Reports | October 12, 2012 21:19

Carlsen, Caruana, Karjakin win in penultimate round Masters Final

The screen above the "aquarium" showing Friday's results

In a spectacular 9th round of the Masters Final in Bilbao all games were won by the white player. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana are still tied for first after they won against Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian respectively. Sergey Karjakin beat Paco Vallejo. In tomorrow's last round, which starts half an hour earlier, the pairings are Vallejo - Caruana, Aronian - Carlsen and Anand - Karjakin.

The screen above the "aquarium" showing Friday's results | Photos courtesy of @bilbaomasters & the official website

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 organizers of the Masters Final in Sao Paulo and Bilbao are not taking one, not two but three separate measures to stimulate "attractive" and "fighting" chess, whatever that may be. There's the Corsica/Sofia rule against early draw offers, there's the 3-1-0 (football) scoring system and, last but not least, there's the fast time control. At this tournament the rate of play is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and then 60 minutes for the remaining moves with a 10-second increment. This means that the players have basically half an hour less than they're used to, to reach 40.

Lots and lots of spectators | Photo thanks to David Kaufmann, who has many more on his blog

Today and earlier in the tournament we saw what this can lead to. Some players tend to take more risks (Aronian) and others tend to make decisive mistakes in timetrouble (Vallejo). The two "Cs" have coped with the circumstances the best, and are still tied for first going into the last round. Carlsen won against Anand and Caruana defeated Aronian. Karjakin moved to 4th place by beating Vallejo.

The game between the world's highest rated player and the World Champion was a relatively short affair. Anand said:

Sometimes you lose control because of one mistake and sometimes it's very hard to repair the damage.

Anand suffers his first loss after eight draws

The Indian referred to his 17th move. At that point Black was still doing fine.

PGN string

Incidentally, this result means that Carlsen is now one win away from breaking Garry Kasparov's rating record of 2851. In the live ratings the Norwegian now has 2848 and a win against Aronian yields 4.7 points.

Carlsen vs Anand, 1-0 in 30

Caruana kept pace. The Italian, who is two years younger than Carlsen, won a good game against Aronian. The Armenian played a remarkable piece sacrifice. 

PGN string

Fabiano Caruana, still joint first with Carlsen

Commentator Leontxo Garcia asked the players if it would be a good advice to chess fans "to analyse the game at home deeply". Aronian replied:

I guess it would be a good exercise for myself! I tend to sacrifice and lose games because of that!

Poor Vallejo played another good game, and spoilt it in timetrouble again. In a Winawer French the grandmaster from Menorca managed to become more dangerous on the queenside than Karjakin was on the kingside. In a winning position, a strange queen manoeuvre was the introduction to a wrong plan, executed in serious timetrouble.

PGN string

Sergey Karjakin wins his first game

A visibly disappointed, not to say devastated, Vallejo said:

I was totally winning but I played very badly at the end. Chess is about winning and losing and I lost.


Francisco "Paco" Vallejo Pons

Karjakin, about the complications in the middlegame:

The position is completely crazy, we are both risking.


It's difficult to do anything about timetrouble errors. It's the fastest tournament of the year but the tempo doesn't seem to suit me well.

Carlsen or Caruana, who will it be?


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 3-0 Vallejo
Karjakin 0-3 Caruana   Caruana 1-1 Karjakin
Anand 1-1 Aronian   Aronian 1-1 Anand
Round 3 26.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 8 11.10.12 17:00 CET
Aronian 1-1 Vallejo   Vallejo 1-1 Aronian
Caruana 1-1 Anand   Anand 1-1 Caruana
Carlsen 1-1 Karjakin   Karjakin 1-1 Carlsen
Round 4 28.09.12 20:00 CET   Round 9 12.10.12 17:00 CET
Caruana 3-0 Vallejo   Karjakin 3-0 Vallejo
Carlsen 1-1 Aronian   Carlsen 3-0 Anand
Karjakin 1-1 Anand   Caruana 3-0 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 9 standings (football)


Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Round 9 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.


hakapika's picture

Elo 2848

Thomas's picture

Caruana 2800 by the end of next year?

Morley's picture

It's a real possibility. I can't help but think, however, of the other young players who got similarly close, but haven't quite gotten there. Nakamura, Radjabov, now Caruana. His hard work is definitely paying off though, I wouldn't be surprised if he made it.

