At this moment I was having the worst tournament of my chess career. Why? This I asked myself as well, maybe I am just getting older!? 🙂 Caruana was on the second place and it was clear to everybody that anything else than a full point would be a disappointment for the World Nr5. Well, sometimes life is funny. Last year I played Caruana 3 times, I had 3 winning positions and out of those I scored 0.5 points, whilenow, being in such horrible shape, I somehow managed to win quite a smooth game. How to explain it-no idea!
1.Nf3 Caruana’s main move is 1.e4 but I was expecting any opening given the tournament situation.
1…Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 So now I had to choose whether to play a Reti after 3…Bf5 or 3…Bg4 or 3…c6, to play the same as against Karjaking which would go into a Catalan after 3…e6 but somehow I thought these openings are too boring and decided to play something more funny.
3…g6 4.c4 The quick 4.c4 is quite a tricky move because of many move orders which are coming after it.
4…dxc4 A more or less rare continuation. [4…Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.O-O Nb6 would lead to the main KID with g3.]
5.Na3 A very logical move. The white knight will take a great position on c4.
5…Bg7 6.Nxc4 c5 I need to stop White from playing d4, a move after which Black would be a bit worse.
7.Nfe5?! Caruana made this move after thinking for quite a long time. Personally I don’t like it, it is just too early. I think White’s position should be a bit better after the simple 0-0,d3, Bd2, Rc1.
7…O-O8.d3Nd59. Qb3e610. O-OQc7 Now we can see why Nfe5 was a bit too early. It is difficult for White to keep the knigh to ne5 and to go back would just mean a loss of a tempo.
11.f4 White doesn’t have a choice.
11…Nd7 12.Bd2!? A little provocation.
12…b6 I just continue playing simple move. To develop the bishop on b7 can’t be a bad idea. [To go for the pawn would have been a bad decision: 12…Nxe5? 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 14.fxe5 Qxe5 15.Rf2 followed by e4 and I would probably be crushed on the dark squares.]
13.Nf3Bb714.e4 White needs to do something. I had an easy plan, to play Rac8-Rfd8 next with a very comfortable position.
14…Nb4 14…Ne7 was also possible, but somehow I thought the position of the knight on b4 is a bit more active and of course White cannot play Bxb4.
15.Bc3 White needs to exchange the black squared bishops. If I was in time for Nc6-Nd4 my position could even already be better. [Of course talking the pawn would have been a big mistake as after 15.Bxb4 15…cxb4 16.Qxb4 Nc5 the black pieces are just great!]
15…b5 During the game I was not sure if this was the right decision. My c5 pawn is getting a bit weak now, but on the other hand my pieces are getting a bit more active. [15…Rad8 would have been a solid move and I think the position is quite complicated.]
16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Qc3+ f6 Black’s position is looking a little strange with pawns on g6-f6-e6 but it is very solid.
18.Ncd2 [After 18.Ne3 18…Rad8 Black is fine as well.]
18…Qd6[Maybe 18…Qb6 would have been a better place for the queen, but it is hard to say.]
19.a3! The only move to keep the game in an unclear area. [During the game I thought that after 19.d4 19…Rac8 my position should be at least equal.]
19…Nc6 [Once again it would have been a mistake to take the pawn as after 19…Nxd3 20.e5! my whole position is falling apart. 20…b421.axb4cxb422.exd6bxc323.bxc3 With a clearly better endgame for White.]
20.Nb3 Rac8 21.Rac1 Ne7 So far all the moves were pretty logical. The position is very complicated. It is a pity for me that I never have the e5 move because of Bh3! but it is also difficult for White to create any concrete threats.
22.e5? This looks like a serious mistake to me. Now my knight is gaining a great square on d5. [It would have been better for White to play 22.Bh3 with a very complicated position.]
22…Qb6 23.exf6+ Rxf6 24.Kh1 In many lines I wanted to play c4 so Kh1 is almost forced.
24…Nd5 I now have a really great knight on d5!
25.Qd2c4! Caruana was slowly getting into time trouble and I felt that c4 should be the right move. Anyhow it was too tempting for me not to transport my knight from d7 to d3, even if I destroy my own pawn structure.
26.dxc4 bxc4 27.Nbd4 Nc5 28.Rc2! A strong defensive move. Now the rook will defend the b2 pawn and at the same time protect the bishop on g2.
28…Nd329.b3Nb2! A very nice way to defend the c4 pawn. [I was calculating for a long time to play 29…N5xf4 30.gxf4 Nxf4 31.Rxc4 Rxc4 32.bxc4 e5 and I could really not evaluate this position. It is hard to say if I have enough power to really mate the white king. The position is very unclear.]
30.Ne5 c3 31.Qf2
31…Rd8! A good move. It is clear that White’s position is already very dangerous. I have a strong c3 pawn and the white king could also get in trouble if I could somehow get rid of the g2 bishop. My main enemy is the knight on d4 so it is time to get rid of him.
32.Re1? After this move the game is already over. [My opponent had to find the amazing 32.Qg1!! a move which is very hard to play during a practical game. 32…Nxf4 33.gxf4 Rxd4 34.Rxc3 It seems like Black has no direct win and the position remains very complicated.]
32…Nxf4 Now the game is over.
33.gxf4 Rxd4 34.Rxc3 Nd1! This is why the white queen should have been on g1.
35.Rc7+ Kg8 A lot of white pieces are hanging now.
36…Rdxf4! The most simple way of ending the game.
37.Rxb7 [37.Rxd1 37…Rf1+ 38.Rxf1 Rxf1#]
39.Kh1Rf1+ I was very happy to win such a game, although it just improved my mood a little bit. I don’t even want to imagine how Caruana felt after such a disaster in such an important 12th round. 0-1