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’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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