Sinquefield Cup: Fabiano Caruana books place in Grand Chess Tour finals after beating Wesley So in playoff

V Saravanan
With his win over Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana joins Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final event in London.

World championship challenger Fabiano Caruana of the US defeated his teammate Wesley So in the playoff for the 4th place thus cementing a place in the finals of the Grand Chess Tour circuit 2018.

In the mini-match consisting of two game rapid chess games held at the Saint Louis Chess Club on Tuesday, he defeated Wesley So with a margin of 1.5 - 0.5 to book his berth to the finals. He joins Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final event at London to be held in December 2018.

After winning the Candidates tournament in March 2018, Caruana's form continues to be thus boding well for the world championship match against Magnus Carlsen which will also be held in London in November 2018.

Though Caruana has jointly won the Sinquefield Cup along with Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, he was not seen as the clear favourite in the tie-break matches against Wesley So. There are separate rating lists for rapid chess (games lasting for about 1 hour totally) and blitz chess (about 10 minutes), and in both of them, Caruana has been placed much lower than Wesley So.

In rapid rating, Caruana is ranked 26th in the world with a rating of 2738 while So is 2nd in the world with 2852, whereas in blitz he is 36th in the world with 2709 against So's 12th place and 2800 points. Thus, Caruana's track record in the faster versions of the game has not been as impressive as So.

However, Caruana's form in the Sinquefield Cup and the preceding Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz event have been comparatively preferable. Wesley So started as the clear leader of the Grand Chess Tour Grand Prix points at the start of the Saint Louis events, but slipped down in standings due to his performance in those events. Hence, his form and confidence going into the tie-break today were the detrimental factors compared to his track record in the format.

In the first game which was a Catalan opening, Caruana with black pieces adopted a relatively new idea of Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi played against Indian Vidit Gujrathi at the beginning of this month and seemingly neutralised white's advantage easily. The game was drawn in 33 moves from a dry rook ending.

The second game was an absorbing affair, with Caruana using his white pieces and probing black's position from the beginning. In a strategically complex game arising out of a Nimzo-Indian defence, Caruana was once again the first to show a new idea on the 11th move, creating a complex middlegame position. So reacted admirably and the game liquidated into an equal ending with two rooks and a bishop for both sides.

Once the endgame started, Caruana started playing a highly subtle and constructive form of chess, elevating his playing strength admirably and slowly outplaying So. When both the players reached less than a minute on their clocks, Caruana's hold on the position tightened and won deservingly on the 62nd move.

Results - Grand Chess Tour tie-break for 4th place:

Caruana (1.5) beat Wesley So (0.5). Caruana advances to the final four event.

Also See: Sinquefield Cup: Vishwanathan Anand finishes undefeated; Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana emerge joint winners

Sinquefield Cup: Viswanathan Anand tied sixth in standings after playing draw with Fabiano Caruana, remains unbeaten

Sinquefield Cup: Viswanathan Anand achieves a fighting draw against world champion Magnus Carlsen in fourth round

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