Caruana leads Grunge Candidates Tournament

Caruana v Karjakin, Photo Cathy Rogers
At the moment, the Kühlhaus in the suburb of Kreuzberg in Berlin is hard to miss, with a sign telling passers-by that entering the last remaining part of a former refrigeration plant might improve one’s IQ. Renovations on the Kühlhaus began in 2010, creating a ‘space’ suitable for art exhibitions and raves. Of the six floors, the second and third look down on the first, where the Candidates Tournament, designed to find a challenger to World Champion Magnus Carlsen, is being played. The renovations appear to be unfinished although that may be the idea; a dark, grungy feel of the rough, formerly industrial interiors deemed to be part of the attraction. Before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Kreuzberg, surrounded on three sides by the wall, was a cheap place for West German artists to hang out and for immigrants getting a start in Berlin. After the fall of the Wall, the Berlin authorities decided to spruce up the city, suburb by suburb, and it seems to have been Kreuzberg’s turn for a long time. Construction work is still going on, including a building site for a new hotel almost immediately opposite the Kühlhaus. Grafitti – once a feature of the Western side of the Wall – remains ubiquitous, some artistic efforts planned by the city and many not.
Photo Cathy Rogers
Approaching the Kühlhaus at 2pm – opening time, an hour before the Candidates games begin – one sees a small crowd of spectators waiting to be admitted below the bizarre giant billboard announcing ‘Entering this building might substantially increase your IQ. Chess does that to humans.’ One can only be thankful that the PR firm responsible for the slogan did not use some of their other ideas, such as ‘Smart is Sexy. This is the Sexiest building in the World this month’, or ‘Building with the highest IQ in the World’, or ‘Want a longer lasting IQ? Get Smart. Get Sexy. Get Chess’. (Sorry, I made the last one up.)
Photo Cathy Rogers
Entering the Kühlhaus, one is immediately struck by the darkness. One can barely make out the administration desk, the cloak room and in the far corner of the ground floor, an exhibition to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Emmanuel Lasker’s birth. Security guards patrol the building, checking that every person has a wristband with the right to access the floor they are on. The playing arena is on the first floor, the four games separated by partitions so that players cannot see the other games without walking around. The boards themselves are well lit but everywhere else is dark. Above the playing arena the players can see the spectators on the second and third floors, leaning over balustrades to view one game at a time. On the second floor the spectators don’t have much choice – there are no places to sit except the rough wooden floor. However, the third flood has about two dozen seats – including two couches! - and two television screens showing the games. Those screens have been moved well away from the atrium area following Mamedyarov’s complaints on the first day that he could see Judit Polgar explaining on a screen how his opponent Sergey Karjakin could draw a difficult endgame. (Karjakin’s seat was less well placed, and he lost.) It should be noted that the luxury of entering the third floor and finding seating is only available to those paying the most expensive ticket prices (as well as family and seconds of the players.) The fourth floor, designated the Fan Zone, is the most congenial for spectators. There is decent lighting(!), bench seating in front of the German language commentators, vending machines for snack foods and hot drinks, a souvenir shop, chairs, and a separate bench seating area where the post-game press conferences are held.
German language commentary at the Berlin Candidates, Photo Cathy Rogers
One floor above is the press room and, separated by a black curtain and some security guards, the Gold Zone, for those choosing to pay $140 for their daily ticket. (Prices are half price since the opening day and will double again for the final two rounds.) Those in the Gold Zone can watch the English language commentators. (In round 5 these were GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and IM Lawrence Trent, whose failure to agree on many matters made for entertaining viewing.) The open bar seemed a bigger attraction for many. Incidentally, the ground floor has a secret VIP area, which includes a (rare) bathroom – a feature which will soon become relevant. Shortly before the games the players appear in the playing hall and are meticulously scanned for electronic devices by a security guard. Such scanning is probably unnecessary with the eight current Candidates but is de rigeur in top tournaments nowadays.
Mamedyarov getting checked in, Photo Cathy Rogers
Unfortunately, as so often, the scanning is essentially pointless, given the ease with which players could by other methods, if they wish, access electronic devices. Early in the tournament there were plenty of complaints about the single toilet on the playing level of the building. Apart from plumbing problems, Alexander Grischuk noted that non-players would sometimes use the players’ toilet. For a time trouble addict such as Grischuk, needing to cross his legs during a time scramble was not fun. The organizers pointed out that they had announced the day before the tournament – when the venue was in large part a work in progress - that players would be allowed to go down a floor to the VIP bathroom. However, apart from the lack of convenience, the VIP area was far from secure and a player could, deliberately or otherwise, gain valuable information about their game there. There was not much to be done about this, as indeed the noise from the second and third floors on the first day when there was almost a full house. With the numbers of paying spectators dropping away – around 120 for round five – the noise levels were minimal but in any case the players simply had to accept that the Kühlhaus is not entirely suitable as a venue for a top level tournament and get on with competing. And compete they did. After just over a third of the tournament has been completed, many are already speaking of this Candidates tournament as a classic, full of spectacular fighting games. The two US players are at opposite ends of the leader board, with Fabiano Caruana on 3.5/5, half a point clear of top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and veteran Vladimir Kramnik. Wesley So is tied for last place with previous Candidates winner Sergey Karjakin on 1.5 points. The fortunes of the two US players diverged in the very first round – players from the same countries were paired as early as possible - when Caruana won convincingly.

