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On Chess: Caruana thrives in St. Louis

Fabiano Caruana is now based in St. Louis. Here is playing during the 2016 Sinquefield Cup.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

When Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana decided to move to St. Louis in late August 2015, local chess enthusiasts rejoiced and looked forward to meeting the then world’s No. 5 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Caruana chose the U.S. chess capital as it proved to provide the best conditions for the Miami-born superstar to improve his skills and eventually challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Even more important, the U.S. Chess Federation hoped that Caruana, the American No. 1, would successfully lead his countrymen at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. Well, Fabiano Caruana’s first year as a St. Louis resident is over and he satisfied everyone.

Based on Caruana’s 2016 accolades to date, St. Louis appears to have helped him harness his chess game. Caruana started 2016 with a notable second-place finish at the 78th Tata Steel Chess Tournament, which took place in the coastal village of Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands. The 2016 Candidate Tournament in Moscow and 3rd Shamkir Chess Tournament in Azerbaijan earned him two more silver medals; however, Caruana truly shined in the 2016 U.S. Chess Championship in his new hometown, becoming the U.S. Champion after his first attempt.

Shortly after, he gained another second place finish at the Sinquefield Cup, once again in St. Louis. Although these lofty accomplishments were astonishing, the biggest achievement was yet to come – the anticipated gold medal at the 2016 World Chess Olympiad in Azerbaijan ... not to mention his individual bronze medal for his performance on the top board.

Through great tournament results like these, Fabiano Caruana earned not only world recognition, medals and cash prizes, but also important rating points. Whereas the 24-year-old St. Louis resident started this year with a 2787 rating, his chess mastery carried him to his current 2823 and to the corresponding No. 3 rank in the world. Now just 30 points shy of the World Champion, it appears Fabiano’s game plan to challenge Magnus Carlsen is taking shape nicely.

There are two other major tournaments left in 2016 for Fabiano that could help him top an amazing year. The 2016 Champions Showdown will be an exhibition event featuring two former World Champions (Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria and Vishy Anand, India) and the top-two Americans (Fabaino Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura). Over five days (Nov. 10-14), the players will contest dozens of games, starting with slower time limits and gradually getting faster. All chess fans are welcomed to visit this event at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center or watch online at uschesschamps.com.

Lastly, the Grand Chess Tour will conclude with its final event, the London Chess Classic, on Dec. 7-19. It will be a 10-player classical Round Robin featuring 10 of the best players in the world.

All of us in America’s chess capital are happy for Fabi, and excited to see how his year will end. Make sure to stop by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis; since Caruana lives nearby, you too may get the chance to meet and play one of the world’s greatest chess players.

WGM Katerina Nemcova is a Czech chess champion who learned to play at age 4. She won the national youth championship in eight age categories, topping out as the Czech Women’s Champion in 2008 and  2010. She represented the Czech Republic as a three-time Olympic (2008, 2010, 2012) player and a gold-medalist as the second board at the European Women's Team Championship in 2007. Individually, Nemcova came in second in the 2007 World Youth Championship (Kemer-Antalya, Turkey) and won the 2008 European Youth Chess Championship. Nemcova has a degree in public relations from Webster University and was a member of its elite chess team.

On Chess is provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.