Berlin GP: Nothing to see here

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/3/2022 – A second quick draw in the final of the Berlin Grand Prix means the match will be decided in rapid (and potentially blitz) tiebreakers on Monday. The second draw between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So was even shorter than the first one, as the players went through the motions in a game that followed what has become an infamous line of the Berlin Defence. The game lasted less than half an hour. | Photo: World Chess

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A Berlin in Berlin

FIDE Grand Prix 2022Before the start of the third leg in Berlin, it all pointed to an exciting finish to this year’s FIDE Grand Prix series. With two spots in the Candidates up for grabs and a number of elite players having this as their last chance to qualify — e.g. Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov — we expected to see a hard-fought knockout stage in Berlin.

The fight for the top two spots came to a sudden stop at the end of the preliminaries, as Hikaru Nakamura and Richard Rapport were confirmed as the qualified players to the Candidates. The fact that the excitement did not last long should not be attributed to the series’ format, though, as the first two legs and the preliminary stage of the third proved to be highly entertaining for spectators. Moreover, this was a major improvement to the format used in previous editions.

With the main prizes decided, a more relaxed environment was seen in the semifinals at Berlin’s Unter der Linden. Nakamura and Wesley So knocked out Mamedyarov and Amin Tabatabaei in well-fought matches to reach the final. 

Two short draws followed. While the first one followed 27 moves of theory, the second lasted a bit less than a half hour — and only because So spent over 8 minutes on move 5, when he had played 5...Nd6 in all recent previous encounters. The finalists simply decided to have a short day at the office and postpone the real fight to Monday’s tiebreakers.

And they did it by playing the Berlin Defence in Berlin.

The perennial discussion regarding grandmaster draws — i.e. short, lacking a real fight — came up again. Chess author and connoisseur Douglas Griffin shared on Twitter:

Chess may try to present itself as a sport, but no-one outside the game is ever going to seriously consider it as such as long as this sort of charade (at the very highest level of the game!) continues to be normalised. Are there parallels in any other sport?!

FIDE’s Director General Emil Sutovsky wondered, also on Twitter, whether it was the players’ (with white) moral responsibility to avoid such draws? To which Magnus Carlsen’s main coach Peter Heine Nielsen responded:

I think the moral responsibility of the players is to optimize their chances of sporting success. And for the organizers to ensure that when they do that, it becomes an interesting event, both from a chess and an excitement perspective.

Following this line of thought and considering Nakamura’s prowess in faster time controls, one might think it was to his best interest to take the match to tiebreaks — while So had the black pieces against a player who has not lost with white since his return to over-the-board competitions. However, Nakamura himself refuted this theory by giving an example while talking to Dina Belenkaya after the game:

I think if you look at the ratings, Fabiano [Caruana] probably is supposed to be an underdog against almost everybody in rapid, but really it’s only about consistency — in any two-game match anyone can win, and I don’t think it favours anybody. For both of us, we are tired, having played so many days, and for me, I wanna play the other tournament, so that’s what it is.

The 5-time US champion was referring to chess.com’s Rapid Chess Championship, which kicked off just three hours after the start of the classical game in Berlin. Nakamura had played the qualifying tournament to Sunday’s online event after his first draw against So.

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 4/7/2022 08:13
"Carlsen never - NEVER - said he wouldn't play the next WC match unless his opponent was Firouzja."

That is true. What he said is that he was generally demotivated to participate in a World Championship against an opponent of his generationi or against whom he already defended his title. Also, that he would certainly motivate him to defend his title against someone from the next generation, like Firouzja, would win the Candiates.

So, if Firouzja wins the Candidates, he will defend his title and be motivated - if it is someone he already defend his titel against, he is not very motivated - and if it is another scenario, it is not very clear. And there are intermediate possibilities, like Rapport for example (in-between generation, Carlsen never defended his title against him).

Hence, if someone else than Firou wins the Candidates, there is some uncertainty on whether Carlsen will defen his title.
Hurin Hurin 4/5/2022 04:33
@Green22 Firouzja had 3 good results in Classical chess in 2021. But in the Wijk aan Zee tournament he finished 3-5th, losing to an out of form Carlsen, not good or bad but avarage.
My point is that he lacks the experience which Kasparov did have on his age, so that's why I think he's not good enough to match with Carlsen. Maybe in the future he'll be one of the challengers.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/5/2022 12:32
Firo DID win 1 standard TC tourney last year...gotta give him that.

@Mamack1 - you are quite right. Carlsen NEVER said what some are saying he said. What the OP (Hhorse) is claiming Magnus said...remains a mystery.
Green22 Green22 4/4/2022 06:52
@Hurin come again? No impressive tournament results? Did you fall asleep the ladder part of 2021?

In September, Firouzja finished in second place in the Norway Chess supertournament 2021 edition, behind Magnus Carlsen, but ahead of a field including World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi and former challenger Sergey Karjakin.[56] He scored +5-2=3 in standard time control games, finishing with four consecutive wins, and moved into the world's top 10 for the first time in the October 2021 rating list (10th in October, 9th in November).

