Berlin Candidates 2018 – Round 6

Two White wins and two leaders before the second rest day. Plus a fall from grace for Vladimir Kramnik.

Watching the press conference after the game Mamedyarov-Kramnik was painful. Instead of taking a repetition in a position where objectively he couldn’t ask for more, Kramnik tried to play for a win and hallucinated (!) because of fatigue (his own explanation). Which makes my yesterday’s question even more pertinent: why was he wasting so much energy when there were no chances for more? I still cannot understand, it is totally contradictory what he’s doing and what he’s then giving as the reason for his hallucination.

The actual fall from grace was when he was showing the lines he was calculating and almost always accompanying them with the evaluation that he was better while the engine was saying White had a +1, +2 or even in some lines a +3 advantage… Even his hallucinated line was winning for White while he thought it was very good for him. This utter loss of objectivity as a result of his over-confidence is sad to watch.

It was uncomfortable to see Mamedyarov saying he thought he was better and Kramnik pulling faces (as if thinking “what does this guy talk about??”) even though Mamedyarov’s evaluation was correct.

Things have quickly gone wrong for Kramnik in Berlin after such a promising start. I find it difficult to understand how he couldn’t adjust his strategy after the 2.5/3 start – instead of taking it easy and needing only 1 win from the remaining 11 games, he continued to risk recklessly and now he needs to win 3 games from the remaining 8. I’m afraid this is mission impossible for him in his current state of mind.

So scored his first win with a very fine game against Aronian. After yesterday’s missed win Aronian now sank to -1 and the tournament is probably over for him as he cannot realistically hope to win it. So’s preparation was really deep in the Spanish (the first move that he didn’t know was Black’s 21st) and he outplayed Aronian in a complex position where the main theme were Black’s stranded Rb5 and Nb6. This game should give So the confidence he lost at the beginning as he managed to show that he still knows how to beat the best players in the world.

Ding Liren and Karjakin played a short and sharp game that ended in a repetition. Ding tried to improve on Kramnik’s win over Wei Yi from Wijk (or he improvised, because he spent 15 minutes on the deviation), but after Karjakin’s precise taking on b2 he could only force a repetition. It is still unclear to me how Ding is playing this tournament, not getting anywhere with White and being extremely resilient with Black. Karjakin seems content to show his preparation and draw. He can also probably call it a success.

Yesterday’s scare didn’t frighten Grischuk and he went for yet another Benoni today against Caruana. In truth, this one was much better than the one from yesterday as Black was a tempo up compared to the normal lines. I found Caruana’s comment very instructive: he thought that Black was OK, but he felt that White had more chances to be better in the future than Black. Very astute observation! Another thing that impressed me about both players was the precision of their calculations. The lines they showed in the press conference were almost always the ones suggested by the engine and their evaluations were spot on (unlike Kramnik’s!). From this I conclude that both players are in very good form.

Here is the game with comments by GM Nedev and myself.

In spite of the mutual inaccuracies, a game of high quality and one showing both players competently navigating the complications.

With 6 rounds behind us already some conclusions can be drawn. Both leaders Caruana and Mamedyarov are the ones who have shown the most consistent chess. It appears that they will decide it between themselves as they are a full point ahead of the group on 50%.

From those on 50% Ding Liren is still the biggest unknown. All draws after surviving lost positions against Aronian and Grischuk and practically no attempts with White. He seems to be hoping for a counter-attacking win rather than one where he would press from the start.

With his over-confident mindset Kramnik seems to be on the way down. Unless he becomes aware of what he’s doing, he will finish on a heavy minus score.

Grischuk plays exciting chess and calculates well. But he is incosistent (missing a win against Ding, completely lost against Aronian) and that’s why he is on 50%. Can he steady the ship?

Aronian, So and Karjakin are on minus score. Of the three only Aronian is capable of producing wins in a row, but that is not very likely with the way he’s been missing his chances. Most probably these 3 players can forget about winning the tournament.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • […] him to loss of objectivity. Perhaps the clearest case of this was his play and behaviour at the Berlin Candidates, but in Wijk he has displayed similar erratic […]

  • […] Yesterday I mentioned Kramnik’s complete loss of objectivity when showing the lines and giving his opinions in the press conference. And if yesterday Mamedyarov appeared to be somewhat annoyed by Kramnik’s incessant “much better” or “winning” today Ding Liren was just smiling. A few times he was asked if he agreed with Kramnik’s evaluations and he just said “no,” which was followed by laughter in the audience. Just like yesterday, the engine showed completely reverse evaluations from the ones Kramnik gave. It is obvious to me that in such a state Kramnik doesn’t have a chance in this field. It doesn’t cease to puzzle me that Kramnik consciously went into the tournament with a strategy that basically meant a gung-ho approach in every single game. It is as if he didn’t really care about winning the tournament, he just “wanted to play”. Which is fine, as his games are among the most exciting in every round, but it is also sad because I thought that he had a good chance of winning if he had a better and more flexible strategy. Since he doesn’t appear to have an intention of changing, I think he will lose some more games and end up on a minus score. […]

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