Reports | October 13, 2012 20:14

Carlsen beats Caruana 2-0 in playoff, wins 5th Masters Final

Magnus Carlsen is the winner

In an unexpected scenario on the last day, Magnus Carlsen won the 5th Masters Final in Bilbao. The final round started with a 19-move draw between Fabiano Caruana and Paco Vallejo, who went for a famous move repetition in the Zaitsev Ruy Lopez. Carlsen drew his game with Levon Aronian to finish shared first. The Norwegian then won both games in a blitz playoff to retain his title in Bilbao.

Magnus Carlsen is the winner! | Photos provided by the organizers 

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 night before the last round, after his very disappointing loss against Karjakin, Paco Vallejo posted a status update on Facebook which caused a storm of reactions. Normally we refrain from publishing private messages, but in the meantime it has been discussed widely online and also by Vallejo himself, with Leontxo Garcia, in Saturday's press conference.

Well, today another ridiculous game. Thanks people for the encouragement. But I decided that I retire from competitive chess indefinitely (obviously I will respect some commitments, luckily [there are] not many).

This explained, at least partly, the 19-move draw between Vallejo (with White!) against Caruana. The Italian played the Zaitsev Ruy Lopez, and the Spaniard forced tablas with Nf3-g5-f3-g5, a well known theoretical move repetition.

PGN string

Vallejo vs Caruana, with the Zaitsev position on the board

Vallejo first gave chess technical reasons for his decision (for which he spent, by the way, 19 minutes on the clock), but then made clear that there was more to it.

I did not expect him to play the Zaitsev. I tried to remember my analysis and I felt that I did not remember it well enough. But besides the chess reasons... after a tournament this difficult, this cruel, especially the last couple of games, it was difficult to motivate myself. My general state of mind is not very optimistic right now.

About his Facebook message, Vallejo said:

I still have some games to play, for example for the Bundesliga, for the Catalan team, and I also qualified for the World Cup which I will play of course. This was not a decision that was made on the fly. Yesterday it was a very tough game, I had so many good options. You know, when you realize you are making the same mistakes over and over again, there comes a moment when you have to make a decision. I think it's a good idea to take some rest and quit playing for about five years. I haven't spent two full months with my family for the last twenty years. I think I have the right to do things that I haven't been able to do. I think I will return to chess at some point, but I don't know exactly when. I don't think I will leave chess, in fact I think will continue to train. One of the reasons to retire for a while is to improve certain aspects of my play.

Caruana was also asked about the quick draw, with which he risked dropping to second place, if Carlsen would beat Aronian.

I didn't actually expect to make a draw this fast; I was expecting it to be a big fight. I was actually looking before the game not how to win but first how to get a normal position. Of course after I choose this opening, the Zaitsev, I don't really have chances to avoid it if White wants to make a draw. Instead of ...Re8 I guess there is the move ...h6 or ...Nd7 but all these lines are quite dubious I think. Of course if I'd play recklessly I could easily be punished.

The last round under way in Bilbao

The second game to finish was Anand vs Karjakin - a great battle right from the start. It looked like for the first time in the tournament Anand went "all in", as if he wanted to take more risks than ever to finish his tournament on a 50% score. In reality this game could have been played in any round, because Anand was mostly repeating a sharp line which he played earlier this year.

PGN string


My position looked a little bit scary but probably I was fine.


I saw many entertaining ideas, but there was never a concrete win.

About his loss against Carlsen, the World Champ said:

Yesterday was a big disappointment. I reached a position where I had absolutely no problems, and then I spoilt everything in two or three moves.

On the last day all the players were asked the same question by Leontxo Garcia: "Do you feel like a sportsman, a scientist or an artist?" The spectators laughed loudly when Anand answered:

You feel like a sportsman every day. Sometimes you feel like a scientist, sometimes you feel like an artist and sometimes you feel like an imbecile.

Magnus Carlsen never got close to an advantage with Black, let alone to breaking Garry Kasparov's rating record.

PGN string

Aronian vs Carlsen, drawn in 44 moves

This meant that Carlsen and Caruana were still tied for first after the last round. This year the regulations stated that a blitz playoff would decide upon the winner: two blitz games (4 minutes plus 3 seconds increment) and in case of 1-1, an Armageddon (5 minutes against 4).

A blitz playoff between Carlsen and Caruana

Before the playoff, Karjakin said that for him Carlsen was the big favorite.

In my view Caruana made a big mistake by drawing his game so quickly. He had to try to win against Paco.

And indeed, Carlsen won this playoff most convincingly: he beat Caruana 2-0. In the first game he played the Berlin Ending.

