Caruana and Aronian score

by Johannes Fischer
3/14/2018 – The fourth round of the Candidates Tournament in Berlin brought some serious drama. Kramnik vs Caruana was a wild back-and-forth battle. Caruana was much better, then Kramnik was close to winning before finally blundering it all away on move 59. Grischuk missed a killer chance against Ding Liren and played to a draw. Aronian won with Black thanks to good preparation against Karjakin, and Mamedyarov and drew an unspectacular game against So. Caruana is now in the sole lead with 3.0 / 4.

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A bad day for the Russians

Today the cabaret artist Matthias Deutschmann — the voice of Fritz — was allowed to make the ceremonial first move, and he was able to choose the board. He chose the board of Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik wanted to play 1.e4, whereupon Deutschmann joked: "Not Nf3 to clear the way for the rook to g1?" After that, he asked, "Why 1.e4?" "I am in a fighting mood," Kramnik replied.

And so he was, even if it did not appear so in the opening. The fight was truly baffling at times, but in a stunning reversal of fortune, the game was suddenly over in one move. Kramnik, who was already being spoken of as a challenger, was clearly shaken, and with good reason.

Kramnik 0-1 Caruana

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 played Kramnik 5.Qe2, a move that leads to an early queen trade and seems to flatten any dynamic chances. But Kramnik played the middlegame very aggressively, which actually brought him to the brink of defeat. Yet, in the first critical phase, Caruana did not find the right continuation and so they reached a highly complicated position, with advanced passed pawns on both flanks. Then it was Kramnik's turn to miss the most favourable options, which brought the position back into balance, albeit with opportunities for both sides. Finally, Kramnik lost control of the game and Caruana pounced on a tremendous oversight from the fourteenth World Champion.


A World champion's guide to the Petroff

The great popularity of the Petroff Defence at the highest level has attracted general attention as strong players employ this opening with great success and with both colours. Unfortunately, the opinion of the Petroff as a sterile drawish opening seems to be firmly implanted in many minds. The author tries to dispel these myths and examines the most popular lines and provides a large number of ideas that will enable you to play Petroff successfully, with either colour.


Karjakin 0-1 Aronian

Levon Aronian recovered well from his defeat by Vladimir Kramnik and came well-prepared against Karjakin. On the free day, he visited his parents, who live about 30 minutes to the east of the Berlin city centre, and played Scrabble (in Russian), which he won.

Back at the Kuehlhaus today, in a sharp version of the Ragozin defence, he wheeled off a novelty for which the previous World Championship challenger could find no antidote. The pair initially followed the game So vs. Aronian from round nine of the 2017 Tata Steel Masters, by transposition, through 13...Qb4. Just a few moves later, Aronian was already slightly better.

Levon Aronian vs Sergey Karjakin | Photo: World Chess


After 16...Nc5 the engines give Black a slight edge — he has a pawn more and White has to fight for compensation. Karjakin was not up to the task. He found nothing better than to turn to a pawn-down endgame, which he defended well but could not hold.

After the game, Karjakin equated his situation to that Aronian himself was in on Monday. "After Nc5 I felt like Levon in the game against Vladimir after ...Rg8. Instead of fighting for advantage you are clearly worse with white in ten minutes and it's just a terrible feeling."

Grischuk ½-½ Ding Liren

Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren delivered a breathtaking exchange of blows. Grischuk chose a sharp variation with an early piece sacrifice, but later missed a favourable tactical opportunity with which he could have won. Instead, a complicated and double-edged position arose with many tactical possibilities, in which black stood objectively better, but which was difficult to play. Grischuk defended himself stubbornly and was able to save the draw in the end.


Alexander Grischuk vs Ding Liren | Photo: World Chess

Mamedyarov ½-½ So 

After two defeats to kick off the tournament, it's understandable that Wesley So tries to play it safe. After a draw against Ding Liren in round three, he came into round four with Black against Mamedyarov and succeeded in making a trouble-free draw. Both sides followed a well-known variation in the Nimzo-Indian, in which black sacrifices a pawn for active play. On the 16th move, Mamedyarov went for 16.Rxd2, a new move — 16.Qxd2 was the choice of Vassily Ivanchuk with black against Evgeny Bareev, in Havana 2006, where he had no problems. Mamedyarov's was aware of this game, and joked that it was before So was born (not quite!) but his novelty didn't get him anywhere.


Black soon regained his pawn and the position quickly evened out into a draw.

Standings after four rounds: 


Round-up show

GM Daniel King on the highlights of round four

All games


Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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Resistance Resistance 3/16/2018 04:57
Great battles! Great chess... It's been a fantastic Candidates Tournament so far, congratualtions to our players!
KevinC KevinC 3/15/2018 12:27
@raylopez, There is a HUGE discrepancy in the level of "blunders" between the top players and amateurs. The ones that lose the game outright like Rd1?? in the Kramnik game, are much more rare, and usually because the games are much more complicated than those between weaker players. Also, when an eval changes by 1, amateurs are always ready to scream "blunder", and look like fools. Mistake, maybe, second-best, maybe, blunder, not usually.
sotoli321 sotoli321 3/15/2018 12:22
Young Kramnik would won easily this game. He cannot do anything for that, this is tough reality.
Stupido Stupido 3/15/2018 12:05
47...Bf6 was devilish. I wonder how many moves ahead Caruana saw this.
I hope Kramnik will keep pushing and taking risks.
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 3/15/2018 10:48
Phos they Agro on that Grad?
Grad Grad 3/15/2018 09:23
Why Kasparov play against himself at the each table?
macauley macauley 3/15/2018 09:09
@lietuva124 - Thanks. (There was a small syntax problem in the PGN.) Fixed.
Dr Zeiss Dr Zeiss 3/15/2018 09:00
The game Kramnik vs. Caruana illustrates nicely the difficulty of transition from "positional" closed or semiclosed games 1.d4/c4/Nf3 etc. to "sharper" open games 1.e4, even for an immensely strong player as Kramnik. First, there is the enormous amount of work required to be able to gain an edge against solid black equalising defences like the Petrov. And in this game Kramnik's opening was not a success. But the main lesson becomes evident from Kramnik's comment in the press conference regarding the missed and winning 43.c4! move " Yes, but I did not want to give him this counterplay" 44.c5 Kxc5 45.b4 Kxb4 46.Bc6 winning. But when you play these open games and get into such sharp positions the approach of trying to eliminate your opponent's counterplay typically leads to second or third best not winning moves. Whereas to win you often have to find the very best only moves and see that the variations lead to a win although your opponent gets some counterplay.
Anthe Anthe 3/15/2018 08:38
@raylopez the problem is that in various variants *before* f4 gxf4 bh4+ is not winning.
RayLopez RayLopez 3/15/2018 08:05
The blunder by Grischuk and the missed chance by Anand vs Carlsen in the second WC match underscore what a computer scientist once found: the difference between a GM and a strong non-titled amateur is not really in the overall strategy but the fact that the former make fewer blunders. But they do blunder just as bad as weaker players. Grischuk should have seen 22. Bh4+ since it was a checking move, which should automatically be always considered (programs in fact do automatically consider such forcing moves).
lietuva124 lietuva124 3/15/2018 07:48
The game Kramnik Caruana is not complete!