In November Firouzja participated in the 2nd FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament.[57] Firouzja won the tournament with a score of 8/11, half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana, thus qualifying for the Candidates Tournament 2022. He became the fourth-youngest player to qualify for a Candidates Tournament.[58]

That same month Firouzja represented France in the European Team Chess Championship, where he scored 8/9 against grandmaster opposition for a tournament performance rating of over 3000.[59] The two November results took his rating above 2800 for the first time, and to number 2 in the December standard ratings list. At the age of 18 years, 5 months, he became the youngest player to be rated over 2800, breaking the previous record of 18 years and 336 days held by Magnus Carlsen.[60]

From 29-30 December, Firouzja also participated in the World Blitz Chess Championship, where he tied for first place with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, scoring 15/21 points. He finished in third place after the tiebreaks, won by Vachier-Lagrave.
Mamack1 Mamack1 4/4/2022 06:03
Carlsen never - NEVER - said he wouldn't play the next WC match unless his opponent was Firouzja.

This is total, unequivocal fake news - but has (typically) been unquestioningly accepted by certain people.
arzi arzi 4/4/2022 03:27
To AgainAgain:In a classic interzonal with 16-18-20 participants even if there are a few short draws, there will always be a good amount of interesting games to watch. If there is only one game on for the day, that can easily be a dud..."

Do you remember when in Soviet Union times many of their participants ally together against a lone player from different country or from different "thinking"? Quick draws were played against players from one's own country, but fought hard against players from another country until the end. If you want the games to end in WC-match, in classic games and not in rabid games or blitz, then you have to change the number of games.
AgainAgain AgainAgain 4/4/2022 01:57
These tournaments with complicated rules and elimination increase the odds for draws.
In a classic interzonal with 16-18-20 participants even if there are a few short draws, there will always be a good amount of interesting games to watch. If there is only one game on for the day, that can easily be a dud...
As for chess being a sport or not, both sides would have many valid arguments. However the goal of a sportsman must be to achieve maximum results. Playing 6-hour games every day may not be helpful to get that. The most uncompromising (interesting) players are the most likely to get tired and struggle by the end of any tournament. Let's not forget the amount of hours a chess game takes and the consecutive days a player needs to play. In most other sports the playing time is much shorter and there are day(s) between games, also in most other sports one mistake will not lose you the game...
Stupido Stupido 4/4/2022 12:08
This "game" showed Nigel Short's suggestion to fine players who play this Berlin line might not be just a silly joke.
mc1483 mc1483 4/4/2022 11:37
"I wanna play the other tournament, so that’s what it is.", so Naka was not interested in playing the final game of one of the most important tournaments of the year, just because he likes to play rapid online? I think he's worth of having the prize money confiscated, and even a ban would be appopriate. If you committ to something important, you have to give your best from the beginning to the very end, not walking away at some time because there's something else you want to do.
Hurin Hurin 4/4/2022 10:18
I think Firouzja is also no match yet for Carlsen. He has no impressive tournaments records yet. So although very talented, he's is no Kasparov , who at age 21 had many tournament wins, when facing Karpov in 1984, and also was no match for the first 20 games.

I think the most interesting match to watch will be Ding-Carlsen.
arzi arzi 4/4/2022 08:58
to Kesheva: "But added that after Firouzja's convincing win in the Grand Swiss tournament in Riga and his impressive performance at the European Team Championship, he found the idea of playing a match for the World Championship against the young Frenchman quite appealing."

If Ding wins? Do you mean that if anybody else but Firouzja wins? I did not see anything about Ding from the link you gave us. Btw. Ding has to play 20 more games in less than 30 days before even get in the candidates. The rules.
Keshava Keshava 4/4/2022 08:15
If Ding wins the Candidates it would be hard to imagine Carlsen refusing to play him. But apparently Carlsen is planning to do exactly that (if Ding wins): https://en.chessbase.com/post/no-more-world-championship-matches-for-carlsen
arzi arzi 4/4/2022 06:36
The real champion handles well every time format in chess. The last game features for three time play of the same station. Do you, Ryonen, suggest that certain rules should NOT be used in chess? If I were a spectator I would love to know that the rules of chess are the same in everywhere. Are there certain rules for openings? Do not use drawish openings, they are not allowed, only gambits.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/4/2022 04:07
Asking me? I was just asking the Hhorse what on earth Magnus said that pertains to the draw today. Did he say something about short draws I missed? '

He' being the guy who in 2 of his last 3 World Championships seemed content to 'draw his way' to certain tiebreaks where he knew he had more of an edge.
Ryonen Ryonen 4/4/2022 12:34
So if you were a tournament organiser or a sponsor would you take the risk of investing in a tournament where the players are going to play this 'game'? If you were a spectator, would you pay for a ticket and turn up?
I believe that invitations should be given to players who want to play chess and who respect the wishes of chess fans to see chess. I didn't even bother to tune in today.
Aighearach Aighearach 4/3/2022 10:28
I agree. They're both too strong for Magnus, he'll just concede the title.

Firouzja is the biggest underdog in the candidates. He'd have to win a tournament and also a match to get the title. Nakamura only has to win another tournament.

The big problem for Magnus is that after he concedes his title he'll find out that all the sponsorships go away because he has so little success in social media and is basically wooden when unscripted. So then he'll be in the next candidates cycle trying to get his career back.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 4/3/2022 09:31
@Hhorse Eh? We have heard him say something of this nature, - really, just that Alireza is about the only one that would 'motivate him'. What was said in the article that you are referring to?
Hhorse Hhorse 4/3/2022 08:18
This is precisely why Magnus has said he will not defend his title against anyone except Alireza or perhaps Ding.
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