PGN string

Carlsen starts with a win in the infamous Berlin Ending

In the second game Caruana was caught in the opening: as early as move 10 he couldn't avoid the loss of material. The sort of thing that just happens every now and then in a blitz game...

PGN string

Obviously there was a huge interest from the spectators for the blitz playoff

And so Carlsen won yet another tournament. That's almost no news anymore!

Caruana played one of his best tournaments ever, but asked about this he put things in perspective:

By performance it might be the best tournament, but I felt I played better in a few others, like Wijk aan Zee at the beginning of this year. I also think I played better in the second half, where I only scored 50%, than in the first half.

A final group photo of the players

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 1-1 Caruana
Anand 1-1 Carlsen   Aronian 1-1 Carlsen
Aronian 1-1 Caruana   Anand 1-1 Karjakin

Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Round 10 standings (football)


Grand Slam Masters Final 2012 | Round 10 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

ooops, guess I missed that one! Thanks for hinting at it :-)

Ricitos's picture

His chess iss awful because of that?

Septimus's picture

Can we expect anything less uncharitable from a well known troll and Carlsen hater?

eric's picture

I was about to worry about you S3:) Hope you and your emotional comments are still around, just to have fun in chessvibes.

Anonymous's picture

Get used to it..this towering chess genius will be on the top for decades a la Gary K.

GM Grand Mister's picture

Carlsen is awesome, but also human. He might just be the best human we have seen in chess so far in recorded history. He is also a wealthy european with all that entails. He might just be the best western player ever, but he might also just be the best player of his era. Without time machines its kinda difficult to compare with other known and unknown players. He is also the best player Rogge will never get to kiss. This makes him a sad human of his era. Perhaps the saddest of all time, but withouth time machines and other apparatus it's hard to tell for sure.

Chris's picture

Put Magnus in the Yankee line-up tonight, and then maybe we'll see him as just a normal human.

jambow's picture

Nice job by Carlsen but yes I agree Caruana should have made every effort to seal the deal against Vallejo those were much better odds than facing Magnus in blitz.

Great performance by Caruana on the whole world live #4 at his tender age.

jambow's picture

Nice job by Carlsen but yes I agree Caruana should have made every effort to seal the deal against Vallejo those were much better odds than facing Magnus in blitz.

Great performance by Caruana on the whole world live #4 at his tender age.

jambow's picture

Sorry this web page always seems like you missed a mouse click so twice again and I see many others do the same. Chessvibe perhaps you could have it set up better allow us to delete one, make us wait 15 seconds between posts or something?

boardgame's picture

Great Magnus!!! Now you can focus on your private life a bit. (I suggest you get rid of that girl which keeps annoying you on facebook;) Fantastic tournament from Caruana, really impressive! Who would have expected him to be fighting for first.

Anonymous's picture

Ha ha! Poor Caruana made more faces than Biden did. What a dolt that guy was to interrupt Ryan all the time. Worst debater ever, lives up to Proverbs 29:9, lol!! Go Magnus!!

RealityCheck's picture

Congratulations Fabio!

Anonymous's picture

How do you like your reality today, Reality Check?

abhi's picture

Oh reality check is still alive...i thought he committed suicide or something after seeing Anand lose to Carlsen :)

choufleur's picture

Nice revenge for Magnus. His first round loss was really undeserved after all. Second blitz game is especially amazing.

Andre's picture

Magnus Carlsen have a stalker:

Look this girl...sick!

rogge's picture

Just another S3 dupe.

Anonymous's picture

if anything it seems rogge is obsessed with S3 :)

Casey Abell's picture

The second blitz game was embarrassing. Caruana lost a piece and was gone in seventeen moves. The first blitz game was better but Caruana again missed some tactics. Moral of the story: play for a win in the final round, because you don't want to face Carlsen in a blitz tie-breaker.

Anonymous's picture

Great performance of both. It looks like Magnus has a habit of starting a tournament slow. Like with the blitz WC etc. Then halfway he gets his act together and gets back. Really strong.

Andre's picture

Myles Away
im not horrible but im just loyal and i feel that you hide me something thats why i come here to
Compartilhar · há 21 horas via celular ·
Myles Away
you send all those person to hurt me to hide your lies to hide this blonde person :(((((( its you that is horrible
Compartilhar · há 21 horas via celular ·
Myles Away
j thought you love me and i trust it strong i thought you ate diffrent from
Compartilhar · há 21 horas via celular ·
Myles Away
magnus you hurt me deeply now :((((
Compartilhar · há 21 horas via celular ·
Myles Away
when home i will learn to forget you magnus
Compartilhar · há 22 horas ·

Truth's picture

Carlsen crushed Caruana in the second part of Bilbao!! There's no other active player nowadays that can equal to Carlsen and be his rival, Anand (The Cartoonist) is old story, Aronian is always same (always the second and almost everytime never win a tournment), Kramnik showed everything he had to show, Karjakin is just a promise, and Caruana was crushed. Carlsen the king!!!!!!!!!!!!

hakapika's picture

Carlsen usually plays himself into form during the first half of the tournaments. This time as well. Perhaps his training is a little low in the mean time. Or perhaps he should play tournaments more often to avoid that small rust.

