Deconstructing Fabiano (FIDE Candidates 2020-21 - Round 12)

GM Anish Giri. Source: official website

In the Round 11 of a FIDE Candidates Tournament, Anish Giri destroyed Ding Liren using his small mistake to perform a pleasurable Bishop sacrifice ripping up Liren’s defense. Today we are going to see an exemplary strategic deconstruction of Fabiano Caruana in the Round 12…

If we are to believe database Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana have played 59 games before this one.

  • Classical games: Fabiano Caruana vs. Anish Giri 3 to 2, with 27 draws.
  • Rapid/exhibition games: Fabiano Caruana vs. Anish Giri 7 to 6, with 14 draws.
  • Total: Fabiano Caruana vs. Anish Giri 10 to 8, with 41 draws.

It is pretty hard to surprise an opponent you know so well. But not impossible…

GM Fabiano Caruana vs GM Anish Giri

The Candidates Tournament 2020/21 – Round 12, Yekaterinburg, April 24th, 2021
B40 Sicilian Defense: Four Knights Variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6

B40 Sicilian Defense: Four Knights Variation

Is it wise to play Sicilian against an Italian? Only if you are extremely well prepared, and if you know your stats!

Giri vs Caruana 0-1 2014 London Chess Classic (Blitz), B41 Sicilian, Kan
Caruana vs Giri 0-1 2015 Norway Chess (Blitz), B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
Giri vs Caruana 0-1 2016 Grand Chess Tour Paris Blitz, B28 Sicilian, O’Kelly Variation
Caruana vs Giri 0-1 2016 Grand Chess Tour Paris Blitz, B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
Giri vs Caruana ½-½ 2018 Your Next Move (Blitz), B42 Sicilian, Kan
Caruana vs Giri 1-0 2019 GCT Paris Rapid & Blitz, B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
Caruana vs Giri 0-1 2020 Magnus Carlsen Invitational B90 Sicilian, Najdorf

You see? Seven games in Sicilian, and five wins with black pieces (Giri had three) and only one win with white pieces, with one draw. So, his choice of opening should really not be a surprise, but rather a safe bet. What Caruana has to say about it?

6. a3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Be2 d6 9. Qd3 Bd7 10. f4

10 potez-2021-04-25_222817.jpg

Fabiano has filled the center with his pieces, is ready to castle short side, and all he need now is a plan how to break through Giri’s wall.

10… e5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. O-O exf4 13. Bxf4 Be6 14. Qg3 Nd7

15 potez-2021-04-25_223331.jpg

Black pawn from Giri’s frontline cannot be captured with 15. Bxd6 because 15… Bxd6 16. Qxd6 Qb6+! and all the Queen’s side pawns are in danger. Therefore, Fabiano rather increases the pressure to that central black pawn.

15. Rad1 Re8 16. Kh1 Qb8 17. b4 Ne5 18. b5 Rc8 19. bxc6 Rxc6 20. Nd5 Qf8 21. c3 Rac8 22. Rc1 Ng6 23. Bd2 Bh4 24. Qe3 Rc5 25. c4 h6 26. Qb3 Bg5

26 potez-2021-04-25_225300.jpg

At a glance, you would say that Fabiano has quite good position. He has centralized Knight, more space, open b-line, dominant Bishops… But now Giri presents his plan. First, change your weakest pieces for the opponent’s strongest:

27. Bxg5 hxg5 28. Qg3 Qd8 29. Rcd1 Bxd5 30. exd5 Nf4 31. Qf2 R8c7

31 potez-2021-04-25_141358.jpg

Then, put your pieces out of remained Bishop’s reach. Look at this: All black pieces (with the exception of one pawn and a King) are on black squares. White Bishop is reduced to a bystander, while black Knight will merrily jump around on all squares.

This is called a strategy lesson!

Even stupid machine would jump out to warn Fabiano of the weak spots in his position…

32. Rd4 Qe8 33. Bf3 Rxc4 34. Rxc4 Rxc4 35. Qxa7 Ra4 36. Qf2??

36 potez-2021-04-25_231213.jpg

And the a3-pawn is gone. The last chance to hold the position was 36. Qc7. Now even stupid machine is giving an advice to Fabiano to resign.

36… Rxa3 37. h4 Qe5

Fabiano does not accept. He has more mistakes to make. Like this one:

38. hxg5?! Qxg5 39. Re1 Ra8 40. Be4?!

He still didn’t resign? Cheap tricks with closing the escape route for the King while hoping that Giri will overlook 8th rank? That’s pure desperation!

40… Ra2 41. Rb1

40 potez-2021-04-25_232615.jpg

Don’t mind the stupid machine, Rook cannot be taken because of simple 42. Qh4+ … 43. Qxe1+ … 44. Qxe4. I can‘t believe Caruana still didn’t resign!

41… Ra8 42. Re1 f5 43. Bb1 Kf7

43 potez-2021-04-25_233344.jpg

Opening a file for the Rook to attack on the h-line… I can‘t believe Caruana still didn’t resign!

44. Re3 Rh8+ 45. Kg1 Nxg2!!

Fabiano finally has to accept the truth that someone else is going to play title match with Carlsen this year, and he resigns in this position:


GM Caruana resigning, photo by Lennart Ootes. Source: official website

As we have said, in a stormy Round 12 all four games were decided.

WhiteRound 12Black
GM Caruana, F.0-1GM Giri, Anish
GM Vachier-Lagrave, M.1-0GM Alekseenko, K.
GM Ding, Liren1-0GM Grischuk, A.
GM Wang, Hao0-1GM Nepomniachtchi, I.

It was true fireworks on all boards. Here is IM Levy Rozman, a.k.a. GothamChess with a quick review of all the games:

[00:00​] Intro
[00:26​] Ding Liren vs. Grischuk
[05:33​] MVL vs. Alekseenko
[10:55​] Caruana vs. Giri
[17:25​] Wang Hao vs. Nepo

The standings after twelve rounds looks like this:

FIDE Candidates-2021-04-19_143846.jpg

1Nepomniachtchi, Ian8/122789
2Giri, Anish7.5/122776
3Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime6.5/122758
4Caruana, Fabiano6/122820
5Grischuk, Alexander5.5/122777
6Wang, Hao5/122763
7Ding, Liren5/122791
8Alekseenko, Kirill4.5/122696

And now something completely different…

Chess betting, anybody?

Unfortunately for Giri, despite the brilliant play in the continuation of the tournament, it probably won’t be enough for a leading position. As you can see from the crosstable, he just have half a point in direct duel with Ian Nepomniachtchi, which means if they are tied, Ian goes to Dubai in November.


On the other hand, if you would want to bet who is going to be a challenger, here’s something for you. Eric Isaacson, computer programmer, calculated chances for the three players still in the challenger game.


There you go. Math says it would be a bit of a miracle if Nepomniachtchi lose his advantage. But if you feel lucky, here are the odds:

GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian87.860%1.138
GM Giri, Anish9.657%10.355
GM Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime2.48340.274

Pairings for the last two rounds to make your decision easier…

April 26th 2021 13:00 CET


April 27th 2021 13:00 CET


The last day, April 28th, is reserved for tie-breaks – if required.

Good luck!

You can follow the tournament at


See you soon!

* * *

Related texts / Повезани текстови:

Anishiative! (FIDE Candidates 2020-21 - Rounds 11–12)

Bringing Down the Najdorf! (FIDE Candidates 2020-21 - Rounds 8–10)

FIDE Candidates tournament 2020… in 2021!

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Chess Set design: Lardy Set (Part IV) [eng/срп] Дизајн шаховских фигура: Лардијева гарнитура (део четврти)

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