Three times Carlsen took down the Berlin Defence in the World Chess Championship

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!

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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.

My hope is that by looking at these games this post will inspire our readership to both remember to get a ticket for the finals in London but also have faith that the Berlin wall can fall (even if you have to be Magnus Carlson to do it!).


World Championship 2014: Game 2

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 Fisher

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.

Interactive games, updates and next steps for Bristol Chess Times

Its been 8 months and 54 articles since we relaunched Bristol Chess Times in July 2017.  The engagement so far has been great and in previous articles I have spoken about the various statistics that are helping push forward the growth of both the league and our wider chess community.  Today I wanted to talk about some recent changes I am making to help take Bristol Chess Times to the next level.

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Interactive Game Analysis

The biggest change that I have introduced this weekend is the ability to play through games and perform analysis on diagrams within the site.  I gave a hint at this functionality yesterday on our Game of the Month article but today I wanted to showcase the wider functionality we have added.  When we talk about interesting games and positions in the Bristol Chess Times we can now:

  • Play through the whole game, including highlighting of last moves with arrows;
  • Include interesting variations within the body of the game analysis
  • Provide built in diagrams next to comments with target squares highlighted and also threats indicated with the use of arrows.
  • Indicate which colour to play by a small circle on the right hand side of the board.

All in all, we hope you can see that this change takes the Bristol Chess Times games analysis to the next level.  To demonstrate the new functionality I have used a lovely game from Waleed Khan (of North Bristol Chess Club) that was submitted for Game of the Month in February.

Waleed’s home analysis below showcases all the new functionality we can now provide and I hope gets players excited about submitting their games for future articles.

About Page

I have also updated the About page on the Bristol Chess Times to give credit to all the contributors and columnists who have made it a success thus far.  Each person who has contributed, no matter how many times, is now listed and I hope over time this will grow to show the range and depth of our chess community. Only by going out and seeking fresh opinions, games and insights will we continue to keep Bristol Chess Times blossoming.

My thanks to every contribution thus far but also a call out to anyone who wants to provide a voice to their opinion in the amateur chess scene. Get involved!

Next Steps

Hopefully you can see the positive changes occurring on the Bristol Chess Times and I hope that you continue to read and enjoy our efforts!  Moving forward we really want to get a more diverse range of contributors involved from all clubs and backgrounds.

Thus far we have only had contributions from four of the 16 clubs in the Bristol & District Chess League so it would be great to receive some thoughts from some of the smaller clubs especially.

But looking ahead, we also recognise that we want to receive thoughts from the wider chess community across the UK.  British League Chess is a wonderful creature and the life of the amateur club player so sorely under represented in most chess media.  If you are a reader and fan of the Bristol Chess Times but do not live in the South West of England then thats ok! Tell us what you want to read about.  What you are looking for and we will do our best to provide informative engaging content for all!

Finally, If you have made it this far in the article then it just leaves me to say a final thank you for your support.  Even if you do not want to write for us then you can still support the Bristol Chess Times by sharing, liking or retweeting as many of our articles as you can. Every small piece of promotion really does make a difference.

Until next time!


Jon Fisher

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.

Bristol Chess Times – March 1993

The March edition of Bristol Chess Times in 1993 had a number of hot topics including a debate as to how chess clubs could benefit from the Short vs. Kasparov World Championship match.  John Richards again provides a downloadable PDF for British League Chess historians.


Highlights in March 1993 included:

  • The emerging split in world chess and its consequences on the game;
  • Downend A, Grendal A, South Bristol B, Hanham B, Sun Life B and Thornbury B all leading the respective divisions from 1 – 6;
  • Chess being discussed on Radio Bristol (a big deal without the Internet!)
  • Trialling of the game fee pilot scheme
  • Some lovely game analysis from Steve Boniface and Tyson Mordue

Here is the link to download the PDF: March93BCT



John Richards

John has been playing for Horfield for longer than anyone else cares to remember (but was actually 1983). Never quite managing to get to a 180 grade, he is resigned to the fact that he probably never will. He set up the original Bristol League website and has been, at various times League General Secretary, Recruitment and Publicity, Chess Times Editor, Bristol 4NCL Manager and an ECF Arbiter.

Chessplayers of the world unite

You do not have to scale the mountain alone.

You sit at the board, you shake hands and you move the pieces. From the moment a game begins you alone must take full responsibility for its outcome. Chess could hardly be a more individual pursuit. Despite this there is undoubtedly a chess community. Why?

Camaraderie can be observed as soon as competitive play concludes. Players exhume the game and examine what might have been. Recent adversaries lay down their arms and teach each other new tricks. The post-mortem is definitely one of my favourite chess quirks. As a junior I failed to recognise the value of this ritual and would decline to analyse when I had lost. Judging from recent tournaments I was not alone in this defective thinking!

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In 1978 and again in 1981 the chess world saw battles between two wildly conflicting characters. Victor Korchnoi, child of the siege of Leningrad, defector from communist Russia, fighter against the system, playing Anatoly Karpov, poster boy of the Russian regime, communist ideologue, a beneficiary of all that communism had to offer and a star chess player. The two could hardly bear to shake hands with each other. Yet after play they spent time together in animated discussion over the game. When asked why, Korchnoi famously replied, “he is the only other person in the world who understands chess the way I do”.

This is why a chess community exists. From the perspective of individual success it makes little sense to share information with your potential opponents. Poker players do not do this. If chess were simply about winning we would instead carefully guard every scrap of information. There would be no books, training videos or coaches. In this world the perfect chess player would be a selfish lone wolf.

Now think about who you know in chess. In any cohort of chessplayers almost all the people you spend your time with will be within about 25 ECF of your grade (or maybe 187.5 Elo). Sure, you will know a few stronger or weaker players, but you probably find you spend little time discussing the game with them. Plenty of strong or weak players are friendly enough to approach but in reality you hardly speak to them at all.

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Strong players recognise instinctively the importance of stratified community. They have built their own training networks comprising of similarly motivated players and coaches, selected consciously or unconsciously, to give a support network of exactly the right strength. Next time you play a game, and indeed every time you play a game, take a good look at your opponent and think about the network. Remember his face and speak to him next time you meet. Some will fit in, others won’t. But those who do will end up being your valuable allies.

Chess is the way we have all chosen to engage with the world and the presence of others helps to give meaning to our journey. I have long ago stopped trying to explain why I spend time on chess to those who don’t. I used to be met with creative variations of “what’s the point?” and never really had a satisfactory answer. Nowadays, I think it is a broader question of networking, support, interest and motivation. Chessplayers have a value system that underpins chess which goes way beyond boosting rating.

Although we each have to develop our own system, we do not have to do it on our own.

Many thanks to Jerry Humphreys for supplying the Korchnoi anecdote and his extensive notes.

(editors note – This article originally published on 19th February 2018 on Makepeace with Chess.  Republished with kind permission from the author)

Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Chris is a part-time member of Downend and Fishponds and formerly played for Bristol University. He is now based in London where he co-founded Makepeace With Chess.