Even before he played the 14th round with Russia’s Peter Svidler, Anand knew the stakes. His 2016 Candidates campaign had ended and it was either the Russian Karjakin or USA’s Fabiano Caruana, who would earn the right to challenge the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen in November, somewhere in New York City. But Anand was still in a position to make a subtle difference, when he played against Svidler with Blacks. Of Anand’s 4 victories at Candidates’, none had come with Blacks. But each day is different and if Anand had beaten Svidler, he would have brought a lot of comfort for Caruana. Then the American would only have needed a draw for winning the event on tiebreak against Karjakin. But Anand didn’t win and for Caruana, it became a must-win situation. That was asking for too much as Caruana had Black pieces. Then Caruana committed a blunder and Karjakin stole the match from him. For the World Championship match now, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen will be challenged by the Russian, who had beaten Carlsen in becoming the youngest chess Grandmaster at the age of 12 years 7 months.
The 14th round final game between USA’s Fabiano Caruana and Russia’s Sergey Karjakin lasted for over 4 hours. The playing arena in Moscow’s Central Telegraph Building saw hundreds of onlookers with special guests like Grandmasters Olga Girya, Sergei Rublevsky, Evgeny Sveshnikov, Mark Dvoretsky and others. Besides, millions worldwide followed the game online. At the start, it was clear that only Karjakin or Caruana could win the tournament as Vishy Anand with 7 points was behind 7.5 each logged by the two finalists.
Karjakin had the advantage of playing with White and he began with the Rauzer and Caruana decided to choose the Sicilian defense. Karjakin continued with the open Sicilian but after his 12th move, Karjakin paused. He knew that Black would not play for the draw, because it didn’t serve Caruana’s objective. The American managed to reach an unbalanced position by move 20 with central control and the bishop pair. But Caruana’s insecurity continued because both queens were still on board and his King wasn’t quite safe against White. Suddenly, on move 30, Karjakin sensed a chance for king attack and sacrificed his pawn. That move made it easy for the Russian to move towards the black king. Karjakin was about to win the pawn back, when Caruana thought he could consolidate. But the white’s king was castled on the queen’s side and Caruana had made no attempt to castle his own king. It was a tactical error and Karjakin jumped back by sacrificing his rook in the middle of the board and created a winning attack. Caruana made another error on move 36 by playing Re4. This led to the collapse of Black’s defense and Caruana resigned on move 44.
While the new challenger for Magnus Carlsen was decided in Moscow, the Candidates’ tournament still threw up some interesting facts. Including the last win against Caruana, Sergey Karjakin notched up his fourth win, something Vishy Anand had already done. But since the Indian GM had three losses as well, he couldn’t rise beyond the third place in overall standing. Anand’s perpetual weakness about not winning with Black came in his way. The Moscow event was also remarkable for Netherlands’ Anish Giri, the only player remaining undefeated throughout. But Giri didn’t win either and all his 14 games ended as draws. As for Karjakin, he reached a new and major peak in his playing career to be able to enter a world title match. Chess lovers will recall how the new Russian World Championship challenger had turned the tables on his compatriot Peter Svidler, who had all but won the FIDE Chess World Cup at Baku in October last year. Karjakin had made one of the game’s most miraculous turnarounds in major chess events and stole an unlikely victory from his compatriot. Svidler required just a half-point after Game-2 in classical rounds. However, in a dramatic way, Karjakin began by winning Game-3 with Black pieces and leveled the score in Game-4 by winning with Whites. This forced Rapids, Blitz and possibly an Armageddon and over last three days, Karjakin shocked Svidler by snatching victory from jaws of defeat in 2015 FIDE World Cup at Baku.