Liberty Science Center Visiting Grandmaster in Residence Fabiano Caruana (center) with students from The Avenues School chess club.
It has been a spectacular November so far! On the 8th I traveled to New Jersey to visit the Liberty Science Center and serve as ambassador for LSC’s Chess Works!, an after school chess program, with a special focus on reaching kids in at-risk communities.
I got a chance to see the amazing facilities and exhibits at LSC and faced off against a group of kids from the Avenues school, who put up a tough fight but ultimately succumbed to checkmate. I was most impressed by their enthusiasm and passion for the game. That was good preparation for the simultaneous exhibition the next day, where I faced 23 opponents at once. The games were close, especially against some of the younger participants, and I was thrilled to finish with 23 wins. The highlight of the night, however, was watching David Blaine perform card tricks, which to me is pure magic.
Fabiano Caruana playing against students at a fundraiser for Chess Works! Liberty Science Center’s new chess program for students in at-risk communities.
The trip turned out to be excellent preparation for my experimental exhibition match against Hikaru Nakamura, which started 3 days later and consisted of four segments, each a different time limit or form of chess. We are the numbers one and two in the United States, so the match held a great deal of interest in determining who has “bragging rights” for the future.
The first day ended in a tie, with two draws in our “Basque” games, which is a chess variant where two games of chess are played at once.
The second day we played “Fischer random” or “Chess960.” In this form of chess the pieces are shuffled on the back rank in the starting position; there are 960 different possible starting positions. I started with a win but ended with two disappointing losses, so after the second day match advantage was with Nakamura.
Fabiano Caruana (left) and Hikaru Nakamura (right) at the Showdown in St. Louis. Photo: Austin Fuller for the St. Louis Chess Club.
I made a comeback during the rapid play segment on Day 3, scoring two convincing victories to surge ahead in the match.
On the final speed chess day, Nakamura was considered the clear favorite going in, because of his #1 world ranking in speed chess. However, from the start I dominated the match, scoring strong wins and after six games, two before the end, I had clinched overall match victory.
My next tournament, the third leg of the Grand Chess Tour, starts on December 3rd in London. I’m taking some time to rest and prepare before then. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish off 2015 on a high note!