‘Nothing can prepare you for 7-0’
Fabiano Caruana had a fabulous seven game winning streak in the Sinquefield Cup. In an interview with New In Chess magazine (issue 2014#7) he reflects on the biggest win of his career. Here you can read an excerpt of the interview. To read the complete text, plus three exclusive annotations by Caruana himself, please subscribe to the magazine at the website of New In Chess.
To the outside world you look modest, close to shy. But there must be this burning desire to win inside.
‘Yeah, I am not a very competitive person in general. If I play any kind of sport, I do not really care if I win or lose. Like tennis, I couldn’t care less; I just play to enjoy it. But in terms of chess I am very competitive and I want to win, just as much as anyone else. Maybe even more.’
Why is it that chess brings this out in you?
‘Well, it’s probably the only thing I am good at (with a faint smile). And I think I am pretty good at it. So I feel that I should prove myself. If I have the ability.’
It makes you feel good when you win?
‘Yeah, when I achieve something like this, I am also very happy about it. Because it’s definitely not something that happens every day, something anyone can do. So I do take some pride in such an accomplishment.’
Are you proving something to yourself or to the outside world?
‘Maybe even more to my opponents, because I respect them all as great players, and I want to show that I can beat them and can compete with them. That’s a good feeling.’
When did you get the feeling that you really belonged to that small group of players at the top of the world rankings?
‘In 2012 I started to have much better results. I don’t know what changed, but I started winning tournaments, beating guys like Lev and Magnus and Kramnik and Vishy. My overall results improved, although I definitely wasn’t playing at their level, and I could feel that, but in any case I was trying to beat them, often successfully. My rating also rose very rapidly. I already started feeling that I could be a top player. The last couple of years have just cemented my belief that I deserve to be in this group.’
The streak ended in Round 8 against Magnus. You said you couldn’t call it a real disappointment. Still, were you sour?
‘After the game, when I looked with the computer, I understood that I had missed a very big chance. But I clinched tournament victory and I drew Magnus, which is never a bad result. I was also a bit apprehensive before the start of the game, because I envisioned some extremely bizarre circumstances in which I managed to lose three games and he managed to win three games…’
No doubt he was still thinking about that.
‘(Laughs) Yeah, OK, nothing that extreme has ever happened, but anything is possible. I think he was still hoping that some miracle would occur. But after the opening he must have lost those hopes, because it didn’t go well for him from the start.’
So you were more annoyed by the chance you missed in Game 9.
‘That was pretty absurd. I mean, I didn’t consider a draw a bad result, even though Hikaru was not in good form and he had just lost to Veselin. And he was probably pretty nervous before the game, maybe even depressed. I wasn’t unhappy with the result of the opening and after that I just increased my advantage. So it looked as if it was going to be a clean game. I was pretty sure that I was going to win. Especially after he started blitzing out moves, which were obviously just desperation, because he didn’t see any defence. He just went for the murkiest line he could see, but in any case, totally winning for me. And I had more than enough time to finish off the game cleanly. This tactic is just so simple. Even Chris Bird, the arbiter, saw it. He told me, which made me feel great (laughs). He’s probably a decent player, but in any case, if the arbiter sees a win and you don’t, that’s probably not a good sign.’
The last game was less eventful, and so you finished 8 and a half out of 10. People have compared it to many things. If you were to make a comparison, what would it remind you of?
‘Definitely nothing from my play. During the tournament I actually had a look at Karpov’s games from Linares ’94, because I just wanted to see what I was up against. I was a bit surprised. I am not sure if there was a mistake in the database, or if it was really correct, because apparently Bareev, in the second round against Karpov, not only blundered a rook, but also got mated.
If this really happened, it qualifies for the biggest blunder of the century. You always need some luck to win like this. I also had some luck, in my second game; that was obvious.’
Karpov’s 6-0 is what you would compare your result to?
‘Yeah, I think in the end his result was better, as he had 11 out of 13, which is probably better than I did. But in any case, these are sort of comparable performances.’