Can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen? We asked 7 chess masters

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news, Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Championship

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We all know the big match is approaching – but can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen?

The winner-takes-all World Chess Championship is without a doubt the game’s prestige event. Last time, when Carlsen faced the Russian Sergey Karjakin, the Norwegian champ was taken to tie-breaks, but no-one seriously thought he would lose.

>> Try our NEW Strategy Training: Magnus Carlsen course and learn how the champ plans

This time, is very different. Carlsen has not had a vintage year, while Caruana has been breathing down his neck in the rankings.

>> Why The College, Holborn, is the perfect 2018 World Chess Championship venue

So is the quietly-spoken Brooklyn boy the real test Carlsen has been waiting for? He was certainly confident when we spoke to him.

Fabiano Caruana is the challenger. Photo credit: DAVID LLADA
Fabiano Caruana is the challenger. Photo credit: DAVID LLADA

Or will Carlsen, in his trademark slow but sure style, crush the new contender like has so many before him?

We asked seven masters for their expert views:

1. GM Nihal Sarin: Caruana has the chance

“It will be an interesting match. Caruana has all the chances to become world champion but he should try and do it in the classical part of the game.

“His chances will diminish considerably in faster time controls.”

The champ, Magnus Carlsen
The champ, Magnus Carlsen

“This will be one of the closest World Championship matches in recent history. The incumbent champion, Magnus Carlsen, is one of, if not the, most talented chess players to have ever graced the board; however, his challenger, Fabiano Caruana, continues to prove himself to be an almighty contender.

2. GM Simon Williams: Magnus remains the better player

Caruana’s preparation over recent years has proven to be of a higher level than that of Magnus, and the opening stage of the game is one particular area that Fabiano could gain an advantage in.

>> Try our NEW Strategy Training: Magnus Carlsen course and learn how the champ plans

Magnus, though, remains the better player; he simply knows where the pieces should be. I would rate Magnus’ chance at around 55%, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Fabiano does emerge victoriously and clinch the title…

Pro Tip: At present, the odds of the match leading to a 6-6 draw are set at around 5-1; this is a great bet!

3. GM Danny Gormally: Carlsen will stamp his class

My view is Carlsen will win. I’m actually pretty confident about that.

I think for several reasons:

Firstly the motivation factor. Losing the world number spot and his world championship title would be a horrible blow to him. So therefore he’ll be hugely motivated.

Along the same lines, he won’t underestimate Caruana like he did with Karjakin. Even a blind man could see Caruana is a huge threat. Carlsen will have been working around the clock to find his best form.

I think Carlsen is the best player. His games are memorable in the same way that Caruana’s aren’t. If you asked me to name Caruana’s best games, I wouldn’t have a clue.

His chess is very much influenced by the computer, like a lot of players of that generation. and that means he is essentially “styleless”.

But Caruana won’t care less that he won’t be remembered in 50 years time, as long as he wins. And his brilliant form of late, and Carlsen’s own struggles for form, and his struggles in the last world championship match against Karjakin, will give Caruana every hope of winning the world championship title.

I just feel very confident that all that won’t matter, because the past is the past and that we’ll see a different Carlsen in this match. I expect him to stamp his class early on and I don’t think the match will be as close as people think.

My prediction – an easy win for Carlsen.

4. IM Kostya Kavutskiy: Caruana plays without fear of Magnus

Can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen?

I expect Fabiano to show up in the best form of his life.

He and his team have shown that they know how to prepare for big events and Caruana has been playing better than anyone in the world, including Magnus in the past six months.

Caruana is one of the only players who plays without fear of Magnus, which I think will be incredibly important for his match chances.

Overall, it will be an amazing fight, which will likely motivate Magnus to show his absolute best as well.

If both players show up in their best form, I would expect Magnus to win, but if Fabiano strikes early, he has the championship character he needs to keep the lead against a chasing Magnus and bring the title home.

Can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen? I’m very excited about this match…

5. FM Tim Wall: They are psyched and ready to rumble!

Carlsen vs Caruana in London should be a feast of great chess. With players so strong there’s always the risk that they can’t break through, and we see several draws, but I think both Fabi and Magnus are totally up for this: They are psyched and ready to rumble!

The range and depth of Fabi’s opening novelties this year has been amazing (just recall how he has breathed new life into the Petroff, for example) and Carlsen often just seems to have this extra gear, especially in the endgame, that no one else can match.

I would still give Magnus the edge 55-45, particularly if it goes to a rapid & blitz penalty shootout. But if Fabi can unsettle Magnus early on with a couple of wins straight out of the gate, who knows?

6. FM Marko Makaj: I’m afraid it’ll be 90 per cent draws

I believe that this will be a very close match, where I don’t see Fabi be behind. From the almost equal rating and the similar style of play that is even more even” from the repertoire that they use I am afraid that this match can get with more than 90% draw.

In my view, whoever managed to get a win (if there will be wins)will get almost winning advantage in this close match.

Can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen? Chessable author Marko Makaj gives his view
Can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen? Chessable author Marko Makaj gives his view

Also, based on the recent form in regular chess, Fabi looks incredibly strong and he will get whatever he has there. On the other side, Magnus is an incredible player as well and the World Champion for the moment.

Because of the tough opening repertoire, there will be extremely hard to get something out of the opening and most of the games will end as a draw. I am afraid that this match will easily get in the tiebreak, where Magnus will have the advantage.

Fabi will have to try to win in the regular game, because otherwise, Magnus will get better chances in the tie-break. This will be a great match with two of the best chess players in the world today!

And the Fabi is a contender, so he will be hungry for the title!

7. And the final word on can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen goes to… IM John Bartholomew

Fabiano is a definite threat to Magnus if he can establish momentum early in the match.

Going up +1 in the first six games would put a great deal of pressure on Magnus to level the score, and I believe Fabiano with a lead would be significantly more challenging to the World Champion than Karjakin in 2016 due to his strong nerves.

>> Try our NEW Strategy Training: Magnus Carlsen course and learn how the champ plans

However, if the match is level or (especially) +1 for Magnus heading into the second half of the match, I expect Magnus to win handily.

Can Fabiano Caruana beat Magnus Carlsen? Fabiano’s clear weakness in rapid and blitz means he has to make a full effort to win in 12 games.

What do you think?

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