Reports | October 08, 2012 21:24

Carlsen takes down Caruana, moves to 2nd place in Bilbao

Carlsen takes down Caruana, moves to 2nd place in Bilbao

In today's 6th round of the Masters Final tournament leader Fabiano Caruana lost his first game. The Italian GM was ground down in an ending by Magnus Carlsen, who avoided theory and started his game with a Philidor set-up. The other two games, Karjakin-Aronian and Vallejo-Anand, ended in draws. Carlsen is now 2 points behind Caruana with four rounds to go.

Round 6 in action in the Alhondiga in Bilbao | Photos thanks to @bilbaomasters

Event 5th Grand Slam Masters Final | PGN via TWIC
Dates October 8-13, 2012
Location Bilbao, Spain
System 6-player round robin
Players Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Vishy Anand, Sergey Karjakin, Fabiano Caruana, Paco Vallejo
Rate of play

90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 60 minutes for the remaining moves with a 10-second increment

Extra Players are not allowed to agree to a draw without the arbiter’s permission. In case both players request it to him, the arbiter will make his decision after consulting with the technical assistant. The football scoring system is used: 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss.

The presentation of the players before the start of the round

After eight days of rest, and getting accustomed to the Central European time zone, the players continued the Masters Final tournament on Monday in Bilbao, Spain. Fabiano Caruana performed best in the surprisingly chilly weather in Sao Paulo and left Brazil's largest city with 11 points out of a possible 15. The world's highest rated players, Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen, followed with 7 and 6 points respectively. World Champion Vishy Anand drew all his games in Sao Paulo which got him 5 points, while Paco Vallejo and Sergey Karjakin took just 3 points with them to the Basque country.

Like in previous years the games are played in the Central Atrium of the Alhondiga Bilbao, in a soundproofed glass box with view to the public. This glass room measures 8x8m witdh, with a high of 3,5m and weighs 8 tons

The first game in round 6 ended rather quickly. In a Marshall Ruy Lopez Karjakin and Aronian reached an opposite-coloured bishop ending after about two hours of play, and a brief look at Chief Arbiter Anil Surender of Sweden was enough to legally shake hands two moves later. The Sofia Rule is in effect in Bilbao, but as we know, in many cases it doesn't have the desired effect.

The big moment in this game was of course Black's 20th move. Aronian:

I found this idea in Nalchik at one of th e Grand Prix tournaments, three years ago. I was very excited and couldn't wait to play it. I already lost hope, because it's a nice idea. Together with my second Gabriel Sargissian we guessed that in the first game everybody will take on d5 and it's basically a forced draw.

Karjakin in fact started his comment at the press conference (attended by many spectators) by apologizing for the short draw.

After such an interesting novelty it was very risky to take on f4 or to play something more ambitious. It was clear that Levon analyzed it deeply so therefore I decided to take on d5, but of course it's nothing.

PGN string

Commentator Leontxo Garcia, who has always been a strong advocate of measures to stimulate fighting chess, asked whether there's a "solution" for games like this one. Aronian said:

I've always been rooting for Chess960 and hopefully during my career I will be able to play more of that.


Yes, it's a little bit too much. Sometimes you just want to play chess without my analysis but you cannot do it. I have two suggestions. First I completely agree with Levon, I also like Chess960. This is I think the future of the game, to play this at least in some tournaments. And, as was suggested before by other grandmasters, if we make a short draw, let's say in less than two hours, we can play one rapid game.

Somewhat later, but still just before the first time control, Vallejo and Anand also split the point - the 6th draw now for the World Champ. Vallejo said he expected Anand to play the Sicilian, and Anand said he didn't because he expected his opponent to expect that! The Spaniard's 18.e5 was a safe choice, but doesn't seem to offer White very much.

PGN string

Vallejo and Anand talking about their game

Carlsen seemed determined from the start to avenge his unnecessary first round loss against Caruana. He played 2.d3 against the French, and then put his king's bishop on e2. Because Caruana played e6-e5 at an early stage this started to look like a Philidor with colours reversed.

