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.


ali branzuela's picture

those people questions about Magnus superiority, put your trash on the board; let's see, convert your words into chess moves.

aaaaaa.aaaaaaa's picture


AljechinsCat's picture

For my side, I enjoyed Carlsens chess again very much. He is really playing and not "just" working it. Unbelievable how he smashed Caruana in the blitzes.

PA CO's picture

Vallejo retired

Anonymous's picture

Beautiful fighting chess from the world champion in this last round.

pulern's picture

what's up with the boat and the hat?

RealityCheck's picture

The boat and the hat. Carlsen (wearing the hat) is the new Skipper on the ship of fools. All the chess fans taking these "Exhibition Tournaments" seriously belong on that boat. You're all crew members working day and night, night and day pitching the virtues of tie-breaks, winner takes all and coping out.

valg321's picture

nurse...oh nurse...he's up again!

RealityCheck's picture

Good morning valg321!

Thomas's picture

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

Some ground-truthing: Carlsen has just won Bilbao (after a blitz tiebreak). Before he didn't win Biel (at least not according to the rules of the event). He did win Tal Memorial. He didn't win Wijk aan Zee. He didn't win London. He won Tal Memorial 2011 (shared with Aronian). He won Bilbao 2011 after a blitz tiebreak - which was always part of the regulations but wasn't needed in the first three editions.

So recently, winning an event is "hit or miss" rather than something that's "no news anymore"? I know people will argue "but he has the highest rating!" - true but in part another story, that's because he never or hardly ever has a bad event (unlike Aronian and Kramnik).

Bronkenstein's picture

Ah,this just reminded me of the ´He was second due to the scoring system´ (!) type of arguments after Biel.

PS Scoring systems are normally used to determine the score =)

Ricitos's picture

I think your stats supports the statement. Wang Hao winning Biel, however, that was newsworthy:-)

redivivo's picture

Carlsen winning a tournament is almost no news anymore, wow, one can really understand why you guys get so upset by Chessvibes writing something like that. Ten top tournament wins just 2010-12 is it?

Rick Harris's picture

As Pele told Messi, after you have won three world championships and have more than a thousand goals we can sit and compare. So after Carlsen has won XX world championships, XX gold medals olympiad, XX tournaments... we can sit and compare him to Lasker, Kasparov, Karpov, Botvinnik, Anand...

RealityCheck's picture

@Rick Harris
Harris, I agree with you. And Carlesn isn't even close: I admit he is well on his way. Yet they, the fan base, the agitators--the big mouthed hoard of Homo Erectus, day-in-day-out "sit and compare" and, it is such a bore: really such a bore.
And, more often than not, they go out of their way to insult the World Champion. I find this disgusting--no matter how clever or polite the slight is aired. Deprived souls. Desperate for a world champion that looks like them.
Forget not what Pele told Messi!

Anonymous's picture

Just let us know when/if your world champion Anand can win a single chess game against one of the top 50 players in the world. Until then, rest assured of our sincere condolences.

RealityCheck's picture

@Anonymous Sorry but, you'll have to wait until the next tournament. No need for ur cheap condolences: the World Champion lives. Viva Anand! You lose.

harvey's picture

@RealityCheck, why don't you do just that: Check Reality!

Ricitos's picture

Heh... The football comparison is imo not a good one. After all, it is a team sport, where your success depends just as much on your team mates and coaches as your own skills.

Regarding Carlsen, many are simply claiming that he is by far the best tournament player around, which is true, and reflected by his rating. Comparing him with a young Fisher/Karpov/Garry/Vishy is very natural. After all, we are witnessing chess history.

valg321's picture

comparing football with chess is a moronic argument and shows exactly how much you comprehend football and chess.
Pele didn't win three mundials singlehandedly, the Brazilian team that he participated in, did. And btw, that was during the golden era of the Brazilian football where Pele was playing along football giants such as Garrincha, Vava, Zito, Torres, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino, Gerson. Each and every one of them almost as worthy as Pele in their respective playing position. And one last thing, anyone who knows anything about world football, knows that Pele has been out of his mind for the last few years, which pretty much makes you and those that supported your argument, ignorant simpletons.

valg321's picture

actually now that i think about it, the general consensus up until Garrincha's death was that he was probably a better player than Pele, a much better dribbler for sure, but alas a prlck

RealityCheck's picture

ahhh yes. Maybe a prick just like you @valg321. Garrincha was a lonley wren campared to Pele.

valg321's picture

oh now Mr. RealityCheck, don't do that to yourself...shame..shame

MJul's picture

Also, Pele played something like 10 minutes in Chile '62, so I don't know if we can count him in that WC.

And, he made more than 1000 goals if we inculde his unofficial matches. If not he made 541 (IFFHS data) or 760 for some people when the offside rule didn't exist.

This was between 1956 and 1977 (21 years) (15 - 37 y.o.).

Messi since 2004 (8 years - 16 - 25 y.o. ) have 0 WC and 317 official goals (maybe more, and can find the exaclty data right now). And he's still playing.

BTW: Pele also said Neymar is better than Messi. Neymar (and all people I talked about this) didn't agree with him.

redivivo's picture

Messi scored 73 goals last season, that's quite amazing in today's football and while playing in the Spanish league with many strong teams.

