His brilliant result at the St Louis super-tournament in 2014, with the remarkable score of 8.5/10 (including, in the first seven rounds, the Fischeresque score of seven victories), propelled 22-year old Fabiano Caruana into the small group of challengers to the World Champion.
In the 2016 Candidates’ tournament in Moscow, Caruana was regarded as one of the favourites. This is how he was described in pre-tournament prognostications by grandmaster Emil Sutovsky:
‘Fabiano Caruana was somewhat surprisingly regarded as favourite by almost half of the survey respondents. Despite the fact that eighteen months have passed since his legendary performance at St Louis, people understand that the Italian-American is capable of achieving something similar again. However, I personally am mystified that a whole series of appearances at the highest level since then has seen him drop sharply, from his cosmic rating of 2844 to a more modest 2794. Why did the qualitative leap in his play, which was noticed in the summer-autumn of 2014, turn out to be so short-lived? I do not know. But honestly, I would very much like to see that Caruana again – his play was the sort of chess that I personally consider ideal. An extraordinary degree of principle in the opening, a “wholeness” in his formulation of the game, deep strategic plans based on tactical subtleties, and, to the delight of the fans, numerous victories in games against the “Berliners” (including Carlsen). It was chess that was a symbiosis of science, game and sport, rather than the Carlsen approach, which can be described as purely chess-as-a-game. Can Caruana again combine these ingredient and shine? Definitely!’
In that Moscow Candidates tournament, Caruana was close to qualifying for the ‘match of his life’, but after losing a dramatic game in the final round against Sergey Karjakin, he was forced to settle for ‘only’ second place. He then followed up with a convincing win in the US Championship and a gold medal with the American team at the Olympiad (Baku 2016), all of which showed that he was ready for a new step forward.
In the January 2017 FIDE rating list, Caruana (2827) occupied second place, only 13 points behind Magnus Carlsen (2840).
Two years after Moscow, Caruana did make the final jump. After a highly convincing win in the Berlin Candidates Tournament in March 2018 (despite losing to Karjakin again!) the American grandmaster is up for his greatest challenge to date. In November he will be playing his World Championship match with Magnus Carlsen. Experts predict that this match will be very close and tense. Will it be the culmination of the amazing story of Fabiano Caruana?
Alexander Kalinin Note:
Moscow, July 2018
In several games I have cited a few comments by Fabiano Caruana himself or by other (grand-)masters. Most of these comments appeared earlier in New In Chess Magazine or on ChessBase.