After suffering a loss in round one, Alexander Grischuk today won his white game against Wesley So. That was the second consecutive loss for So, who is making his debut at the FIDE Candidates’ Tournament in Berlin.
After a wonderful first round, the second day saw more great chess, and excellent press conferences as well. So far, the chess-loving fans have been treated pretty well.
Alexander Grischuk vs Wesley So was obviously the game of the day, with the Russian GM outplaying his American opponent from the white side of a 6.d3 Ruy Lopez. The way he did it was quite nice, voluntarily allowing an isolated queen’s pawn and with unconventional rook maneuvers.
At the press conference, Grischuk said that after putting his rook on c5, he “didn’t really calculate anything” (but then showed various of lines he had seen!). “I said to myself, OK I have all pieces in attack, and Black defends with one bishop. If there is no mate, I just quit chess.”
Grischuk couldn’t believe there was a defense for Black. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
With his attack he won a full piece, but things remained exciting as Grischuk was already playing “on increment” (30 seconds for each move) around move 28. So had about 20 minutes at that point.
But Grischuk lived up to his reputation of being a very strong player in time trouble, and although he made a nervous impression he finished it off rather convincingly.
The worst possible start for Wesley So: two losses. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
“It’s bad to be calm,” explained Grischuk. “It’s a usual question: ‘Were you nervous?’ And when people ask this, they sort of imply that being nervous is a bad thing. I think this is not the case at all. I mean it’s actually very bad to not to be nervous. I mean, it’s normal, if you have an important game, time trouble and you’re not nervous, it means there is something wrong with you, definitely. It is very bad not to be nervous. For example, yesterday I was not nervous at all.”
Yes, Grischuk was nervous, but that was a good thing. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Asked whether this was his best game ever in a Candidates’ tournament, Grischuk duly replied: “Looks like a good game, yes.”
Another journalist asked Grischuk whether the game reminded him of Steinitz-Von Bardeleben (because of the rook maneuvers), which gave the Russian GM another chance to show his dry humor: “No, but I remember there was a really famous game of Keres-Smyslov, Candidates’ 1953. White put rooks on h3 and h5, took h7, and lost.”
Here are both games—some free chess culture added to this report.
Of the three draws, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Levon Aronian was the shortest, but at least the players took the time to provide some excellent quotes at the press conference. But first, the game.
Aronian went for a Nimzo-Indian which quickly started to look like a Moscow Semi-Slav. Then Mamedyarov, who revealed that his second is the Russian GM Alexey Dreev, susprised his opponent by playing g3 and Bh3.
Afterward, Aronian felt that his 11…b6 might have been somewhat risky as he allowed the enemy queen to enter his position. Luckily for him, Mamedyarov forgot about Richard Réti’s rule for a moment: that you need to castle only when there is no better move.
A short draw between Mamedyarov and Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Asked about how the players recover from making mistakes, Mamedyarov joked: “For me it’s not easy to say because I don’t specialize in big mistakes, I play normally bad!”
Mamedyarov said it was imporant to “stay in a good mood.” | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Aronian’s reply was insightful: “Generally, when you make big blunders, it’s kind of a medicine. Because it wakes up. At some moment we all think we’re very clever and we’re invincible and then you play a very bad game and you understand that there is a lot of improvement, a lot of areas to work on.
“Generally, the stronger the player is, the less he gets affected by losses. I think if any of us here were affected and would play terribly after big mistakes, we wouldn’t be here. We’re all kind of… I wouldn’t say immune, but already well prepared to accept our mistakes and continue fighting.”
Some good advice from Levon Aronian today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
At the opening ceremony Vladimir Kramnik joked: “Perhaps I got the wild card because I made the biggest contribution to advertising the city within the world of chess.” He was, of course, referring to “his” Berlin Defense in the Ruy Lopez. Today he got to play it against Sergey Karjakin, but with the white pieces!
“I can tell you I usually play it as Black and it’s such a pleasure to look at this position from the white side. It doesn’t happen very often,” Kramnik said.
The 14th world champion has played it dozens and dozens of times as Black, but only four times as White, all after his world title match with Garry Kasparov in 2000 in London. He beat Ivanchuk and Aleksandrov, and drew with Anand and Malakhov. That last game was one year ago in the Russian Team Championship.
Kramnik behind the white side of a Berlin this time. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Kramnik obviously came well prepared and had seen the position after 19 moves about an hour before the game on his computer. Karjakin, on the other hand, felt that he “probably mixed up some lines.”
The youngest of the two Russians wasn’t sure about his 16…Ne7. “It’s a question of opening knowledge. I had some very deep notes but I didn’t remember them.”
He said he got into a “tricky position” and Kramnik agreed: “It’s clear Black is suffering.”
Kramnik enjoying the variations during the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Kramnik sacrificed a pawn to get his pawn majority on the kingside rolling, and even with only rooks and opposite-colored bishops on the board, you could speak of a kingside attack. In fact, he missed one big chance to get serious winning chances with a beautiful idea that he had seen, but did not calculate deeply enough.
A second good game in a row came for Kramnik, who is making a good impression so far. Karjakin recovered from a bad game yesterday and played much better this time.
Karjakin could tell Russian media he played a better game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Ding Liren vs Fabiano Caruana saw a very interesting opening phase, as Black went for a variation in the Catalan where he sacrifices an exchange. Caruana had looked at this “before the tournament” but “didn’t remember all the details.” What followed was a very complicated game where both players played rather well, it seems.
Ding giving Caruana “the stare.” | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
FIDE Candidates’ | Round 2 Standings
Round 3 pairings: Karjakin-Grischuk, Aronian-Kramnik, Caruana-Mamedyarov, So-Ding.
After the rant about the organization yesterday, Chess.com can happily report that some improvements have been made in Berlin. Most importantly, during the second round volunteers were making sure that less noise was made by the spectators.
The players now have running water in their toilet, but there’s only one toilet. Aronian: “I still hope we get the luxury of a second bathroom. The rest has been improved.”
Mamedyarov: “Yes, if you go to the bathroom in zeitnot and it’s busy busy busy, it’s a big problem.”
The online experience still wasn’t great. For the second day in a row, the official website couldn’t even show the games in a game viewer, and at some point the following message appeared alongside the video broadcast.
This message can only be described as the ulimate irony. Two years ago, Agon/World Chess shocked the chess world by announcing that they would block the live transmission of their games. Some websites ignored their threats. Agon then sued them but lost several lawsuits, most notably against Chess24—the one website missing in the note above.
A week before the Candidates’ started, Agon had announced their “new policy for chess broadcasts” in which they will “grant the right to any media organization to broadcast moves from the World Candidates Tournament with a five-minute delay.” This was a huge concession compared to their original strategy, which obviously failed. However, by demanding a five-minute delay, their position hasn’t changed: Agon still claims that it owns the (copy)rights over the chess moves, which it doesn’t.
Games via TWIC.
The Chessbrahs’ coverage of round 2.