Excalibur's picture

your point about super-tournaments is moronic. Unless you are willing to point out the "super-tournaments" Karpov and Kasparov failed to win at that age. Comparing the tournament then to now does not make any sense at all.

Alfonso's picture

Karpov and Kasparov did not play a lot of tournaments when they were young because they were being prepared to be World Champions in the Soviet School of chess. And they were finally World Champions, while Carlsen is not World Champion. As compensation, Carlsen has the best record of tournament victories at his age. The comparison is sensible, because it highlights the differences in "career design". Nobody is saying that Carlsen is better than Karpov or Kasparov using those numbers as proof.

redivivo's picture

Carlsen's latest tournament wins, 16 quite strong events:

Biel 2007
Wijk 2008
Baku 2008
Aerosvit 2008
Nanjing 2009
London 2009
Wijk 2010
Bazna 2010
Nanjing 2010
London 2010
Bazna 2011
Biel 2011
Grand Slam 2011
Tal Memorial 2011
Tal Memorial 2012
Grand Slam 2012

Thomas's picture

I don´t deny that this list is impressive, but - relevant for comparisons with Kasparov and Karpov, see below - 5 of these 16 wins were shared with another player, 2 more were after a blitz tiebreak.

According to Kasparov has 24 sole and 9 shared wins, Karpov has 25 sole and 13 shared wins. Their criteria for supertournaments ("collective opinion of chess experts and journalists") seem similar but not identical to Alfonso's. I assume that this Wiki list didn't forget to mention shared winners, even if they did for Bazna 2010 (mentioning Carlsen but not Karjakin).

"Future historical comparisons" between Karpov, Kasparov and Carlsen will also depend on whether Magnus keeps winning tournaments for several decades - Karpov's lists spans 1971-1996, Kasparov's 1982-2005. That's something many people take for granted, but who knows? Topalov was a dominant tournament player (sole first in strong events) from 2005-2010.

rogge's picture

Not quite, Biel 2007 vs Onischuk was a blitz playoff.

In Bazna 2011 he won the SB tiebreak, and in Tal Memorial 2011 he won the tiebreak by a bigger number of Blacks.

Thomas's picture

OK, I didn't know that Biel 2007 also had a blitz playoff. But the other examples are exactly what I mean - shared is shared, "winning" such a tiebreaker is arbitrary and beyond your control. By these criteria, we would have to remove the Baku GP from Carlsen's list because Gashimov and Wang Yue had better SB tiebreaks.

rogge's picture

Tiebreaks weren't used in Baku GP.

Anyways, Carlsen never lost a tiebreaker since Wijk B 2006, paperwork or playoff :)

redivivo's picture

"we would have to remove the Baku GP from Carlsen's list because Gashimov and Wang Yue had better SB tiebreaks"

No, because SB tiebreaks weren't used in the tournament. We can't say that Grischuk didn't win Linares 2009 because he had a worse SB tiebreak than Ivanchuk, when SB tiebreak wasn't used and Grischuk actually won the tournament according to the rules in use. Baku 2008 had shared winners and all of them won the tournament.

Thomas's picture

I see: whenever Carlsen shares first place, tiebreaks either favor him or (if this isn't the case) they do not matter. Yes, it's all according to the rules of the respective tournaments, still I would consider it funny coincidence rather than evidence for Carlsen's superiority in the given events.

For me, the difference between clear first and shared first means something. The difference between "winning" or "losing" a tiebreak means little to nothing.

redivivo's picture

"Their criteria for supertournaments ("collective opinion of chess experts and journalists") seem similar but not identical to Alfonso's"

Those criteria are rather generous to the Ks though. That Wiki article includes among Karpov's "strong" tournament wins:

Madrid 1973: only two opponents in the top 20 but five below top 100.

Oslo 1984: no opponents in the top 10, the majority below top 50.

Amsterdam 1985: one of five opponents top 10 but two outside top 100.

Biel 1992: one opponent in the top 15.

and some other events that also are several classes weaker than for example Bazna 2010.

