Fabiano Caruana’s bid to capture the World Chess Championship was dealt a severe blow today when a disastrous leak on YouTube revealed months of the challenger’s top-secret prep.
A clip showing names of the world number 2’s meticulously researched openings appeared on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s channel hours before Round 4 of his title match against Norwegian chess king Magnus Carlsen.
It was swiftly deleted, but not before notes such as “Petroff 4. Nc3” and “fianchetto Grünfeld” – two openings Caruana may have been ready to play – had been seen by the Carlsen’s team of advisors.
Caruana, the first US-born player to challenge for the title since Bobby Fisher in 1972, is a member of the St Louis club and it was his team of advisers in the US who are believed to be responsible for the upload.
Commentators were in no doubt it was quickly seized upon by Carlsen’s team.
I watched the video by @STLChessClub this morning of Caruana doing preparations along with Ramirez, Dominguez and Chirila. Video is now removed. Either a huge mistake, or an intentional campaign to misinform Team Carlsen. Incredible, #CarlsenCaruana (via @hartmannchess) pic.twitter.com/tApKRpH9Ze
— Tarjei J. Svensen (@TarjeiJS) November 13, 2018
Caruana’s bid for the chess crown is supported by the club’s multi-millionaire founder Rex Sinquefield, a huge fan of the game who is known to be desperate for an American to be crowned World Chess Champion.
Before the 12-round match taking place in London, Caruana spent his time holed up at a training camp near the Missouri city working on plans to take down world number one Carlsen.
‘A terrible accident’
The Norwegian Grandmaster Jon Ludvig Hammer, a former “second” to Carlsen, described the video leak as “quite dramatic” for the Caruana camp.
“On this screen – in plain text – a few of the opening variations Caruana has prepared. It’s quite dramatic,” he said.
Asked if he thought it was intentional release, Hammer said: “I doubt it, it was so detailed and so much information on an opening Caruana has played in this match.”
Three well-known chess theorists – grandmasters Leinier Domínguez, Alejandro Ramírez and Ioan-Cristian Chirila – were also shown.
World title contenders also usually keep the names of their “seconds” as secret as possible in the months leading up to a world title match so their opponent has no idea what they will play.
Australian Grandmaster Ian Rogers said the leak was a “terrible accident” for Caruana’s team and left him with two options: either play what he has prepared knowing Carlsen will have had time to prepare, or throw out all his preparation.
In the post match press conference, Caruana said he would not comment on the leak.
Carlsen, when asked, said with a smile: “Well, I’ll have a look at the video.”
He then added: “I can truthfully say I have not seen it, but I am aware of the video.”
Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein declined to comment on the leak when asked if the champion would benefit from it.
Team Caruana has not responded to requests for a comment.
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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.