We couldn’t help ourselves. Less than 24 hours after Fabiano Caruana won the Candidates tournament in Berlin to secure a world title tilt against Magnus Carlsen we were onto him.
Most of all we wanted to know when the trash-talking would start!
But also what the new World Chess Championship challenger’s relationship with the champion is. Oh, and finally, whether he would create a Chessable opening repertoire for us.
Thankfully, Fabiano – who perhaps had a bit of a groggy head after a few drinks the night before – was game. Here’s what he had to say from his hotel room in Berlin:
Fabiano, congratulations! First of all, how are you feeling?
So how did you celebrate?
After all the official stuff was done, all the interviews, press conference, closing ceremony it was midnight pretty much so we found an Italian restaurant that was open and we got a few bottles of wine with a few friends. There was just five of us, and we had a few drinks and it was nice
Have you heard of Chessable?
Yeah, I’ve seen it online, and I know John [Bartholomew].
Have you thought about doing a repertoire for us? Everyone would love it…
Haha, I can only offer really boring openings like the Petroff unfortunately…
Ok, so how are you going to beat Magnus?
Well, I’ll certainly do my best. I think a lot of it will come down to the preparation before the match. Like, before this tournament I think my preparation was very successful in terms of relaxing and getting into the proper shape that I can calculate well.
We didn’t have much time before this tournament but we will before the world championship and I will have to step it up a few notches, especially since it is a much different challenge.
Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana, who just became the first American challenger for the world chess championship since Fischer. He was the most stable ship in a stormy sea at the Candidates!
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) March 27, 2018
Here I’m playing seven other players and it’s very tough but with Magnus it’s one guy and to kill each other over the boards each day it will be psychologically and mentally draining and also physically draining.
So I will have to come with my best physical shape and my best mindset and my best chess-shape in terms of calculating variations and preparing for Magnus specifically. So it is also a challenge that I’ve never had to face before.
Will you be focusing more on yourself or on Magnus?
Myself. I really need to make sure I am playing at my absolute best ability. I need to be 100 per cent because anything less than that and I won’t be able to win it.
But of course a lot of the focus will be on him as well because he is a unique opponent: he is the best chess player in the world and you can never play an easy game with Magnus, it just doesn’t ever happen.
The Candidates is over, and it was the most difficult and rewarding tournament of my life. Still only half the goal – on to play Magnus in November!
— Fabiano Caruana (@FabianoCaruana) March 28, 2018
If you win a game it’s going to be very difficult and then if you are under pressure from the start he’s going to make you suffer for seven hours or however long it might take to beat you.
But recently I’ve had some games, like in London in the first round, where I was worse out of the opening and I stuck with him the whole game and then after six-and-a-half hours I managed to hold him with black.
So this, I think, shows that even if he puts you under pressure from the start it’s still not the end of the world.
And we also saw last time Karjakin defended bad positions with some tenacity and this ended up as being almost enough to win the match because he defended his bad games then when he got a chance he took it and nearly won the match I thought.
Are there any particular weaknesses he has that you will be trying to exploit?
I think the weaknesses he has are very relative. Yes, he does some things better than others but you can’t point out any true weaknesses where if you take the game in that direction then suddenly he’s a much weaker player.
He is basically the most well-rounded player so everything he does he does well. Some things he does… perfectly, but some things you can outplay him.
This is the same young talented boy who started his chess career around 6 at my Polgar Chess Center in NY. I'm so proud to see him grow as a person/player over the years! Now he'll be battling for the World Championship! Congrats to @FabianoCaruana & his family! @theworldchess pic.twitter.com/aYbgNxnOSY
In a complicated fight when the game can go either way when you are risking a lot but also he is risking a lot and you have to calculate then you can beat him. In a complicated fight it is definitely possible to outplay him and to beat him.
I don’t think that I calculate any worse than him. He does some things better than me, but also I think I do some things better than him. If I put pressure on him from the start then I will definitely have my chances.
What’s your personal relationship with him like?
It’s pretty much neutral. We hang out occasionally but never one-on-one. I also would not describe us as friends, but we are definitely not on bad terms and I think that we both respect each others’ play.
Obviously, I respect him and I think he also respects my ability and how I fight in any individual game and go for the win. He respects that I am not just trying to hold him back but I am trying to take my chances and go for the win.
Obviously, there is mutual respect there but is there going to be any trash-talking before the match?
Oh yeah, no doubt…
Can we start that now?
I think that maybe I should wait just a few more months.
Finally, thanks for talking to us and do you have a message for him?
Well, I’m actually playing him in a week, so if I have a message for him I would like to deliver it over the board.
Leon is a national newspaper journalist from London, England. He is an avid chess fan, and writes regularly about the game. Apart from chess, he loves cricket, Tottenham Hotspur FC and spending time with his son.