Fabiano Caruana 1st American since Bobby Fischer to reach World Chess Championship
In what's being billed as a historic result for American chess, 25-year-old Fabiano Caruana has emerged after an 18-day competition in Berlin, Germany, as the next challenger for the World Championship title. He will face off against reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway in November in a 12-game one-on-one match.
A U.S. grandmaster hasn't won the title of undisputed champion since 1972, when Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky of the USSR.
The qualifying tournament was close, with two rounds left and five of the eight players able to come out on top. It wasn't until Caruana's crucial win against Armenia's Levon Aronian in the penultimate round that put him half a point ahead of his closest rivals.
"Congratulations to Fabiano Caruana, who wins the #Candidates2018 in style, by a full point!" the U.S. Chess Federation tweeted.
"It is a great honor to represent my home country," Caruana said in a statement. "The Candidates Tournament win is the culmination of months of hard work, and I'm elated -- simply without words."
Carlsen, the current World Champion, has been a grandmaster since age 13. He has held the world title since 2013 and defended it in 2016 in New York City.
"We think that Fabiano is the single most dangerous challenger that Magnus could face," Yasser Seirawan, a four-time U.S. champion and chess grandmaster, told CBS News. The two have met on numerous occasions before, and while Caruana has claimed a handful of victories, Carlsen has won almost twice as many of their match-ups. "He has tasted the blood," said Seirawan.
Caruana said, "I look forward to going back to St. Louis to prepare for dethroning Magnus."
Caruana moved to St. Louis, a hotspot for chess, after relocating from his hometown in Miami. He leads the American team in the chess olympiads as the first board and with his guidance the team won gold for the first time since 1976.
"This is one of the most significant and historical achievements for American chess in years," Rex Sinquefield, founder of the Saint Louis Chess Club, said. "To have an American play for the World Championship will help elevate chess to levels it has not seen since the early 1970s."
The match will take place November 9-28 in London, but St. Louis is rumored to be launching a bid to bring the match home, a move which could include a prize pot far in excess of the $1 million being offered in London.
"I wouldn't want to speculate," said Seirawan, "but suffice to say that it would be significantly higher."
CBS News' "60 Minutes" first met Carlsen in 2012 where he explained the nickname he acquired in his prodigy days: The Mozart of Chess.
"But was Mozart ever asked how he does this?" Carlsen asked "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon during the interview. "I would be very impressed if he had a good answer to that because I think he would say ... just -- it comes natural to me. It's what I do."
"60 Minutes" writes that chess comes so easily to Carlsen that, like a musician, he can compose in his head. As Bob Simon reported, Carlsen could simultaneously compete against 10 players -- without looking at the boards. He was able to blindly keep track of the 320 pieces and the infinite number of moves.
CBS News' Markham Nolan contributed to this report.
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