The World Championship Candidates 2018 starts today in Berlin. The winner travels to London to face Magnus Carlsen in the World Chess Championship 2018. I am sure the British chess community must be very excited to have the world crown decided on our fair isles and I am sure lots of South West based players will be traveling to watch the match in November. To celebrate the start of the candidates, The Bristol Chess Times decided to take a look at the dreaded Berlin defence in an attempt to offer some hope to amateur players with the white pieces!
A strong field of Super-GMs will compete in the Candidates in Berlin but who will make it all the way to London?
The Berlin Defence wouldn’t have the nickname the “Berlin Wall” if it wasn’t rock solid. Whilst it has been thoroughly examined at the highest circles of chess what is a budding club player to do with the white pieces against such a solid road block? Don’t get me wrong. Despite being an ambitious amateur, I am not arrogant enough to believe that I can crack the Berlin wall myself!
Instead, and to honour the build up to the world championship in London, I decided to showcase three examples of white victories in the Berlin from the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen, in his last two world championship finals.
Carlsen drew blood as early as Game 2 in Sochi by adopting a quiet closed approach to the Berlin with an early d3. He started a kingside attack but it was his control of the e file and battery of heavy pieces that eventually allowed him to crash through.
World Championship 2014: Game 11
Alternatively in the game that sealed Carlsen’s defence of his title, he chose well known lines of the open variation where the queens come off early and white (apparently) has a slight edge with superior pawns. Carlsen won the exchange and a pawn but Anand had dangerous united and passed a and b pawns on the 6th rank. However, the white king was in time and Carlsen prevailed against the Berlin in a crucial game.
World Championship 2016: Game 10
A marathon game that I believe (editors note – source needed) holds the record for the second longest game in the history of the World Chess Championships (after game 5 of Korchnoi vs. Karpov, 1978). Carlsen needed to win to level the match and was rapidly running out of whites. Another quiet and closed choice vs. the Berlin led to a long endgame struggle but Carlsen’s incredible technique eventually ground down Karjakin’s defence. If this is what it takes to defeat the Berlin then no wonder amateur players struggle!
Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.