Sometimes in order to create a fight you need to choose lines that aren't necessarily the most thoroughly analysed

said Carlsen after the game. The Norwegian managed to outplay the tournament leader little by little, profiting from only tiny inaccuracies. As one of our readers, a llife-long fan of the 12th World Champion, put it in a private message:

Carlsen is the new Karpov, but better. Karpov+ !

Carlsen himself said about the ending:

It's clear that it is favourable for White. The only question is whether Black can hold it or not.


I thought I should be able to hold the endgame. It doesn't seem like a losing position.

PGN string

Caruana and Carlsen after their game

Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Schedule & results

Round 1 24.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 6 08.10.12 17:00 CET
Anand 1-1 Vallejo   Vallejo 1-1 Anand
Aronian 3-0 Karjakin   Karjakin 1-1 Aronian
Caruana 3-0 Carlsen   Carlsen 3-0 Caruana
Round 2 25.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 7 09.10.12 17:00 CET
Vallejo 0-3 Carlsen   Carlsen - Vallejo
Karjakin 0-3 Caruana   Caruana - Karjakin
Anand 1-1 Aronian   Aronian - Anand
Round 3 26.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 8 10.10.12 17:00 CET
Aronian 1-1 Vallejo   Vallejo - Aronian
Caruana 1-1 Anand   Anand - Caruana
Carlsen 1-1 Karjakin   Karjakin - Carlsen
Round 4 28.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 9 12.10.12 17:00 CET
Caruana 3-0 Vallejo   Karjakin - Vallejo
Carlsen 1-1 Aronian   Carlsen - Anand
Karjakin 1-1 Anand   Caruana - Aronian
Round 5 29.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 10 13.10.12 16:30 CET
Vallejo 1-1 Karjakin   Vallejo - Caruana
Anand 1-1 Carlsen   Aronian - Carlsen
Aronian 1-1 Caruana   Anand - Karjakin

Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Round 6 standings (football)


Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Round 6 standings (classical)


Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Anonymous's picture

Magnus the incredible did it again. all he wants is a playable position, and then 'let's just play chess' :-)

Zeblakob's picture

The geniality of Carlsen is: he played so simply and clearly, that opponents could not realise why they always were lost! In that simple, not complex, "boring" positions! Paradox? ☘☘☘☘☘☘

RG13's picture

That was the method of Capablanca.

Mike's picture

Yes, Carlsen is something like Capablanca, but the former has the help of the practice and study with supercomputer tools...The latter achieved almost perfect ending technique only with the help of his natural brain...

Anonymous's picture

Why don't you look at the first games of Carlsen and tell us if his talent was due to computer?

RG13's picture


bishop's picture

...dancing in the saddle, like climbing in giro... :)

arkan's picture

It must be humiliating to be ground down so hard in a seemingly even endgame - i don't understand how Carlsen has made this his 'trademark'' ability with such strong opponents

What do you guys think? Do they crack under pressure? That's hard to believe for 2700-2800 players

gelegela's picture

Anand: Gelfand was strongly prepared. Vallejo was strongly prepared. Aliens helping Carlsen

Anonymous's picture


sen's picture

you should wait and comment only after carlsen atleast qualifies as Worldcup challenger.Disrespect to World champion is not acceptable.

Bartleby's picture

"Seemingly even" is a stretch. The endgame was bad for Black. Strange enough, Caruana headed for it rather willingly. Maybe he thought he could hold it. Why did he defend so passive? Was there no way to activate a rook? Then it was really bad. Carlsen played it very convincing, of course. He owned the whole board.

gelegela's picture

Why is Anand invited in tourneys. I think he must only be invited in World championship match

Brecht's picture

i would have preferered Judit Polgar or Morozovich instead of Anand!

redivivo's picture

Carlsen's endgame strength is scary, I seriously doubt all the talk during the Chessbomb transmission about Kramnik today being stronger in the endgame than Carlsen. To me Carlsen is the strongest endgame player at the moment, and if his opening preparation was anywhere near as impressive as for example Kramnik's I don't even want to know what results he would reach.

analyst's picture

Actually, Caruana played very well.
So how come he lost?

redivivo's picture

Exactly, what on earth was the losing move? I have no idea, people were talking about the game being drawn before Caruana's 47th, but it just seems lost anyway in the long run also after g5.