[Event "Berlin Candidates"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.03.10"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E00"]
[WhiteElo "2784"]
[BlackElo "2799"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "2018.03.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "14"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[EventCategory "22"]
[SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1218"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2018.03.12"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.03.12"]
[SourceQuality "2"]

1. d4 {"The very first move was a surprise for me," admitted So. "In the last
Candidates tournament Fabiano played 1.e4 in all his games."} Nf6 2. c4 e6 3.
g3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O c6 {[#]} 8. Qb3 {Another small
surprise for So; in four previous games which reached this postion Caruana had
preferred the main line} (8. Qc2 {.}) 8... Nbd7 9. Bf4 a5 {The move which has
scored best for Black against 8.Qb3.} 10. Rd1 Nh5 11. Bc1 {A common reaction;
Black has wasted a tempo to put the White bishop on d2, so White uses the
Black manoeuvre to return it to c1 without losing time, since the Black knight
has no future on ...h5.} Nhf6 12. Nbd2 b5 13. c5 b4 14. Qc2 a4 {[#]} 15. Re1 {
"I wasn't happy with my last two moves, 14.Qc2 and 15.Re1," admitted Carauana.
"I was trying to get e4 in but I felt as if I had lost the plot a bit."} e5 $5
{"I expected 15...e5," responded Caruana. "I am not sure what else he can do."}
16. Nxe5 Nxe5 17. dxe5 Nd7 18. Nf3 Bxc5 {[#]} 19. Ng5 $1 {"A good move - very
forcing," said So.} g6 20. Bf4 Qb6 21. e4 b3 22. axb3 axb3 23. Qe2 {[#]} Ba6 $6
{"} (23... Ra2 {was a better chance," said So. "Now my king is too vulnerable
and I didn't manage to defend. Caruana had analysed} 24. exd5 ({"I had also
considered} 24. Rab1 {until I saw} Ba6 25. Qf3 Bd3 $1 26. Qxd3 Bxf2+ 27. Kh1
Bxe1 28. Rxe1 Rxb2 {when I had a feeling White would be much worse," explained
Caruana.}) 24... Ba6 25. Qf3 Rxb2 26. Ne4 cxd5 27. Nxc5 Nxc5 28. Be3 {"when
Black's pieces are slightly awkward but I was worried that the b pawn might be
winning for Black. For example} Bc4 29. Bd4 {is some sort of mess. "So I was
relieved when Wesley went for 23...Ba6."}) 24. Qf3 {"Now I didn't see any easy
way for Black to play," said Caruana.} Bc4 25. Rxa8 Rxa8 {[#]} 26. e6 $1 dxe4 {
"My point is that} (26... fxe6 27. Bc7 $1 {is winning," explained Caruana.})
27. exf7+ Bxf7 28. Nxe4 Bd4 {"Not a good move," said Caruana. "} (28... Re8 {
was still putting up a good fight."}) 29. Nd6 $1 Bd5 {[#]} 30. Qe2 {"Somehow
things went really bad, really quick," said So.} Nf8 31. Bxd5+ cxd5 32. Qf3 $1
Qa5 33. Re7 1-0[/pgn]
Worse was to follow for So in round two, as he fell the next day to fellow first round loser Grischuk. Since then So has consolidated his position with draws but if he wishes to get back into the race he will need to score at least one win before the halfway mark and hope that his extra Whites in the second half of the tournament can be utilized. Over rounds two and three Caruana drew two enormously entertaining games, against Ding Liren and Mamedyarov, but it was Kramnik who stole the show, taking the tournament lead with a brilliancy against Levon Aronian.