MJul's picture


Unfortunately there's a myth about my country hating him.

john's picture

Bitch please. Has Carlsen won a World Champonship. Come to me when he does win one.

Anonymous's picture

Carlsen will just take the title whenever he feels like doing so. First, there is not a single player in the world how can prevent him from doing that, and then he isn't in any particular hurry. In the meantime, Magnus simply prefers to play chess over the board - unlike the reigning world champion repeating exhaustively analysed lines, yet only managing to draw, at the very best. He was simply outplayed devastatingly by Carlsen. Unbelievable.

I'm really not looking forward to see another dull battle of seconds during the next Wch match, Anand would serve himself and top level chess best if he just retired as the undefeated world champion, thus enabling a really exciting battle for the world title!

RealityCheck's picture

Anyone can have an off day, tournament.


Anonymous's picture

ust let us know when/if your world champion Anand can win a single chess game against one of the top 50 players in the world. Until then, rest assured of our sincere condolences.

Anonymous's picture

Chances are good for your world champion not even belonging to the top 10 anymore, when he plays to defend his title. Let's wait and see.

mattie's picture

dont attach too much meaning to whatever pele says to messi. pele is brazilian, which makes him a bitter rival with argentinians. pele is old and demented.

RealityCheck's picture

Thanks @mattie I didnt know that. But I think Harry's point was that the comparisons (Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand) with Carlsen are pre-mature.

Anonymous's picture

... well obviously those comparisons are completely premature, obsolete even.
Carlsen is still only 21 years old, so you would have to wait at least 15 years to compare his lifetime accomplishments in chess to those of Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik and Anand. No need to do that every other week.

Still it wouldn't surprise me if Carlsen opted out of taking the effort. Obviously he is in no way obliged to sacrifice his whole life to chess. Hopefully he'll be playing for some years and collect a few world titles along the way. We'll see what he is up to. I simply like the inspiring way he plays chess now.

RealityCheck's picture

@Anonymous "Carlsen will just take the title whenever he feels like doing so"
I suppose you'd like us to believe Carlsen wasnt interested in the FIDE World Rapid or Blitz Title.

Man you sound more ridculous with each post. Just Go away.

Anonymous's picture

"Man you sound more ridculous with each post. Just Go away."

Unlike yourself, who sounds better and funnier by the minute. Still I bet, if you care to check your reality once again, you'll see that Carlsen's worst case scenario is finishing second "only" on very rare occasions, as opposed to past-his-prime reigning world champion Anand, not even winning a single game against one of the top 20 players in the world out of his recent 20 games - even getting outplayed in just 30 moves by the clearly superior world number one player Magnus Carlsen. By the way, blitz and rapid are not quite the same as classical chess, just in case you've forgotten. So that's about what you get if you ask for a reality check.

RealityCheck's picture

@Anonymous "By the way, blitz and rapid are not quite the same as classical chess, just in case you've forgotten"
No, I haven't forgotten. However, the FIDE blitz and rapid title have one thing in common with classical chess when it comes to Carlsen--he owns not one of them. Not a single Title. Take that to your stock broker.

Anonymous's picture

I guess Carlsen will eventually also collect some of those official world titles in the near future, just stay tuned ;-)

RealityCheck's picture

The odds of him earning the most prestigious title, the World Champion's title, are just as good as any player whos Elo Rating moves up and down the 2851-2749 escalator.

valg321's picture

i dont think his wife will let him retire any time soon

Chess Fan's picture

Fabulous Fabio has proven without question (like Karjakin) that he is one of the two young players who belong in the chess elite (to the delight ;-) of all Chess Fans) along with the two great ones (Magnus the great and Aronian).

Chess Fan's picture

It was amazing to see the World Champion's game against Karjakin. It was amazing to see the World Champion attack and the brilliant young Karjakin defend so well. With all my chess experience, I felt humbled, almost like an a neophyte, feeling the chess power of what it is like at this level.

Anonymous's picture

Like Peter Doggers put it in this report:
"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."

So again not really new and Karjakin being a brilliant elite professional player himself, he should of course know how to equalize this.

john's picture

Hey Nakamura is that you?

Raj's picture

We should never compare Carlsen and Anand. If you take one generation as 10 years, they are sepearted by two generations. Also Anand's best years were overshadowed by Kasparov's best years. Otherwise he would have won many more tournaments.

Zeblakob's picture

S3 becomes s3 :(

harvey's picture

...and soon zzz3

Zeblakob's picture

where is my avatar?

N.1's picture

Carlsen is plenty of time......He will achieve the "impossible",remember there is not rating inflas......bla bla, all todays players are better than 10 years ago so being on top is prove of pure genius talent.

RG13's picture

There is no doubting Carlsen's genius, however if Carlsen breaks 2851, it is still valid to point out that it was harder for Kasparov to do it when the top 10 were rated so much lower than the top 10 are today. As far as players being better today than those of yesterday? Computer analysis (by Rybka) shows that in a lifetime of serious games Capablanca made the absolute fewest errors. And as far as quality in elite match-ups, I think the Kasparov vs. Karpov games speak for themselves.


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