FIDE Candidates 2016 (14)
Sergey Karjakin beats Fabiano Caruana to earn world title shot against Carlsen
Mark Crowther - Tuesday 29th March 2016
The FIDE Candidates were won by Sergey Karjakin after he defeated Fabiano Caruana in the only decisive game of the final round. Caruana fought hard and his Classical Sicilian produced a sharp position with chances to fight for a win which he needed to quality. Karjakin bravely and correctly sacrificed a pawn for equality and after Caruana tried for a win with 36...Re4 Karjakin had to sacrifice a full rook to avoid being much worse, in fact the sacrifice led to a winning attack, after 39...Qf5! the game was all but over and finished on move 42.
Karjakin and Carlsen were both born in 1990 and for years it was predicted they would eventually meet in a World Championship match and this has now come to pass. Karjakin was tough during this event saving a number of difficult positions and lost just a single game. Karjakin is certainly equipped to play a World Championship match, The organisers AGON announced the match will be in New York 11th-30th November. I have no reason to doubt this except it lacked details of venue and sponsors but even if it falls through I imagine Russia will be very keen to host such a match.
Caruana came so close and probably has more reason that most to rue some missed chances, none bigger than not beating Topalov in the first half from a winning position, but also a chance later on against Svidler in round 13. Caruana also looks just about ready for a world championships match and this was a fine debut at this level. Most likely Karjakin's previous experience in two Candidates events made the difference.
The remaining games were drawn. Peter Svidler pressed with a small advantage against Viswanathan Anand but had to settle for a draw. Anand put in a good effort to try and get another world championship match, failures of his black opening repertoire were the main reason he came up just short. If this is the end of his world title challenges this was a worthy effort.
Anish Giri finished the event with a final draw against Topalov, a small opening edge soon evaporated. Giri drew every game but has got some good reviews for the quality of his play. Giri commented on twitter "Thanks everyone for your incredible support! Missed far too many chances, now time to draw(?!) some conclusions. Congrats to @SergeyKaryakin"
Topalov admitted afterwards that his time has gone, I'm not sure he was all that committed to playing this event and it showed. He was the only player with a negative score, the majority of the field finishing on 50%. I expect this to be Topalov's last appearance in the world championship cycle but hope to see him play on in major tournaments for many more years.
Hikaru Nakamura drew against Levon Aronian to keep both of them on 50%. Nakamura can be reasonably satisfied after a terrible start. Aronian had his chances until a weak patch in the middle of the event, it's starting to look unlikely the long time world number two will get the world title match that would complete his career.
At least some of these players will be back in two years time. There's never been a Candidates tournament that was so closely contested, all but one of the players finished 50% or better. I enjoyed it a lot, somewhat hampered by not being able to use the official site, I would like FIDE, in conjuntion with the players, to look at how ties are resolved at the end of the event.
Final Standings: 1st Karjakin 8.5pts, 2nd Caruana 7.5pts, 3rd Anand 7.5pts 4th-7th Giri, Svidler, Aronian, Nakamura 8th Topalov 4.5pts
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