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Fabiano Caruana, whose 2018 world title challenge failed in speed tie-breaks against Magnus Carlsen, showed his intent for a renewed bid last weekend when the St Louis 27-year-old ran away with the Tata Steel elite tournament at Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.
Caruana’s finishing sprint of six wins and a draw took him two points clear of Norway’s world champion, and his 10/13 total has only been equalled in modern times at Wijk by Carlsen and Garry Kasparov.
In March Caruana competes in the eight-player double-round candidates at Ekaterinburg which will settle who challenges Carlsen later this year. The American and China’s Ding Liren were joint favourites, but Caruana now has added momentum. This was one of his best wins.
Players who win the candidates then fail in the title match have a good chance to win again at a second attempt, as with Vassily Smyslov and Boris Spassky in the Soviet era.
Carlsen’s unbeaten streak reached a record 120 games by the end of Wijk, but he was still dissatisfied. “My game has been in a rut for a while now. For a few months I’ve played fairly poorly in classical with little energy, so I need to take a break and regroup.”
Gibraltar, the world’s strongest annual open, finishes on Thursday. A highlight is the Battle of the Sexes where the women’s team scored their fastest ever win: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 f5? 4 d3 fxe4 5 dxe4 Nf6 6 Ng5! Qe7 7 Bf7+ Kd8 8 Ne6+! 1-0.
Fabiano Caruana v Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Wijk 2020. Level material, but Caruana’s next turn showed that White is winning. What did he play?
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*Correction — the game moves for the Gibraltrar Battle of the Sexes originally read 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 f5? 4 d3 fxe4 5 dxe4 Nf6 5 Ng5! Be7 6 Bf7+ Kf8 7 Ne6+! 1-0.
This has been corrected to 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 f5? 4 d3 fxe4 5 dxe4 Nf6 6 Ng5! Qe7 7 Bf7+ Kd8 8 Ne6+! 1-0.
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