Alexei Shirov: How to crack the Berlin Wall with 5.Re1

by Hedinn Steingrimsson
4/24/2017 – The Berlin Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6) is a very solid line for Black - so solid that players dubbed it "The Berlin Wall". But Alexei Shirov has some ideas "how to crack the Berlin Wall". Hedinn Steingrimsson liked these ideas - and so did Hou Yifan who used Shirov's recommendations to beat Fabiano Caruana in round 1 of the Grenke Classic.

How to crack the Berlin Wall with 5.Re1 How to crack the Berlin Wall with 5.Re1

Alexei Shirov shows on this DVD how White can develop pressure and seize the initiative with 5.Re1 against the Berlin Wall.


A review by Hedinn Steingrimsson

The Berlin Wall is nowadays the most popular opening after 1.e4 at the highest level. White has been searching for ways to counter it for quite a number of years now. Being a principled player Alexei Shirov has tried many different lines against the Berlin, among others the endgame with 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8 Kxd8 against the writer of these lines in a German Bundesliga game which ended with a draw after some adventures.


 In this video, Shirov show his latest interpretation of White’s chances, namely the super solid and popular 5.Re1. After 5…Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 we have the tabia that is discussed. Nine games are analysed in great detail, thereof five that Shirov played himself against top opponents such as Caruana and Kramnik. This variation was Carlsen’s choice in both Berlin games in the World Championship match against Sergey Karjakin in New York last December.

It is very instructive to hear Shirov explain the typical plans that White has in the arising structures. White is aiming for a small plus without much risk, trying to play for two results. In the most solid lines, where black simplifies with 7…Nxe5 8.Rxe5 0-0, which was Karjakin’s choice, White in some lines ends up with a slight advantage in an endgame with a bishop against a knight, which Black objectively should hold, but White can press for a long time see e.g. MVL – Giri 2014.


White’s chances are not the least present in the lines where Black is ambitious and tries to play for all three results, keeping all pieces on the board with 7…Nf5 8.Nf3 d5 9.d4 0-0 10.c3 as Shirov himself demonstrated in his win against Kramnik and was most recently demonstrated by Hou Yifan against Caruana at Grenke Chess Classic.




In these remarkably similar games, Black’s weakened kingside with pawns on …f6 and …g6 was hard to handle after the game opened up in the center with the c4 or for black …c5 break.

This video is suitable for players of all strength, also the world’s best, who want to see how white can play very solidly against the Berlin. The white setup, while being simple and easy to understand, looks innocent - a symmetrical pawn structure that reminds one of the exchange French, but due to a slight disharmony of Black’s pieces, looks can be deceptive. Shirov shows how White can get a position that is easier to play with White and where white retains practical chances.

The video also serves well as a master class lecture on the art of nurturing small advantages, specially involving the bishop pair.

Suitable for advanced club and tournament players.

  • Video running time: 4 h 30 min (English)
  • With interactive training including videofeedback
  • EXTRA: Database with 50 model games
  • Including ChessBase Reader
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU); $27.14 (without VAT)

Buy Alexei Shirov "How to crack the Berlin Wall" in the ChessBase Shop

15-minute introduction to Alexei Shirov's new DVD on cracking the Berlin Wall

Alexei Shirov

Alexei Shirov was born in Riga, just like world champion Mihail Tal, and also his playing style reminds many chess fans of the young Tal. In the beginning of the 1990s a comet-like rise brought the young Latvian to the world top within the shortest time. At the age of 22 he already had reached an Elo rating of nearly 2750 and belonged to the absolute world elite. Since then Shirov has been one of the best players in the world, delighting all chess fans with original and amazing ideas on the board.

Other DVDs by Alexey Shirov in the ChessBase Shop

Grandmaster Hedinn Steingrimsson was born 1975 in Iceland. In 1986 he became World Champion U12. 1990, at the age of 15, he won his first Icelandic Championship. Steingrimsson has also made interesting contributions to the field of chess training theory and is interested in how chess training can be improved theoretically and practically.


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