Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 2

A second Black in a row for So and a second loss. An unexpected start for one of the most solid players, but what is more surprising is the way he is losing the games – effortlessly. Obviously not in a good way. Against Grischuk he was OK after the opening, but then just like against Caruana yesterday he fell apart very quickly.

It’s amazing that it only took one mistake and Black was dead lost. From the way So lost these two games, as things are clearly not going his way, it can be concluded that this is not his tournament. He will continue to be tough and will fight on, but his hopes of winning are more or less squashed.

On the other hand Grischuk is back into the the tournament and today’s game should definitely give him the necessary boost after yesterday’s loss.

Mamedyarov couldn’t really trouble Aronian in the Nimzo-Indian in spite of his novelty as early as move 10. Black’s position was so solid that the draw was the logical outcome throughout.

The other two draws were more exciting. Kramnik entered the Berlin endgame with White. Quite a rare occurrence, as he made that defence popular with Black, but he managed to put enormous pressure on Karjakin. The computer keeps insisting that Black was never in danger (i.e. showing 0.00 almost all the time) but the fact that Karjakin had to move Ba4-Bc6 for 5(!) moves, passively waiting for White to regroup, shows that things were dangerously close for him. Still, eventually the Wall held. Perhaps because the tournament is played there, who knows?

Ding Liren played his usual Catalan against Caruana and the American chose the popular line with 7…b6 in the Main Line. Ding took the exchange (the White players usually choose not to) and Black had good compensation. But when the preparation ended the position remained complicated and inaccuracies and mistakes crept in. The last one occured after the time control when both players missed White’s winning chance.

Caruana will definitely feel the happier for the result as he was never in a chance to win whereas he could have lost. As for Ding, his missed chance equals out his escape against Aronian yesterday.

I find it interesting to follow the tournament from a perspective of who has the momentum going for him, for whom the things fall into place and for whom they don’t. While So clearly falls into the last category, it is still unclear who the leader is in the first two. Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether we will continue to see decisive games in the next rounds or will the tempo die down. This will largely affect the players’ strategy.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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2 Comments
  • Dwayne
    Mar 12,2018 at 12:08 am

    Alex, I always enjoy your columns. Many years ago (20?) I won a correspondence game (back when they were played with postcards) as white against the French Winawer, using a novelty of yours (iirc one of the 10 best of an Informator issue).

    • Mar 12,2018 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you Dwayne. Was it perhaps my game against Komarov from Barletta 1999?

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