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Round 2: More Fierce Fights on Day 2 of Candidates Chess Tournament in Berlin

Round 2 of the 2018 Candidates tournament in Berlin was not nearly as explosive as Round 1, which featured three decisive results, but it was equally hard fought as two of the four games went past five hours before they ended in draws. Alexander Grischuk of Russia recorded the sole victory, beating Wesley So of the United States, who has now lost both his games.

It is still early in the tournament – there will be 14 rounds – but three players, Fabiano Caruana of the United States, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, have to be fairly satisfied with their starts as they are tied for the lead with 1.5 points each.

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The Candidates is being organized by World Chess, the commercial partner of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), the game’s governing body. The prize fund is 420,000 euros. The winner will receive 95,000 euros, but, more importantly, he will earn the right to play Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, for the title in the Championship Match in London this November.

In addition to Caruana, Mamedyarov, Kramnik, Grischuk and So, the other competitors are Levon Aronian of Armenia, Ding Liren of China and Sergey Karjakin of Russia. The tournament is a double round-robin, with each player facing all the other competitors twice, once with each color.

The venue for the tournament is K?hlhaus (or “cool house” in English), an industrial building in central Berlin that was built in the early 20th century as a cold-storage facility for fresh produce. Among the principal sponsors of the tournament are PhosAgro, a giant Russian fertilizer company; Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity firm; E.G. Capital Advisors, an investment management company; S.T. Dupont, a global luxury goods maker; Prytek, a venture capital firm; and Isklar, a Norwegian mineral water company.

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Andrey Guryev, the chief executive of PhosAgro and Vice-president of the Russian chess federation, made the first symbolic move for Round 2 in the game Kramnik-Karjakin.

Grischuk and So were both looking to bounce back after losing in Round 1. Unfortunately for So, he had the misfortune of playing Black for the second time in a row. The opening was a Ruy Lopez, with Grischuk employing an anti-Marshall system (6 d3). So got a decent position, but instead of playing slowly and patiently, he lashed out with the double-edged move 12 … d5. The resulting position is exactly the sort that Grischuk prefers. Though So was still fine, he had to play precisely and did not manage to do that. Grischuk managed to create dangerous threats on the kingside and So misplayed the defense. He eventually jettisoned a piece to stave off mate. The only reason he did not resign sooner was that Grischuk, as is typical for him, was in tremendous time pressure. But Grischuk survived to the first time control with his material edge intact and even retained his initiative. So resigned on Move 44.

The game between Mamedyarov, who had White, and Aronian was a rather quick draw, brought about by a repetition of moves. For Aronian, it was the same result as in Round 1 against Ding, which has to be a little unsatisfying for him. Though Mamedyarov did not make the best use of having White, a day after netting a point against Karjakin in the longest game of the day, a fast draw may have been a welcome respite. The Candidates is a marathon, not a sprint, and conserving energy can be crucial.

The game between Kramnik and Karjakin involved an opening that has become synonymous with Berlin: the Berlin Defense, which is also known as the Berlin Wall after the Cold War barrier that divided the city for 30 years. Kramnik is associated with the defense more than any other current player because he used it successfully to wrest the world championship title from Garry Kasparov in their 2000 match. Since then, all the top players have added it to their arsenal as Black. In this game, it was employed by Karjakin. That might seem like a nervy thing to do, but the defense suits Karjakin’s style and he has become an expert at it, even using it in Games 3, 10 and 12 of his world championship match against Magnus Carlsen in 2016. The defense is tough to crack, even for Kramnik, and White did not establish any kind of advantage out of the opening. After a series of exchanges, Black was up a pawn, but there were opposite-colored bishops on the board (which often leads to draws) and Black’s rooks were too passive to create any problems for White. After a lot of maneuvering and a few tense moments, a draw was the unsurprising result.

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The other game was between Ding and Caruana. Caruana, who was Black, employed a known exchange sacrifice arising out of a Catalan. It was clearly part of his pre-tournament preparation and he got a pawn and excellent compensation. Ding actually had to play carefully because of the weaknesses of the white squares around his king. But he proved up to the task and after 46 moves, the players agreed to a draw as neither had a realistic possibility of making any progress.

Game 3 is Monday at 3 PM, local Berlin time. It can be watched live at Worldchess.com, the official site of the World Championship.

