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World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Challenger Fabiano Caruana of the U.S. will be playing a 12-game chess match to determine who will be the World Chess Champion.
In case of a 6-6 tie, the World Chess Championship title will be decided by a tiebreak of two rapid games of 25'+10", followed by two 5'+3" blitz games. Armageddon will be the final game if the dead lock could not be broken.
The match will be played in London from November 9-28, 2018, with a prize fund of over 1 million euros.
Caruana - Carlsen
Welcome to Caruana - Carlsen Game 8!
1 e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 No more Rossolimo!
3...cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 Magnus chose the famous Sveshnikov variation of the Sicilian!
6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 The 7.Bg5 line is most popular, but this is interesting with significant theory behind it
Nxd5 8. exd5 Nb8 Another option like 8...Ne7 is OK. They are cranking out moves like they are late for dinner!
9 a4 The old main line was 9.c4 (which I faced multiple times as black back in 1980s), but this is the more modern way to play.
9...Be7 10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O Nd7 12. Bd2 This is a fresh idea compared to the often tried 12.Kh1 or 12.a5. I have only four games in my database with 12. Bd2, all played with the past year. White did well 2 wins and 2 draws.
Because this is a relatively new move, Carlsen immediately took his time.
12...f5 13 a5
There is only game that has reached this position:
[Event "Mitropa Cup 2018"]
[White "Huschenbeth, N."]
[Black "Hracek, Z."]
13 a5 Nf6 14. Be3 Bd7 15. Nxa7 f4 16. Bb6 Qe8 17. f3 Bd8 18. c4 Bxb6+ 19. axb6 Qd8 20. Qb3 Nh5 21. c5 dxc5 22. Nc6 Qf6 23. Ra7 Ng3 24. Re1 Nxe2+ 25. Rxe2 bxc6 26. Rxa8 Rxa8 1/2-1/2
Once again, Caruana and his team are very well prepared!
13...a6 14. Na3 White is eyeing the b6 square at one point.
14...e4 Both sides came to play today. To Carlsen's credit, not many choose Sicilian as he main weapon in recent world championships. But Caruana is too sound with his opening preparation. So it will be interesting how this game will turn out.
15 Nc4 Ne5 16. Nb6 Rb8 17. f4 exf3 18. Bxf3 The biggest problem for Carlsen is he is really the underdog. He is not only playing against Caruana alone. He is also playing against Caruana's team of seconds, Stockfish and Super Computers. From the time on the clock, it seems that Caruana is still in his element.
While Black is objectively OK here, in reality, Carlsen is in real pressure. He has no idea what else Caruana had cooked up at home. So he is trying to figure things out over the board knowing one mistake can cost him the World Championship title. Carlsen's struggle is real!
One thing that really surprises me is why so many players insisting on repeating the same opening choice over & over again in World Championship matches. We saw how that worked out with Kasparov versus Kramnik as well as other matches. This plays into opponents' preparation advantage. Why not mix things up?
18...g5 19. c4 The biggest problem here is this is not Carlsen's style. Can he do it? Yes. But that is not the strongest area of his game. But this plays right into Caruana's wheel house. This is why home preparation does matter!
I already read some online comments of how arrogant Carlsen is for playing 1...c5 for 4 games in a row. I am not sure if I would go that far, but it is questionable to allow your opponent to simply uncorking home preparation at will is either very brave or very crazy!
If Carlsen wins, people will say he is a genius for allowing this. If he loses, people will question his stubborness. What is your opinion? 😀
On the surface, things look "dangerous" for Carlsen because his Kingside is exposed. We will see how he plans to address it. 20. Bc3 is logical.
20 Bc3 Carlsen can try to put his Bishops on f5 and f6 to somewhat shield his King and consolidate. But white is still doing good, especially because this type of position/this style favors Caruana.
Same as in tennis. Can Nadal, Djokovic, Connors and Borg...serve nd volley? Yes, but their strength is at baseline. Can McEnroe, Edberg, and Becker...win at the baseline? On some points, yes, but strength is at the net. Just as in this game. Carlsen can play sharp stuff but it is not his strength.
After spending a lot of time, Carlsen played my suggested idea 20...Bf5. The problem is now White can play 21 c5 right away.
Something like this could be annoying for black: 21. c5 Bf6 22. c6 Qc7 23. Rc1 Carlsen cannot possibly be pleased with his position. 🤔
Or 21. c5 Nxf3+ 22. Qxf3 dxc5 23. Rae1 with a strong advantage.
Caruana did it!
21. c5 Nxf3+ 22. Qxf3 dxc5 Now 23. Rae1 with big advantage! I think we may have a winner and new world #1 today! This is the best practical chance for Caruana in this match so far!
23 Rad1 Bd6 Carlsen has 2 big problems: 1) White's d pawn and 2) The weak a1-h8 diagonal!
I personally prefer 23. Rae1 and not Rad1. I think it is more forceful. But White is still considerably better here. Just my preference 😁
The one hope for Carlsen is this is a very concrete position tactically. So one slight inaccuracy can let the opponent back in the game. This is what Carlsen is hoping for because with accurate play, I think it is finito!
And 24. h3 is inaccurate. 24. Nc4 is much stronger. White has no time to be laid back. Nc4 stops the Queen from getting to the Kingside for support. Now Carlsen has a new lifeline!
After playing 24. h3 too quickly to allow 24...Qe8 and let Black into the game, now Caruana is thinking. The problem is this Golden opportunity may be gone. White has compensation but down a pawn and Black has Bishop pair.
Now 25. Nc4 but it does not have the same sting.
25...Qg6 26. Nxd6 Qxd6 27. h4 With Bishops opposite colors, the game will likely head to another draw.
White is still slightly better in spite of being a pawn down because of Black's King safety issue and pawn structure. But this is more likely to head into a draw then before when Caruana could have dominated to potentially bring home a full point!
Carlsen can play 27... gxh4 28. Qxf4Qxf4 29. Rxf4h3 and likely draw with Queens off the board.
To win a World Championship, you have to beat the Champion and earn it. So many came so close but failed. You have to be able to take full advantage of opportunities and close things out. Karjakin learned the hard way, So did many others. Caruana has to hope for another chance!
28. Qxf4 Qxf4 29. Rxf4 as expected. This will be another draw.
29...h5 Sorry folks but I call things like they are, just with a bit of humor 🤣
I have to be objective and not favor either side. May the best player with strongest nerves win! That is all we can ask for! 👍
30. Re1 Bg4 31. Rf6 Soon both pairs of Rooks may be off the board which will result in a definite draw.
31...Rxf6 32. Bxf6 The simplest may be just Kf7 followed by Re8.
32...Kf7 33. Bxh4 Re8 Caruana can try to avoid trading Rooks but it should still be a draw.
34 Rf1+ Kg8 Caruana just cannot offer a draw here. He has to try. But the position is practically a draw unless someone make a monumental boo-boo!
35 Rf6 And Carlsen can play 35...Re2 36. Rb6 Bc8 Still draw.
In fact, there are just so many ways for Black to hold here, relatively without much effort.
35... Re2 36. Rg6+ Kf8 37. d6 Rd2 38. Rg5 This is like offering a draw, to give up the d pawn for the c pawn. 101% draw! 1/2-1/2
I think we can sum up this game with 1 move 24 h3? If Caruana would have played 24 Nc4 or 24 Qh5, the outcome would have been different. They key idea is NOT to allow Black time to consolidate. h3 was simply too passive & slow. At this level, you cannot give opponent 2nd chance!