[Event "Berlin Candidates"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.03.12"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Aronian, Levon"]
[Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C65"]
[WhiteElo "2794"]
[BlackElo "2800"]
[PlyCount "54"]
[EventDate "2018.03.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "14"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[EventCategory "22"]
[SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1218"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2018.03.12"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.03.12"]
[SourceQuality "2"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. O-O {"After 6.0-0 I
already had a good feeling," said Kramnik, "since if he doesn't follow with 7.
h3, I simply play 7...Bg4."} Qe7 7. h3 {[#]} Rg8 $3 {"I had this prepared and
was waiting for my moment to use it." said Kramnik. "I was looking for
something here and had been analyzing} (7... h6 {, with the idea, 8...g5, when
it is very, very sharp. And at some point I realized that I had to save a
tempi with 7...Rg8!." In fact 7...Rg8 has been played in a few correspondence
games, dating back as far as 2012 but seems that even Kramnik did not know
about them.}) 8. Kh1 {"Almost the only move," said Kramnik, "since 8...g5 was
already a big threat."} Nh5 $1 {"I couldn't really remember my analysis,"
admitted Kramnik. "I knew Black has a few good moves here, and I remembered
that 8...Nh5 (and 9...g5) was one of the very interesting moves. That's it."}
9. c3 $6 {"Maybe I should play} (9. Nc3 {," said Aronian.}) 9... g5 10. Nxe5 g4
11. d4 (11. Nxg4 $2 Bxg4 12. hxg4 Qh4+ 13. Kg1 Ng3 {and mate is typical of the
dangers already surrounding Black's king.}) 11... Bd6 12. g3 Bxe5 13. dxe5 Qxe5
14. Qd4 Qe7 $5 {"The most difficult decision in the game," said Kramnik,"If I
play} (14... Qxd4 $1 {Black has a very nice position but then I realised that
14...Qe7 was much more critical. Still it was a difficult decision, as I like
better endgames!" "Missing 14...Qe7 was an oversight on my part," added
Aronian. "14...Qe7 is very strong."}) 15. h4 c5 16. Qc4 $2 {"A terrible
blunder," said Aronian. "I didn't realise how bad my position was and forgot
that Black [would be] threatening ...f5." Kramnik responded "During the game I
thought that White should play} (16. Qd3 $1 Bd7 17. c4 {and 18.Nc3. Of course
Black is better but it is kind of holdable."}) 16... Be6 17. Qb5+ c6 18. Qa4 $2
{[#] White's last chance was to grovel with} (18. Qd3 Rd8 19. Qe3 {but Kramnik
dismissed this line as unplayable with the wave of a hand.}) 18... f5 $1 19.
Bg5 {"My point," said Kramnik, "is that after} (19. exf5 {Black has} Nxg3+ $1
20. fxg3 Bd5+ 21. Kg1 Qe2 {[and it's mate]."}) 19... Rxg5 $1 20. hxg5 f4 21.
Qd1 Rd8 22. Qc1 fxg3 23. Na3 Rd3 $1 24. Rd1 {[#]} Bd5 $3 {"Flashy but not very
difficult - by the end I was just trying to make it beautiful. Of course it is
not very professional since any move wins and I was [a little] afraid that I
would miscalculate."} 25. f3 {"My main idea was} (25. Rxd3 Qxe4+ 26. f3 gxf3 $1
27. Re3 f2+ 28. Rxe4+ Bxe4# $1 {," said.Kramnik with a smile.}) 25... gxf3 26.
exd5 Qe2 $1 27. Re1 g2+ 0-1[/pgn]
The following day Kramnik went from rooster to feather duster and Caruana was the man who took him down.

[Event "Berlin Candidates"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.03.14"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2800"]
[BlackElo "2784"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r7/PR1P4/8/1BP1k1b1/1P3pr1/4n2p/8/1K2R3 w - - 0 46"]
[PlyCount "42"]
[EventDate "2018.03.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "14"]
[EventCountry "GER"]
[EventCategory "22"]