Round 2 Photo Gallery


Round 1: Fireworks Kick Off Candidates Chess Tournament in Berlin

The 2018 Candidates tournament in Berlin got off to a flying start as three of the four games ended decisively. Fabiano Caruana, who narrowly missed out on winning the 2016 Candidates tournament in Moscow, got off to a perfect start by defeating his American compatriot, Wesley So. Sergey Karjakin of Russia, who won the 2016 Candidates, lost the longest game of the day to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan after he blundered in a difficult endgame. And Vladimir Kramnik of Russia outmaneuvered another Russian, Alexander Grischuk, to win their first-round encounter.

The tournament, which is being organized by Agon, the commercial partner of the World Chess Federation, the game’s governing body, has a prize fund of 420,000 euros. The winner will receive 95,000 euros, but, more importantly, he will earn the right to play Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, for the title in a match in London this November.

There are eight players in the competition: Caruana and So, who qualified based on their average rating in 2017; Levon Aronian of Armenia and Ding Liren of China, who were the winner and runner-up, respectively, of last year’s World Cup tournament; Mamedyarov and Grischuk, who were the winner and runner-up in last year’s Grand Prix (a series of four elite tournaments, that was also organized by Agon); Karjakin; and Kramnik, an ex-world champion, who was given a wild-card entry by Agon.

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The venue for the tournament is Kuehlhaus (or “cool house” in English), an industrial building in central Berlin that was built in the early 20th century as a cold-storage facility for fresh produce. Among the principal sponsors of the tournament are PhosAgro, a giant Russian fertilizer company; Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity firm; E.G. Capital Advisors, an investment management company; S.T. Dupont, a global luxury goods maker; and Isklar, a Norwegian mineral water company.

With so much at stake, the early rounds of the Candidates can be dull as the players are often cautious and afraid to take chances. But Round 1 was full of surprises as the players were aggressive, even resorting to openings that are little used and thought to be somewhat inferior.

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The President of Armenia Serzh Sargisyan at the presence of FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, President of RCF Andrei Filatov and Russian Chess Federation Vice President, CEO PJSC PhosAgro Andrey Guryev and the Deputy Chief Arbiter Hal Bond, made a first symbolic move in the game between Levon Aronian and Ding Liren

Caruana beat So as he spun a mating net around So’s king. The opening was a well-known line of the Catalan and So, who had Black, had a good position out of the opening. But he began to go awry on Move 15 as he opened the center by playing e5. He miscalculated the danger resulting the forced sequence of moves that followed. Caruana was able to force strategic weaknesses in the So’s defensive position. When So made some inaccurate moves, Caruana crashed through and So resigned after 33 moves.

Against Karjakin, Mamedyarov, who has soared to a career-high ranking of No. 2 in the world, employed a rare sideline in the Ruy Lopez. Karjakin, who was White, did not respond well and Mamedyarov seized the initiative out of the opening. Karjakin, who is noted for his defensive prowess, fought back, but he was never able to equalize. After a long struggle, he finally cracked, blundering a pawn with 58 Kg3. Mamedyarov finished him soon after.

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Kramnik, who is noted for his opening preparation, also surprised his opponent early. For years, Kramnik hued closely to classical openings strategies, but lately, he has begun to experiment. Against Grischuk, Kramnik played 3 b3. While not a bad move, it should not lead to any opening advantage. Indeed it did not. But once he got an equal position, Grischuk, who likes to play actively, began to make some small mistakes as he probed for an advantage. As so often happens, his aggression backfired and he would up in a slightly worse endgame. Against Kramnik, that is usually a lethal situation. Kramnik employed immaculate technique to secure victory.

The game between Aronian and Ding ended in a three-fold repetition of the position, an automatic draw, but it was a sharp battle that could have gone in either player’s favor. Ding said that he was surprised by Aronian’s eighth move (8 h4), after which he was no longer in his pre-game preparation. According to a computer evaluation, Aronian could have played 19 Rb2, winning material, but Aronian said afterward that he distrusted the resulting position because of the awkward placement of his pieces and his exposed king.

Game 2 is Sunday at 3 PM, local Berlin time. It can be watched live at Worldchess.com, the official site of the World Championship.

Round 1 Photo Gallery

Source: World Chess Federation – FIDE