Anonymous's picture

Carlsen won tempi to centralize his king for the endgame through exchanges: 25. Kg2 sets it up, and Caruana cooperates, exchanging queen and rook (29. Re4 and 30. g4 are key moves).

Casey Abell's picture

The comp shows some tiny inaccuracies by Caruana, way beyond my understanding. Carlsen turned them into endgame gold.

Funny how Carlsen blew an endgame earlier in the tournament but is still just two points behind.

Morley's picture

Looks likes Caruana's luck ran out. Great game by Carlsen. He just seems to understand endgames better than everyone. It is good to see he has ironed out whatever kinks were hurting his game in the first half of the tournament.

Karjakin - Aronian was great! It would have been really interesting if Karjakin had taken the sacrificed bishop. Even though the computers think White is just winning, Black has incredible counterplay, and White would have had to play 15+ perfect moves to survive, much less win.

Anand's game was again, a complete non-event. I hope he tries, just once, to win a game here.

KHOPDI's picture

If Carlsen is the best end game player then howcome is he has not been able to defeat Anand til now in last 2years

redivivo's picture

What does being the best endgame player have to do with defeating Anand?

KHOPDI's picture

Because many of Anand - Carlsen games including the most recent one went to end game

redivivo's picture

So if Carlsen is the best endgame player he should win totally equal endgames against Anand?

KHOPDI's picture

Yes sir, if carlsen is the "best" endgame player

Anonymous's picture

.... thats because Anand is always well prepared (Carlsen often isn't) and he has of course great technique, patience and experience himself!

S3's picture

Come on, don't fool yourself, if you play the world champion you are of course prepared. Carlsen too.

The big question is, why is noone pointing out that Morley is wrong and that Anand did try to win?

Morley's picture

What makes you say that? He traded down into a drawn endgame, and Vallejo was never in any danger. They were in a completely drawn rook endgame before move 30. Anand is perfectly content to draw every game, it seems.

S3's picture

Morley, to me it seems that you only see what you want to see. Anand played a fighting opening, even sac'd a pawn (yes I know it's theory) and played for an attack. He "traded down" when Vallejo had neutralized all threats and threatened an attack with the f pawn himself. Yet you see it as Anand playing for a draw from the start. Carlsen nicely wins an advantageous endgame and you think he "understands endgames better than anyone". Caruana leads the tournament but you think he was just "lucky" before.
I guess we will just disagree.

Morley's picture

Anand playing 25 moves of theory then drawing 10 later isn't "trying to win". Maybe he should take a page out of Carlsen, and Caruana's, book and try to play less theory, in order to create imbalance and win. Anand has taken no risks, and tried nothing new, this whole tournament.

Was Caruana lucky earlier in the tournament? Sure. So was Carlsen when Aronian didn't punish Bf4 in their earlier match. Today, though, he wasn't. He thoroughly outplayed Caruana, and has added yet another impressive endgame win to his collection. I wasn't saying he understands endgames better than everyone based on this game alone, and you know that.

What I see is that everyone in this tournament is taking more risks than Anand, and that Carlsen is winding up while Caruana is winding down. If Carlsen had played Rb1 a move earlier in round 1, that game would have looked a lot like this one.

KHOPDI's picture

even if Carlsen gets to 2014 WCC duel with Aanand. he may get frustrated with draws by Anand, trying to push hard and getting defeated as topalov succmbed in game 12.

Bigglesworth's picture

If Carlsen is anything, it's patient. He will simply approach every game in the match like he approached this game. The opening doesn't matter, he'll play an interesting middlegame position and not be averse to simplifying into an advantageous ending and pressing for another 40 moves. Plus, if the match score remains tied, Carlsen wouldn't mind rapid tiebreaks. No, he could not be more different from Topalov.

