ZEIT ONLINE: How does it feel to have won this tournament?
Caruana: It feels amazing. I thought I had a chance before the event. But I couldn't have imagined it would finish like this.
ZEIT ONLINE: There was a lot of tension in the past two-and-a-half weeks …
Caruana: At some point, the tension also got to me. Around the middle of the tournament, I made a few draws and I lost against Sergey Karyakin. That was the culmination of just too much tension, too much stress trying to hold on to first place. And that helped me relax, get back into the groove of playing. So, yeah, the tension is often enormous. And a big part of these tournaments is managing the stress and the pressure. And here it is unlike a normal tournament, here the stakes are much higher. First place is a huge achievement for every player. And every other place is not an achievement.
ZEIT ONLINE: Does getting into the lead so early create an additional burden?
Caruana: No, at the start it gives you a confidence boost, so it's great. It's only later in the tournament that the lead starts to weigh on you. Because after nine rounds, you want the tournament to be finished – but you still have a lot of games left and a lot of people who are trying to catch up with you.
ZEIT ONLINE: Did Karjakin's sudden comeback scare you?
Caruana: That was very unpleasant. It was also a feeling of déjà vu. And then he also beat me. It was a very unpleasant turn of events. After that, I started to feel like my tournament was already spoiled.
ZEIT ONLINE: Was the game against him a wake-up call for you?
Caruana: Absolutely. I was playing very poorly the previous few games, not just that game. I felt my play was heavy. I wasn't really playing with much freedom. And after that, I suddenly got back my freedom and my play. Thankfully, it wasn't too late.
ZEIT ONLINE: At the end of the last round, a draw would have been enough, but then you won that game and won the tournament with a lead of one whole point. Were you trying to demonstrate that you were the best among the candidates?
Caruana: I didn't expect to get any winning chances today. But I thought that if I have a chance, I should take it. At the end, I realized that Shakhriyar Mamedyarov would draw. But my position against Alexander Grischuk was so good that I thought I would win anyway and shouldn't draw. It is a chess game, after all and if I'm winning, I should try to win it.
ZEIT ONLINE: What was your support setup during the tournament?
Caruana: I was only here with my coach Rustam Kasimdzhanov. My manager Mehreen Malik came for the first day and then she left. Before the tournament, I worked with several chess players, but it was just the two of us here. I prefer not to have a huge group of people because it takes your energy away. I prefer the dynamic of just the two of us.
ZEIT ONLINE: Did you stay in the same hotel and then meet in the daytime for a few hours?
Caruana: We stay in the same hotel and we usually meet in the morning and prepare for the game after breakfast.
ZEIT ONLINE: And then you play chess all day long, or do you do something else, as well?
Caruana: We usually take some time to go for a walk. One day, we had a massage, which was nice. We watched a few movies and tried to work out a bit, because when you're playing chess for two weeks, you have to move your body.
ZEIT ONLINE: A few years back, everybody thought you were the person to challenge Magnus Carlsen. But then came a period when things weren't going so smoothly. Why was that?
Caruana: I think every player has periods when he is playing better and worse. And even Magnus sometimes goes through rough patches, bad tournaments, times when he isn't winning many games or tournaments. It's normal for every player. I've had very good periods and I've had some bad periods. Overall, I feel that for the last six or seven years, I've maintained a very high level at the top in the world of chess. I had my chances in the last Candidates two years ago. I performed pretty well for most of the tournament, but to win the Candidates you also need a bit of luck. And this time I had that as well.