After all the talk of tiebreaks over the past week, it simply didn’t matter. Karjakin left no room for debate over whether the final result was fair–he simply crushed Caruana in the final round to win the 2016 Candidates Tournament and earn his chance to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship title later this year.
Karjakin had previously lost three times as White to Caruana:
- once in a Ruy Lopez where Fabi got a nice attack after sacking two exchanges,
- once in a Queen’s Gambit Declined (during the FIDE Grand Prix) when Fabi was himself up the exchange, and
- once in a Dutch Leningrad (at the Zurich Grand Open) where Fabi temporarily went down a Queen but eventually would have forced additional material loss after Queening in the late middle game.
Caruana chose not to play 1…e5 this time, instead responding with a Sicilian. He chose a line where he left his King in the middle, going for sharp counterplay on the Queenside. Karjakin parried all threats and then dealt the decisive attack himself.
It looked like Caruana had equalized, and he must have felt pretty comfortable after he played 36…Re4. His idea is to alleviate some of White’s attacking chances and get one step closer to an endgame. Remember that Black is up a pawn at this point, and his King is close to the center–this would be great for an endgame, but is not so great while White still has so many pieces coordinated and poised to attack. Take a look at the position below and see if you can find the winning move (and probably the only move) for White.
If you want to see the solution, check out the game continuation below. I won’t spoil it here in case your eyes are catching this text before you look down, but some further thoughts are offered below the game.
One of the drawbacks to Black’s move 36…Re4 was that it weakened the protection of d5, not just because the Rook left it’s lateral defense but also because the g2 Bishop is now blocked from defending the square. White can now crash through for the win, and Karjakin indeed finds it. After the breakthrough, Fabiano is worse. He then cracks under the pressure, and, in the final position, White is simply mating Black.
Full Game Analysis can be viewed on John Bartholomew’s YouTube Channel.