{[#] The game had already had plenty of ups and downs, with Caruana outplaying
Kramnik after a boring opening and winning a piece, but then allowing too much
counterplay. In the diagrammed position Kramnik had spurned plenty of
promising continuations over the last few moves because he thought he had seen
a forced win...} 46. Rb8 Rxa7 47. Rg8 $1 {Now what can Black do? Black's bishp
is pinned to the rook and is about to be captured.} Bf6 $3 {[#]} 48. d8=Q {
Played reluctantly, but too late Kramnik realised that on} (48. Rxg4 {,} Kf5 $1
{threatens mate on a1 and regains material with advantage.}) 48... Bxd8 49.
Rxg4 Bf6 50. Rg6 {[#]} Rb7 {By now it is unclear exactly who is playing for a
win; nominally Kramnik, but he forgot the rule that in time trouble always
back the side with the knight.} 51. Be2 Rxb4+ 52. Ka2 Nc2 53. Rc1 Nd4 54. Bd3
Ra4+ 55. Kb1 (55. Kb2 $1 {was much safer.}) 55... Nb3 $1 56. Re1+ Kd5 57. Kc2 {
Playing for the loss.} (57. Rxf6 Ra1+ 58. Kb2 Rxe1 59. Kxb3 h2 60. Bc4+ Kxc5
61. Rf5+ Kd6 62. Bd5 {was a straightforward draw.}) 57... Nd4+ 58. Kb1 Nf3 {[#]
} 59. Rd1 $2 {Banged out with just two seconds remaining on the clock.} (59.
Rxf6 Nxe1 60. Bf1 h2 61. Rh6 {was still a draw.}) 59... Ra1+ 60. Kc2 Rxd1 {
Here, after Caruana had left his seat, Kramnik slumped over the board in
despair. Too late he realized that 61.Kxd1 allows the h-pawn to queen after 61.
..h2.} 61. Ba6 Rd2+ 62. Kc1 Bb2+ 63. Kb1 Kxc5 64. Bb7 Ne5 65. Rf6 f3 66. Rf5 f2
Finally most of the players took a breather in round 5, with three dull draws. Caruana admitted, “I was just happy that for the first time in three days, my opponent didn’t have [lots of] passed pawns.” Aronian tried to take the opportunity to move into second place behind Caruana, but he could not find his way through a thicket of complications.

[Event "FIDE Candidates 2018"]
[Site "Berlin GER"]
[Date "2018.03.15"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Aronian, L."]
[Black "Grischuk, A."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E60"]
[WhiteElo "2794"]
[BlackElo "2767"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "2b3kr/ppQ3b1/4q3/2p2pn1/5pnp/4B3/PP2B2P/3RKNR1 w - - 0 28"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[EventDate "2018.03.10"]

{[#] A crazy position. Grischuk, using most of his time on his previous moves,
has just retreated his king to g8 and Aronian suddenly realised that his
intended 28.Rd6 and 29.Qxc8+ doesn't win immediately and started looking at
other options.} 28. Rd6 $5 {"This is a blunder, right?" said Aronian after the
game. "I saw that} (28. Rxg4 $1 fxg4 29. Rd6 {was completely winning but I
didn't play it - that's sad." Aronian had seen lines such as} Qf5 30. Rd8+ Kh7
(30... Bf8 31. Bxc5 {would be winning.}) 31. Bd3 Ne4 32. Qxc8 $1 {but in the
end thought he had found something better.}) 28... Qf7 29. Qd8+ $2 {Now White
is left to work hard for a draw. Aronian thought that} (29. Qxc8+ Kh7 30. Qxc5
Ne4 {was good for Black, having failed to spot} 31. Rxg4 $3 Nxc5 32. Rxh4+ Kg8
33. Rd8+ Bf8 34. Rxh8+ Kxh8 35. Bxc5 {and White wins the house. "Oooh - very
beautiful," sighed the Armenian when shown this line during the press
conference.}) 29... Qf8 30. Bxf4 Ne6 31. Bc4 Qxd8 32. Rxd8+ Kh7 33. Rxh8+ (33.
Rxc8 $2 {fails to} Rxc8 34. Bxe6 Re8 {.}) 33... Bxh8 34. Bd6 Ng5 35. Rg2 Ne4
36. Bb8 Bd4 37. h3 Ne5 38. Bd5 Nd3+ 39. Ke2 Nc1+ 40. Kd1 Nd3 41. Nd2 Nf6 42.
Bf3 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
2018 Candidates Tournament Scores after round 5: 1.Caruana(USA) 3.5; =2.Mamedyarov(AZE), Kramnik(RUS) 3; =4.Ding(CHN), Aronian(ARM), Grischuk(RUS) 2.5; =7.So(USA), Karjakin(RUS) 1.5. The Candidates Tournament continued on Friday with round 6 starting at 10am AEST and round 7 will take place on March 18, Sunday at 10 AEST. See A Couch Potato’s Guide to the Candidates for details on how to watch.