Thomas's picture

Of course I made a pun on Nakamura, who may have put too much pressure on himself openly announcing this goal and setting a "deadline".

Caruana is probably as ambitious as Nakamura and at least as hard-working, but not as "self-confident in public" - which might help rather than hurt him.

Radjabov: since he got in striking distance in November 2011 (Elo 2780 means that - theoretically - you can close the gap in the very next event) he made slow further progress. Maybe he is to some extent less ambitious: he tends to be happy enough with second places rather than always striving for gold?

My predictions: Caruana and Radjabov might be the next ones to cross 2800 (no prediction on who will be first), then maybe Karjakin even if he currently has a relatively bad event, Nakamura - even later or not at all. Too early to make predictions about Giri and/or the rather unknown Andreikin.

redivivo's picture

Radjabov is probably the top player to be most careful with regards to Elo and planning his games in advance. If he can win a top tournament by winning a last round game he still never takes a single risk if there is a possibility to get a quick draw and secure a rating gain rather than play for a tournament win, at least if he considers the game to be one where he would have been happy with a draw regardless of the tournament situation, or if he doesn't feel confident about the position. He for example has draws in the opening against Bacrot, Aronian and Stellwagen where wins would have given him tournament victories in Linares and Wijk. Nothing wrong with that if it works for him, and he seems to have reached another level the last years.

Thomas's picture

Hey, that was (part of) my point, I agree with redivivo! :)

Anonymous's picture

Absolutely, no doubt! I don't even think it will take him that long, he's just 13 points away from making it.

calvin amari's picture

As has been acknowledged often of late, Carlsen’s general approach to the opening has been to sidestep ultra-analyzed theory even at the expense of fighting with the white pieces for a tangible opening advantage. His apparent goal is to reach a middlegame where the players can “just play chess” – a compelling approach when your middlegame and endgame play are without peer. His battles with Anand in the last two or three years have been a notable exception to this opening strategy, with Magnus for some reason repeatedly engaging the FIDE champion in painstaking theoretical dialogs that have tended to end in dusty draws. This approach never made much sense to me since Vishy has come to rely on a mountain of Team-Anand opening preparation as compensation for the erosion of the sharp middlegame accuracy for which he was known. Finally today Magnus avoided intricate theory and got essentially nothing out of the opening, with Vishy equalizing after a mere 10 moves. But Magnus’s just-play-chess approach yielded predictable results -- predictable not only because of the two players’ relative trajectory and Magnus’s whopping 73 point advantage on the live rating list, but because Magnus’s evasive approach to deep opening theory seems particularly well suited to a battle with Anand.

Anonymous's picture

Much thanks for the sophisticated comment.

S3's picture

Right. Only he played a theoretical line today (and yesterday as well).

Tapper's picture

Well he did not play1.a3 but this is not a theoretical line as that phrase is known precisely because it takes little to conclude that white gets nothing.

tnman's picture

Sure. Such Carlsen played such a critical line that Anand's commonsense move 9 was technically a TN. Ignorance abounds.

john's picture

Can it be said that Carlsen will touch 300 in next 45 years? Does Carlsen play more like Karpov?

Anonymous's picture

That's unlikely since occasional losses will cost him much more than wins against most opponents (even draws will hurt). Having some more players rising with him would make the task look easier. Carlsen's style reminds me of Karpov's.

Morley's picture

Yeah, it will get to the point where Carlsen would have to go +5 or +6 in a typical tournament to gain only a few points. He already had to be +3 to be gaining a meaningful amount here. It does help that there are a decent number of 2760+ players he clashes with regularly.

icaroh's picture

I can understand kid ... Carlsen plays like Carlsen, and maybe if he studied so much theory he would become as Anand or Aronian. BTW, anybody has looked at engines' evaluation today ??! When they have seen Qh6 they have gone mad !! What a superb game by the number 1.

Anonymous's picture

completely agree! carlsen applied gelfand's opening approach, direct lines that are short on theory- anand nowdays being over-reliant on team based support.

Thomas's picture

It isn't true that Carlsen always entered deep theory against Anand. For example, in Wijk aan Zee 2011 he played 6.g3 against the Najdorf with a "predictable"(?) result: Anand equalized easily, the game was drawn in 18 moves ... .

Today's variation may be equal but not dead-equal after 10 moves - white has a certain space advantage but black is solid. But Anand seems to have problems in this 3.Bb5+ line: he lost a Bundesliga game against Tiviakov, was worse against Caruana a few rounds ago. And even when he tried it with white as a drawing weapon (last rapid game against Gelfand) he ended up worse.