S3's picture

"Anand playing 25 moves of theory then drawing 10 later isn't "trying to win".

For a moment I thought you were talking about Karjakin-Aronian. But no, can't be, you thought that game great. Hmm...
Btw, taking risks is a matter of taste and style, it doesn't say a lot about the will to win.
Perhaps someone will take a risk against Anand and then we will see what happens.

Anonymous's picture

Habemus Magnum ;-)

Brecht's picture

i hope we have a new pope soon!

filiusdextris's picture

I love our pope, but hey, can we please keep religion and politics out of this blog?!

NN's picture

Carlsen is an unbelievably strong endgame player. But equally unbelievable is the kind of openings he might choose with white. I mean, what the hell? How did he get this idea?

S3's picture

@ NN. Perhaps he got it from Kamsky, who used the same opening to beat Bartel (2654) at the last Olympiad, or perhaps from Nakamura, who beat Ponomariov with it this year. Speaking of which, if you like endgames you should check out Pono's win of today against Rublevsky. That was quite a neat performance as well.

NN's picture

Kamsky -- Bartel is not the same opening. I did not find the other game you mentioned.

S3's picture

Ok, so what opening "idea" did you mean?
Kamsky and Naka did not get the same opening cause black deviated. But expanding a search outside 2012 I see games of Anand, Shirov, Adams and others who have played e4 e6 d3 d5 Nd2 Nf6, mostly in their younger years accidentally.. Modern games this year by semi big guys Mamedov and Petrosian. With Be2 (although it went to g2 later on anyway) the best player I can find is former candidate Sokolov but there are probably others.

It's also possible he just thought of it himself based on his experience with the philidor with black against f.e.Caruana. I assume he doesn't want to play the guy's theory, but he won't mind playing his own and the standard plans he knows well.

Kamalakanta's picture

I have to say, I went over the moves of the Ponomariov-Rublevsky game, and Pono was awesome! What a game! What an endgame!

Anonymous's picture

Years ago Gary K picked MC as the next great player and likened his style to Karpov's.

Brecht's picture

Is Gary K. still playing?? is he still up to todays standards?

RG13's picture

He retired years ago. At the time of his retirement he was still the best tournament player (having lost a match to Kramnik) and was still rated # 1.

Anonymous's picture

Will someone please report if 47...g5 is the last chance to save the draw for Black?

redivivo's picture

Lost also then after for example 47...g5 48 Re1 Rc6+ 49.Kb5 Rd6 50.Ka6 Bd8 51.Kb7 and every black move will allow either Re6 or Kc7 and black pawns start to fall.

Anonymous's picture

If you don t know what your losing move was, then your opponent played a great game!
But actualy he (Caruana) played not a good game.
h6 bxc3 and e4 weren t good moves and gets him in a structual worse endgame.
( Pawns on b6-a5-h6 were on the collor as the blacks ( bad ) bishop ) White squares were under white controle. ( c4 - b5 - d5 - a6 - f5 - g4 - h5 )
White king had a marsch to b5.

Anonymous's picture

If you don t know what your losing move was, then your opponent played a great game!
But actualy he (Caruana) played not a good game.
h6 bxc3 and e4 weren t good moves and gets him in a structual worse endgame.
( Pawns on b6-a5-h6 were on the collor as the blacks ( bad ) bishop ) White squares were under white controle. ( c4 - b5 - d5 - a6 - f5 - g4 - h5 )
White king had a marsch to b5.

redivivo's picture

"(Caruana) played not a good game. h6 bxc3 and e4 weren t good moves and gets him in a structual worse endgame"

I think he played a rather good game. h6 doesn't change much for the worse, and even if avoiding bxc3 and e4 doesn't lead to the endgame it leaves him under pressure in a more complicated middlegame position with less time on the clock. Initially the endgame didn't look too bad for black with white having the isolated pawns, but Carlsen showed how to win it.

Ruben's picture

As Carlsen can show how to win it then its not a good endgame position. Otherwise he could not.
The e4 was maybe allready the losing move.


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