Alfonso's picture

That is right. I did not count Biel 2007, Aerosvit 2008, London 2009, Bazna 2010 and Biel 2011 as Supertournaments (which is of course an arbitrary threshold, because they are indeed rather stong tournaments)

redivivo's picture

For example Bazna 2010 had an average rating of 2742 so not counting it as a super tournament does seem harsh. It's also one of Carlsen's better achievements, he scored +5 in 10 rounds and finished two full points ahead of Radjabov and Gelfand in shared second. Wang Yue was 2750+ back then but still finished last.

Alfonso's picture

According to my calculations (which are obviously prone to error...), these are the points assigned to various tournamentes mentioned in this series of posts

Madrid 1973: 40 points
Oslo 1984: 51 points
Amsterdam 1985: 47 points
Biel 1992: 39 points

Bazna 2010: 54 points
A little bit stronger was Aerosvit 2008: 58 points, which was also a clear victory for Carlsen (he was 17 then). At 17 Kasparov (in my opinion the most successful chessplayer ever) was winning Bakú 1980.

Thomas's picture

One "feature" of your method is that tournaments with less players get less points. For example, Bazna 2010 would (just) qualify as a supertournament if #20 Almasi and #16 Leko had been added to the field - but would it really be a stronger event?
Currently six-player double round robins are popular - they are cheaper than a ten-player single round robin and it's easier to attain a higher rating average. Rating average is another way to classify tournaments, but also doesn't mean everything. For example, London and this year Dortmund don't have the highest possible rating average because several local players participate - still they are strong events in the sense of having several favorites for first place.

Alfonso's picture

To a certain extend, it is a question of taste. Initially I used Sonas' scoring system (4 points for #1 and #2, 3 points for #3 and #4, 2 points for #5 and #6 and 1 point for #7-10), but I did not like the results. For instance, I (subjectively) consider Moscow 2007 Tal Memorial to be a more "important" event than the Amsterdam 1988 quadrangular (with Kasparov, Karpov and Timman playing). But this is due to my completely subjective preference for "bigger" tournaments. Interestingly, in both scoring methods, Linares 1993 is the strongest event of our (ELO) times.

pelemanov's picture

@the reporter: why was this scenario unexpected? I didn't know that tiebreaks were being held, but two draws were very likely (they were both black) and I think it's clear that Carlsen was dominating Caruana in both their games, so 2-0 is not a big surprise.

Longyearbyen's picture

There were a few nice games, but this does not change that this format is a disaster for chess. Chess needs tournaments with a few dozen players at least for the first week, and a play off with a real semi final and final in the second week. This is keeping chess small.

Anonymous's picture

"...this format is a disaster for chess. Chess needs tournaments with a few dozen players at least for the first week,..."

There are several different formats for chess tournaments and exactly the variety makes it interesting. The Grand Slam Final was originally designed as the elite event for the champions of a year's elite events, "the cream of the crop" so to say. If you prefer formats with more participants, there are several of them: e.g. the Chess Olympiad, World Cup, Gibraltar Chess Festival and so many other open swiss tournaments. Also bear in mind, for every format a different kind of sponsorship is required. If you can come up with a new idea and attract sponsorship, that would be great news! :-)

Bronkenstein's picture

Nice performance by MC & Fabiano! BTW I prefer rapid/blitz TBs to Koya/S-B s and such ´paperwork´ stuff, and I believe that audience agrees with me in general.

It would be interesting to see something like that implemented more often, say - imagine Armenia-Russia teams blitz TB for the gold =) (I know, players would already be extremely tired and nervous etc ... same as, say, during the penalty shootout - but the crowd would love it).

Alfonso's picture

Crowd....which crowd?

Thomas's picture

If players finish shared first, I generally prefer that they share the title (or at least the prize money). Sometimes this isn't possible, for example at the Olympiad it isn't possible to create "golden silver medals".
BTW, pretty strange IMO, at the upcoming candidates tournament they want to avoid rapid/blitz tiebreaks as much as possible. If two players finish shared first (a real possibility, it happens in about every second supertournament) all kinds of 'paperwork' will apply to separate them, with an OTB tiebreak only if all these are equal. Seems like an overreaction to criticism of the Kazan format.

Frits Fritschy's picture

By the way, nice to see Anand go all out for once. I hope this is a promise for more like this!

arkan's picture

WC goes all-out and ends up with a minus score - that's just fail

Fermin's picture

I have the video-game is not so good, but is The Game!

Anonymous's picture

Congratulations to both C's! Give some credits to the 2-years-younger-C please; he has been rising, and rising, and rising and never lost too many elo's

He is now #5 in live ratings and he will catch the elder C soon imo..

ali branzuela's picture

Magnus is magnificent; no one can questions that; people, do you understand?? prove is clear. any questions are vague.


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