for White} 24. Nd5 {is answered with} Qe4 $1 25. Nxe7+ Nxe7 $17 {and the
c6-pawn is lost.}) 24... Bd8 {A very annoying move, planning either Ne7 or Ba5.
} 25. Nd5 (25. O-O Ne7 $1 $15 {would give Black a better position, as the
c6-pawn is likely to fall.}) (25. Ne4 $5 Ba5+ 26. Ke2 {would have kept the
game quite sharp, though it's not much fun to play with a king on e2.}) 25...
e4 $1 {Planning to bring the knight from g6 to e5 with great prospects from
there.} 26. c7 $2 (26. Bd4 {was the only move to hold the balance, preparing
to capture Black's knight if it goes through e5.} Ba5+ 27. Bc3 $11 {and White
is holding.}) 26... Bxc7 $1 {Showing great tactical awareness.} 27. Nxc7 Ne5 {
White's knight on c7 is soon to be lost and Nd3+ is coming. Black will be
winning back his sacrificed material soon.} 28. Nd5 (28. Qd5 {was best, though
after} Rab8 $1 29. O-O Rxc7 $1 {Black will have a decisive advantage as} 30.
Rxc7 {loses to} Nf3+ $19 {and Qxd5.}) 28... Kh7 $1 {A calm prophylactic move,
getting out of the way of Ne7+ and reinstating all of the threats in the
position. Caruana thought for a while and resigned. 2-0 Carlsen.} (28... Nxc4
$4 {would be met with} 29. Ne7+) ({The problem after} 28... Kh7 {White's queen
simply has no good squares, as either Nf3+ or Nd3+ is coming and Black will
pickup the house. For instance} 29. Qe2 Nd3+ 30. Kd1 Qxd5 $19) 0-1


[Event "Carlsen-Caruana World Championship"]
[Date "2018.11.28"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B44"]
[WhiteElo "2835"]
[BlackElo "2832"]
[Annotator "IM Kostya Kavutskiy"]
[PlyCount "101"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Norway"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "NOR"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. e4 c5 {Now that he's in a must-win situation, the Petroff no longer makes
sense for Caruana, who instead switches to his backup: either a Taimanov or
Kan Sicilian.} 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 {Since Carlsen just needs a draw from this game,
it wouldn't make sense to enter any sharp lines from the English Attack for
instance, but rather, something sensible where White can get a small space
advantage.} Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bc5 {Not the main move, but a logical one
nevertheless.} ({The usual} 5... Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 {leads to} 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3
e5 9. O-O O-O $11 {where Black is known to be OK but it's a middlegame that
Carlsen can play without much risk.}) 6. Nc2 {Aiming to reach a Maroczy Bind
type setup, where White's e4 and c4-pawns will guarantee him a nice space
advantage. It's a good choice for rapid, as Black has to be very concrete in
order to avoid falling into a slightly passive position.} (6. Nb3 {is typical,
after which Black has a choice of bishop moves.}) 6... Nf6 7. Nc3 O-O ({
I believe} 7... Qb6 $5 {was the best way to reach a fighting position.} 8. Qe2
O-O {and Black is already threatening to seize the initiative with d7-d5.
White would need to play} 9. e5 {and after} Ne8 $132 {the position looks quite
double-edged.}) 8. Be3 b6 9. Be2 Bb7 10. O-O Qe7 11. Qd2 Rfd8 12. Rfd1 Ne5 13.
Bxc5 bxc5 14. f4 Ng6 15. Qe3 {Out of the opening and early middlegame Magnus
has been able to get exactly what he was looking for. A very safe position
with some space. It is not easy for White to win this type of position, but he
doesn't need to win!} d6 16. Rd2 a6 17. Rad1 Qc7 18. b3 h6 19. g3 Rd7 20. Bf3
Re8 21. Qf2 Ne7 22. h3 Red8 23. Bg2 Nc6 24. g4 $1 {The exact moment to advance,
as all of White's pieces are setup perfectly.} Qa5 {This move was criticized
as Caruana simply retreated afterwards, but in fact it's hard to find another
move for Black, who has to defend the d6-pawn very carefully.} 25. Na4 Qc7 26.
e5 $5 {This was quite unnecessary, but it doesn't spoil White's position and
we can all understand the desire to simplify matters.} (26. Nc3 {would have
been quite reasonable, given the match situation, but of course Caruana would
not repeat and play something like} Nh7 {to keep the game going. White keeps
the plus after} 27. h4 $1 $14) 26... dxe5 27. Nxc5 Rxd2 28. Rxd2 Rxd2 29. Qxd2
Ba8 (29... exf4 30. Nxb7 Qxb7 31. Qxf4 $11 {is equal but playable.}) 30. fxe5
Qxe5 (30... Nxe5 31. Nxe6 $1 {would also lead to a drawish position after} fxe6
32. Bxa8 Nxc4 33. bxc4 Qa7+ 34. Qe3 Qxa8 35. Qxe6+ $11) 31. Nd7 Qb2 32. Qd6 $1
{An accurate move, looking to force the draw.} Nxd7 ({Carlsen's point was that
after} 32... Qxc2 33. Qf8+ Kh7 34. Nxf6+ gxf6 35. Qxf7+ {White can force the
draw by perpetual check.}) 33. Qxd7 Qxc2 34. Qe8+ (34. Bxc6 $4 {would be a
grave mistake as after} Qb1+ {Black picks up too many pawns in the queen
endgame:} 35. Kh2 Qxa2+ 36. Kg1 Bxc6 37. Qxc6 Qxb3 $19) 34... Kh7 35. Qxa8 Qd1+
$1 {The only chance to keep the game going, keeping the queen and knight on
the board.} 36. Kh2 Qd6+ 37. Kh1 Nd4 38. Qe4+ f5 39. gxf5 exf5 40. Qe3 Ne6 41.
b4 Ng5 $2 {This ends up being a decisive loss of time, as the knight is forced
to retreat while White's queenside pawns start rolling.} (41... g5 {may have
been a better try, but would likely not create any real winning chances for
Caruana, for example} 42. c5 Qd1+ 43. Kh2 Nf4 44. Qe7+ Kg6 45. Qd6+ Qxd6 46.
cxd6 $11 {Followed by Bb7 and White is not worse.}) 42. c5 Qf6 43. c6 Ne6 44.
a4 $1 {From here Carlsen makes it look easy, Black has failed to find enough
counterplay and now White is just winning.} Nc7 45. Qf4 Ne6 46. Qd6 Qa1+ 47.
Kh2 Nd4 48. c7 Qc3 ({Against} 48... Ne2 {Carlsen had the cool} 49. Qc5 $1 $18 {
which covers mate and wins the game.}) 49. Qc5 Qe3 50. c8=Q f4 ({There are no
checks after} 50... Qf4+ 51. Kh1) 51. Qg4 {While Carlsen finished the 2016
World Championship match against Sergey Karjakin with a stunning queen
sacrifice, here he ends the match with an extra queen and retains his title
for the fourth time. Bravo Magnus! A brilliant display in rapid to silence the
critics. For the challenger, I don't think Caruana has anything to be ashamed
of,. He played a very tight match against arguably the greatest player of all
time. I'm sure his chess will only improve from here and we'll see much more
Carlsen vs. Caruana in the future!} 1-0

US Chess congratulates Fabiano Caruana on this epic fight. Thanks to IM Eric Rosen for his social media coverage throughout the event, and IM Kostya Kavutskiy for his annotations in the second half of the event. Connect with Eric on his website and twitter, and find out more about Kostya on his twitter and patreon pages. 

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