Funnily, in Wijk aan Zee 2011 12.-d5 was an immediate and complete equalizer from Anand, while today 15.-d5 (though by itself probably OK) was the start of his problems.

Pablo's picture


Pablo's picture


Bronkenstein's picture

Interesting analysis, but ... Besides today´s game, Magnus had only 2 classical whites in last 2 years vs Vishy. He opted for sidelines in both of them, same as today (unless you have very wide definition of the main line that is), + getting worse positions outta openings very fast in both, managing to draw them in the end. Additionally, In one of the last Amber´s games (blindfold IIRC) he even attacked Vishy with the GPA, quite a sideline (and lost BTW).

So, I don´t see that anything changed in his approach, except that off-form Anand didn´t play with his usual strength, no big deal really.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks Peter! Round 9 results are missing though, standings seem correct..

Morley's picture

Poor Vallejo. Yet again, he played great in the opening, had a winning middlegame, and then imploded approaching time trouble.

Caruana - Aronian was a mess of a game. Not sure what Aronian was thinking sacrificing a knight for no real counterplay. Especially considering he clearly had no idea how to follow up, playing blunder after blunder in time trouble. We should start calling Caruana the Punisher ... once his opponents make a mistake, he can really put a stranglehold on the position. He very rarely lets winning positions fizzle out into draws, and calculates very accurately. I would say he is clearly the favorite to win the tournament now, considering he is playing the tail-ender in the last round and Carlsen has Aronian with Black.

Anand got completely outplayed today. An outstanding positional victory by Carlsen, who is now one win away from becoming the highest rated player in chess history ...

RG13's picture

He had a losing position and was trying desperately to create complications. The Knight was under attack and could not be defended (due to a threat of a fork). If the Knight retreated then the b pawn would fall.

redivivo's picture

He's referring to the knight sacrifice on the 21st move that turned the position from slightly better to lost for Aronian.

RG13's picture

clarification: I was talking about his a5 Knight.
I agree with you regarding his g4 Knight.

Morley's picture

You mean after 21. Bb1? I think Black is completely fine here. White has no immediate threats, and after 21. ... c4, the knight on a5 is free to go to b7. Black might be a bit cramped, but it definitely wasn't a losing position. Taking on g4 was completely unnecessary. Frankly, even though White has to navigate some tough lines, it probably just loses the game on the spot. It doesn't help that Aronian followed up by simply hanging material again a few moves later.

Aditya's picture

The elusive Kasparov peak is in sight again! Kudos to Caruana though who has kept the battle going and even has the better chance of winning.

Anonymous's picture

I kinda wish Anand had retired with dignity after his match success against Gelfand. Hopefully he won't stay well into his decline like Korchnoi.

Sam M's picture

Having known Anand i can tell you he is a professional first sportsperson second. He will play as long as someone pays..whether you want to watch him go down the tube is your choice and sponsors headache!

cmling's picture

When, pray, did Korchnoi's decline start? He retained the ability to play at the top longer than any player before. (Yes, I am aware of Lasker and Smyslov, and I am also glad they did not retire.)
If he still enjoys chess, or simply must play chess (probably he does not understand the difference), let him play on as the curmudgeon we, who watched him on his journey, have come to find endearing.

Pablo's picture

And also we have to say: Anand is still very strong and one of the elite players. Even if he loses the crown, what does that mean? A world champions must retire if he is not world champion anymore? That's absurd!

Agree, cmling. I share your thoughts.

noyb's picture

Absolutely! Let players continue playing if it brings them enjoyment. Viktor Lvovich would still beat 99.9% of anybody in the world, even at 80+ years of age! Simply awesome. Of course, I bemoan the lost Fischer/Kasparov masterpieces, but that was/is their choice. Also up to them.

Iiro's picture

Hey, give Viktor Lvovivh some credit here! There's certainly less than 7000 people on Earth whom V.L. would not beat as easily as he'd blink his eye, which means he'd beat more like 99.9999% of anybody in the world! ;)

Adolf's picture

I guess we are all standing in awe to the wonder boy today. One day he WILL have to work on few and more main lines to win (or not to lose) some key games (he cant get away with these openings forever, or can he?), and provided he keeps his otherwise unparalleled middle and endgame strength, we will see the highest rated human ever sniffing the 3000 mark at some point. Just compare to Kasparov and Fischer if they, as all seem to agree, were really the 2 best players ever, and think what this kid could do with their opening prep (best of their respective times). A pity he rejected the chance to that approach by leaving Kasparov´s workaholic ethic.

h8dgeh0g's picture

In the Fischer and Kasparov era, "if you were 100 Elo stronger than the others, you had that much of an edge in analysis as well.

