There are periods when it is impossible to slow down. Things and events just keep coming and you cannot get off the roller coaster.
Tomorrow I’m off to Russia. Surprisingly enough, it’s not chess-related. I am actually going there to watch a game from the World Cup. To make it even more adventurous, and not entirely to my liking, we (me and two friends) will drive all the way to there. It is more than 2000km one-way. For some this may be fun, for a seasoned traveller like me, who prefers to limit the travel time and arrive at the destination as soon as possible, this is way too much time spent in a car! We’ll see, hope it all goes well.
In the meantime in the chess world the Grand Chess Tour started with the rapid and blitz events in Leuven and Paris. It is interesting that with only a few days between the two events the same players who were in form in Leuven continued to dominate in Paris.
Wesley So dominated the rapid in Leuven. An undefeated 7/9, point and a half ahead of second-placed Aronian and Vachier. But he completely botched the blitz, with appaling 8/18, while Karjakin won it with 11.5/18. Still, the regulations stating that the rapid points are worth double, So emerged the winner of the event, half a point ahead of Karjakin and Vachier. That wasn’t without last-round excitement, when all three (!) lost their games.
Worth noting is Caruana’s catastrophe, pretty much everywhere. In the Leuven rapid he scored 3.5/9, in the blitz 6.5/18 and currently in the Paris rapid he’s winless on 1.5/6. This brings me to a thought I had recently. Since the results show that Carlsen is so much superior to Caruana at faster time-controls, it makes sense for Carlsen to actually play the match in a more constrained fashion, basically playing for 6-6. He will definitely feel very confident if it comes to a rapid tie-break. As for Caruana, he really needs to find a “cure” for his faster-control troubles. Perhaps these events are a result of his saturation with chess recently, playing practically non-stop, but in any case this aspect of his play is a serious concern before the match in November.
To illustrate the extent of his bad form, take a look at the following position after move 50 in his game against Nakamura.
And the following one is 31 moves later:
It is here that Caruana blundered horribly. He went 81…Ne5, missing that White can simply take the pawn on h5 thanks to the fork on f5 in case Black recaptures. While even now the position should be a draw, Nakamura went on to win the game on move 123.
These kinds of break-downs never happen to Carlsen. They are a glaring weakness of Caruana and something Carlsen will definitely try to take advantage of. The Challenger has some serious work to do in this respect!
Time to prepare that backpack now!