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.


redivivo's picture

Kasparov's 2851 was of course a totally different score in 1999 than the same result would be for Carlsen today, just like Fischer's 2785 was more impressive than Nakamura's beating it. But it's not much to hold against someone that he isn't as dominant at 21 as Kasparov at his peak, it would still be rather impressive to beat a record like that considering that great players like Anand, Kramnik and Topalov never have been anywhere near to reach those heights.

Anyway, with Carlsen I think the most amazing thing is how solid he is on a high level. In his last nine tournaments he has performed 2830+ and in his last dozen 2815+. That is, in a dozen events in a row he has performed at an Elo level that is higher than that of any other player in the world. For a player that still only is 21 years old this is quite good.


Latest articles