Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 4

The rest day only sharpened the players’ senses. The games were even more electrifying, though I am not sure they can keep up this level of tension for very long.

The first game to finish was Mamedyarov-So. White introduced a novelty on move 16 in the Nimzo-Indian, but the position was rather sterile and So didn’t have problems to keep it safe.

The other games were unexpected, all in their own way.

As I predicted in my preview, Karjakin is already out of the picture. And in a disgraceful way at that. Second loss with White in such a tournament is impermissible. Kasparov used to say that losing with White simply means bad play. If Karjakin played badly in Round 1 when he lost to Mamedyarov, this time he mixed up the move order in his preparation and was immediately lost, as early as move 16. The rest, until move 68 when he resigned, was just agony. And another thing I managed to predict, Aronian bounced back immediately.

The game Grischuk-Ding Liren saw a repeat of the famous game Topalov-Kramnik from Wijk aan Zee in 2008, Grischuk repeating the sacrifice that by now was considered refuted. When going through the game I noticed that his improvement, and novelty, 16 a4, is not highly regarded by the engine at first. This only means that he used really strong hardware to prepare, as the move is actually good, as my own engine soon sees when the moves are manually made on the board. Grischuk’s preparation ended on move 20 and on move 21 he could have won in a couple of moves! Yet he missed this simple win just because he was thinking by analogy with a similar line where White’s queen is on c2 and the defence with …Bf6 works then. Here’s analysis of the whole game, courtesy of GM Trajko Nedev, with a few comments from me.

An incredibly dramatic game! It is pity that it fades when compared to the next one.

I have the impression that Kramnik went into this game with the intention to play it safe. Hence 5 Qe2 against Caruana’s Petroff. He was leading the tournament with +2, common sense suggests that +3 is an outright win, and there are 10 more rounds to play. So a draw with the direct competition makes sense.

And things were going according to plan up to a point. How could they not to, when the queens were exchanged on move 7 and the position was symmetrical? But around move 20 something happened and Kramnik lunged forward. As if he couldn’t control his impulses from the last several years when he was always looking for chances to play for a win, even in the dullest positions. He was taking huge risks as objectively he was lost, but he was posing problems, Caruana was spending time and things got complicated. Caruana started to spoil the winning position before the time control, around move 35, and by move 39 he was now lost.

But then Kramnik relaxed (as he admitted) and didn’t manage to find one clear win. The game dragged on, while still being won for White, but one requiring continuous complex calculations.

A grandiose battle!

I think that Kramnik lost because he couldn’t keep the level of his calculations in the late stages of the game, a problem of mental stamina. I also think that he took this into consideration when he devised his strategy to start strongly, play with more risk and try to create as many chances as possible. The idea was to accumulate as many points in the beginning because he expects to be more liable to mistakes in the later stages of the tournament when he may start to tire. His strategy almost worked, if only he won this game… Now he will have to re-adjust and we will see what that means.

This win brought Caruana on sole first. He showed incredible resilience, both today and in Round 3 against Mamedyarov, his calculational abilities probably at their best. Tomorrow he is White against tail-ender Karjakin.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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