Caruana Neutralizes Carlsen's Last White; Championship Monday Looms

The Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match is tied with one round left at 5.5-5.5. Today's game started out with some levity as 2016 challenger, Sergey Karjakin, started the game with 1.b4, cutting the tension for a brief moment. Magnus Carlsen instead played 1.e4 in his last White of the classical portion of the match, but a well prepared Caruana easily neutralized his small opening edge with the Petroff for the eleventh draw in eleven games.  IM Kostya Kavutskiy breaks down the action:

[pgn] [Event "Carlsen-Caruana World Championship"] [Date "2018.11.24"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2835"] [BlackElo "2832"] [Annotator "IM Kostya Kavutskiy"] [PlyCount "110"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Norway"] [BlackTeam "United States"] [WhiteTeamCountry "NOR"] [BlackTeamCountry "USA"] 1. e4 {Repeating his choice from Game 6, Magnus completes the cycle of playing 1.d4, 1.c4, and 1.e4 in three consecutive White games.} e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {As has been usual for this match, Caruana sticks to his guns, as the previous Petroff game was no reason to give up the opening.} 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 ({In Game 6 Magnus opted for the sideline} 4. Nd3 {which did not garner him any advantage.} ) 4... Nxe4 5. Nc3 {This move, with idea to develop quickly after 5...Nxc3 6. dxc3 has taken over as the main line against the Petroff in recent years.} (5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 {is the old main line where there are thousands of games and many variations for both sides.}) 5... Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 {Carlsen sticks with the modern setup, where White castles queenside and looks for a sharp middlegame with kings castled on opposite sides of the board.} Nd7 9. O-O-O Nf6 $5 {As guessed by GM Jon Ludvig Hammer on Twitter, this line with '9...Nf6' was one of the lines listed as part of Caruana's repertoire in the round four 'leaked video'. It is interesting that Caruana stuck to his guns, playing a line that he knew Magnus would be preparing for quite heavily. This indicates quite a healthy confidence in his own team and preparation for Caruana. On the same hand, it's a bit puzzling why Magnus was not able to pose more critical problems than took place in this game.} (9... c6 {, the other main move,was played by Fabiano in the 2018 Batumi Olympiad:} 10. h4 d5 11. Kb1 Re8 12. Bd3 Bc5 13. Rde1 Bxe3 14. Rxe3 Rxe3 15. Qxe3 Nf6 16. Re1 Qd6 17. Qe8+ Qf8 18. Qxf8+ Kxf8 19. Kc1 Bd7 $11 {½-½ Aronian - Caruana, Batumi 2018}) 10. Bd3 {Played quickly by Magnus.} c5 11. Rhe1 Be6 {Black's idea is to play for Qa5 and d6-d5, gaining space in the center.} 12. Kb1 $146 {The first new move of the game. Despite a 10 minute think on the previous move and a 12 minute think on this one, it's quite likely this position was prepared by Carlsen at home, especially considering 12.Kb1 is the top choice of Stockfish!} (12. Bg5 { was played by the previous challenger, Karjakin in a high level game against GM Harikrishna} h6 $2 {A surprising blunder. Caruana likely had something better prepared here, of course.} 13. Bxh6 $1 c4 (13... gxh6 14. Qxh6 $18 { and White is completely winning with Ng5 or Nh4 coming, followed by a rook lift if needed!}) 14. Bxg7 $1 cxd3 15. Qg5 Ne4 16. Qh6 Bg5+ 17. Nxg5 Qxg5+ 18. Qxg5 Nxg5 19. Bxf8 dxc2 20. Rxd6 Kxf8 21. h4 Nh7 22. Kxc2 $18 {with a desicive material advantage, 1-0 Karjakin-Harikrishna, Shamkir 2016}) 12... Qa5 { The most solid choice, hitting a2 and inducing White to allow a trade of queens.} 13. c4 (13. a3 $6 c4 14. Be2 Ne4 $132 {followed by d5 and Black has great counterplay.}) 13... Qxd2 14. Bxd2 h6 {A useful move, as otherwise Ng5 is an annoying threat.} 15. Nh4 {It's not clear if Magnus prepared this idea at home or if he came up with it at the board, but either way it did not pose serious problems for Caruana, who spent some time and equalized comfortably.} Rfe8 {An accurate move, preparing Bf8 if needed.} 16. Ng6 (16. Nf5 {is logical, but after} Bf8 17. Ne3 d5 $1 18. cxd5 Nxd5 $11 {Black should equalize.}) 16... Ng4 $1 {Another precise move by Caruana, hitting the f2-pawn and aiming for the e5-square.} (16... fxg6 $2 17. Rxe6 $16 {looks awful for Black, as the light-squares would become incredibly weak.}) 17. Nxe7+ Rxe7 18. Re2 Ne5 { Thanks to this move, White cannot enjoy the advantage of the two bishops for very long.} 19. Bf4 Nxd3 20. Rxd3 Rd7 21. Rxd6 {This leads to many exchanges and a pretty easily drawn opposite colored bishops endgame.} (21. b3 {would not change much after} Rad8 22. Red2 d5 23. cxd5 Rxd5 $11 {with comfortable equality as in the game.}) 21... Rxd6 22. Bxd6 Rd8 23. Rd2 Bxc4 24. Kc1 b6 25. Bf4 Rxd2 {The computer doesn't like this move, but for a human chess player the decision is simple - without rooks the endgame with opposite colored bishops will be drawn quite easily, even despite the fact that Black will lose a pawn.} 26. Kxd2 a6 27. a3 Kf8 28. Bc7 b5 29. Bd6+ Ke8 30. Bxc5 {Carlsen managed to win a pawn, but it is very far from enough to create any real chances.} h5 {A well known principle is that the defending side should keep the pawns fixed on the same color as the bishop, in order to be able to build an easy blockade.} 31. Ke3 Kd7 32. Kd4 g6 33. g3 Be2 34. Bf8 Kc6 35. b3 Bd1 36. Kd3 Bg4 37. c4 Be6 38. Kd4 bxc4 39. bxc4 Bg4 40. c5 Be6 {The key setup for Black--the king blocks the c-pawn while the bishop can defend the f7 or a6 pawns as needed. White has no way of breaking through or creating a second passed pawn, which means Black should be able to hold easily. Magnus tried for a bit but to no avail:} 41. Bh6 Bd5 42. Be3 Be6 43. Ke5 Bd5 44. Kf4 Be6 45. Kg5 Bd5 46. g4 hxg4 47. Kxg4 Ba2 48. Kg5 Bb3 49. Kf6 Ba2 50. h4 Bb3 51. f4 Ba2 52. Ke7 Bb3 53. Kf6 Ba2 54. f5 Bb1 $1 {The only move, but good enough for the draw. } (54... gxf5 $4 55. Bf4 $1 $18 {and the h-pawn will promote.}) 55. Bf2 Bc2 { and a draw was agreed.} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
After a rest day on Sunday, November 25th, the top two players in the World will meet in one more classical chess game, on Monday November 26th. Caruana will play with the white pieces. If the match is still tied, they come back on Wednesday, November 28th for a four-game rapid tiebreak match, followed by five pairs of blitz games, and finally Armageddon if needed.

Fabiano Caruana deftly defended in round 11, Photo IM Eric Rosen

Interact with Eric Rosen, who is taking over our twitter@USChess using the hashtag #CarlsenCaruana. is the tournament website.   IM Kostya Kavutskiy is a professional chess player, coach, and writer. Check out his twitter and Patreon page for instructive chess analysis and advice for improvement.