Fast forward to 2012 and the situation is completely different. Everyone has a team of tireless seconds, and they are the same seconds for everyone: Houdini, Rybka, Stockfish, Critter, Fritz, etc. These seconds are already considerably stronger than the highest rated human, and readily available to all." from chessbase. probably explains Carlsen approach.

RG13's picture

Fischer and Kasparov's method works for certain personalities; Lasker and Capablanca didn't care for that approach and I think they enjoyed chess more because they didn't.

Trying to be an work-a-holic when that is not your true nature can cause you to love something less.

Besides, the point is to dominate your contemporaries, not reach some arbitrary number. In tennis they care about how many rating periods you occupied the number 1 spot; I think that is a far more meaningful record than 2851.

calvin amari's picture

By all appearances, Carlsen has less of a preparation team that other top players and relies less on powerful computer engines running day and night. But assume that changes as you suggest. Could he -- or anyone with today's commonly available resources -- hope to achieve the adavantage in opening preparations that Kasparov had over his contemporaries? Very doubtful. It's true that opening sidelines that don't hold the promise of an advantage but avoid intracate theory are a natural crutch for the lazy. But are they not also the logical choice for somewith with "unparalleled middle and endgame strength?" Can you envision any scenario where Magnus would bust Vishy in 30 moves, as he did today, if the game began with an ultra-analyzed theoretical debate?

Incidentally, as I said at the time, I think that Vishy would have been far better off avoiding such theoretical battles in the opening with Gelfand. While Vishy's middlegame prowess is not what it once was, I still think he would safely outperform Gelfand in a just-play-chess-over-the-board fight.

Thomas's picture

Anand did (at least partly) avoid theoretical battles against Gelfand: Bb5+ against the Grunfeld, then switching to 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3!?, 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 also isn't the most topical choice. But Gelfand turned out to be equal also in "just play chess" positions.
Only against the Slav it's hard to avoid theoretical "tabiyas": the exchange variation has lost its reputation as a mere drawing weapon, still it may not have enough bite for more than an occasional surprise. What else?

Chris's picture

Karpov result vs Kasparov is pretty equal. so.. if kasparov is gret then Karpov too. I think tht RJ Fischer was better then Kasparov. Candidate for Championship when 15 years old - top 10!. Has anyone similar result.

NN's picture

I don't agree that Fischer and Kasparov were the two best players ever. They were not better than Carlsen.

Chris's picture

when Carlsen will smash pretender 6:0 a would agree

valg321's picture

i have a feeling that if Anand drops out of the top 10 in the next couple of years, however unlikely or not, he might never come back. Gelfand, on the other hand, at 44 years of age, is rising.

redivivo's picture

Anand has less than 20 points down to 15th place on the rating list, and if he keeps playing like this it won't take years for him to drop out of the top ten.

Coco Loco's picture

In games against kids or players much lower rated than myself, I often just expect the result to simply appear on the board without any real work on my part, and I get annoyed at the nerve of the opponent to keep making reasonable moves instead of just getting out of my way!

Duncan's picture

Future Predictions:
1. Caruana will win this tournament
2. Carlsen will achieve 2550 ELO by year end
3. Gelfand will be in Top 10 by year end
4. Karpov will become next FIDE president
5. I'll get Usain Bolt's autograph when he competes at Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014

Morley's picture

I agree. I also predict that Kamsky is in the top 10 to stay for a while, and Naka will be a long time returning to form.

Duncan's picture

yes good point about Kamsky, has been performing consistently well for a good while now. Also Ivanchuk very consistent. Topalov suddenly rising through the ranks (only one of 6 ever to break 2800) and Mamederyov soaring. Paradox for me is Morozevich who I feel if he managed his temperament better might have more success. The other side of the coin might be that he would then be far less entertaining which would be a loss for the fans and the game of chess.

regondi's picture

I don't know...losing 300 elo by year's end ?? ;-)

What's Next?'s picture

A tired Anand vs Carlsen in a WC match soon. Reminds of a tired Lasker vs Capablanca.


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