Dramatic Start to Berlin Candidates; Caruana Among Leaders

The World Chess Candidates Tournament 2018 started off with a whirlwind of events and excitement. The opening ceremony featured an ice sculpture containing pieces of the Berlin Wall. The first round also packed drama, with three decisive games. GMs Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov all came away with wins.

The Opening Ceremony was a sensational black tie event. Upon entering, guests were greeted by a massive 20 ft. tall ice sculpture by Berlin based artist Thierry Noir. I was quite amazed that Noir’s work contained chunks of the Berlin Wall. It was a great moment of reflection to think that a symbol of repression and war was being used as art a cultural event like the Candidates Tournament. Along with this, the Candidates all seemed to be in great spirits. GM Ding Liren, the first Chinese Candidate, was flanked closely by his 2nd (and future rival) Wei Yei. Plus, I was so happy to see the US represented by GM Wesley So and his mother. They looked so sweet together and he was definitely excited to be there.

For this reporter, one of the most exciting elements of the start of this tournament was meeting and obtaining an exclusive interview with former world champion, GM Vladimir Kramnik. It was incredible to see how calm he was before the tournament. We talked about how stacked the Candidates tournament is with top talent. He said, “It is very difficult to say who is even a slight favorite.” He expressed the fact that he does not feel any pressure to win since he has already become World Champion. We also dug deep into his preparation and he almost guaranteed novelties. Overall, he exuded a relaxed attitude and it certainly showed in his win over Grischuk.

[Event "FIDE Berlin Candidates"]
[Date "2018.03.10"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Grischuk, Alexander"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A48"]
[WhiteElo "2800"]
[BlackElo "2767"]
[PlyCount "95"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Russia"]
[BlackTeam "Russia"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "RUS"]
[BlackTeamCountry "RUS"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. b3 c5 4. dxc5 Qa5+ 5. Nbd2 Qxc5 6. Bb2 Bg7 7. e3 O-O 8.
c4 b6 9. Be2 Bb7 10. O-O Qc7 11. Rc1 d6 12. Nb1 Nbd7 13. Nc3 Rac8 14. Rc2 Qb8
15. Qa1 a6 16. Rd2 Rfe8 17. Rfd1 Ba8 18. Ng5 Rc5 19. Nh3 b5 20. Nf4 bxc4 21.
Bxc4 Rg5 22. Ncd5 Ne5 23. Be2 Ne4 24. Rd4 Nc5 25. h4 Rf5 26. e4 Rxf4 27. Nxf4
Nxe4 28. Nd5 Nc5 29. Rb4 Qa7 30. Ne3 a5 31. Rb5 Ne6 32. Rxe5 dxe5 33. Bxe5 Qc5
34. Bxg7 Nxg7 35. Qd4 Qxd4 36. Rxd4 Bc6 37. Rd2 Rb8 38. Rc2 Be8 39. Rc7 Kf8 40.
Ra7 a4 41. bxa4 Rb1+ 42. Kh2 Rb4 43. a5 Rxh4+ 44. Kg1 Ra4 45. Bc4 Bc6 46. Rc7
Be8 47. a6 Nh5 48. Nd5 1-0

I was also able to speak with GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Wesley So after their sensational game.

[Event "FIDE Berlin Candidates"]
[Date "2018.03.10"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E07"]
[WhiteElo "2784"]
[BlackElo "2799"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Be7 5. Bg2 d5 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Qb3
Nbd7 9. Bf4 a5 10. Rd1 Nh5 11. Bc1 Nhf6 12. Nbd2 b5 13. c5 b4 14. Qc2 a4 15.
Re1 e5 16. Nxe5 Nxe5 17. dxe5 Nd7 18. Nf3 Bxc5 19. Ng5 g6 20. Bf4 Qb6 21. e4 b3
22. axb3 axb3 23. Qe2 Ba6 24. Qf3 Bc4 25. Rxa8 Rxa8 26. e6 dxe4 27. exf7+ Bxf7
28. Nxe4 Bd4 29. Nd6 Bd5 30. Qe2 Nf8 31. Bxd5+ cxd5 32. Qf3 Qa5 33. Re7 1-0

Despite losing, GM So had some really great words for all chess players out there that start a tournament with a tough loss like this.

When I asked him what he will do to shake off this loss he said, “Not give up hope, work harder, prepare harder and get my mind right. Forget about this loss, focus on the next round. Positive thinking.” For his part GM Caruana was very gracious and expressed a very cautious attitude and seemed to not want to get ahead of himself as there are still 13 rounds to go. Of course he said that “it feels great” to be the first leader of this tournament. But, made it clear that “if you play generally good chess, then it gives you a reserve of energy.”

GM Vladimir Kramnik, https://worldchess.com/berlin/

That it is exactly what he focused on as he is already tied for first place with GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Shakriyar Mamadeyarov.

[Event "FIDE Berlin Candidates"]
[Date "2018.03.10"]
[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C60"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2809"]
[PlyCount "142"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Russia"]
[BlackTeam "Azerbaijan"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "RUS"]
[BlackTeamCountry "AZE"]
[WhiteClock "0:05:52"]
[BlackClock "0:27:52"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. c3 a6 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. d4 exd4 7. cxd4 Bg4 8.
Qb3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 Bg7 10. Be3 Ne7 11. Nc3 Bxd4 12. Bxd4 Qxd4 13. Qxb7 O-O 14.
Qxc7 Rab8 15. O-O Rxb2 16. Qxe7 Qxc3 17. Kg2 Rc2 18. Rad1 Rxa2 19. Rc1 Rc2 20.
Rxc2 Qxc2 21. Ra1 Qc4 22. Qb7 Qb5 23. Qxa6 Qg5+ 24. Kf1 Qf6 25. Kg2 Rb8 26. Ra5
Rb3 27. Qc8+ Kg7 28. Qg4 Rb5 29. Rxb5 cxb5 30. Qd7 Qg5+ 31. Kf1 Qe5 32. h4 b4
33. Qb7 Qc3 34. e5 b3 35. Kg2 Qc4 36. Qb6 h6 37. Kg3 Qd5 38. f4 Kh7 39. Qb8 Qc4
40. f3 Qc3 41. Qf8 Qc4 42. Qb8 Kg7 43. Qb6 Qd5 44. Qb8 Qd1 45. Qb7 Qg1+ 46. Kh3
Qe3 47. Kg2 Qe2+ 48. Kg3 Qe1+ 49. Kg2 Qe3 50. Qb4 g5 51. hxg5 hxg5 52. fxg5
Qe2+ 53. Kg3 Qxe5+ 54. Kf2 Qh2+ 55. Ke3 Qg1+ 56. Kf4 Qc1+ 57. Kg4 Qe3 58. Kg3
Qxg5+ 59. Kf2 Qd5 60. Ke3 Kg6 61. Ke2 Kf6 62. Ke3 Ke6 63. Qb6+ Kd7 64. Qa7+ Kc6
65. Qa6+ Kc5 66. Qa4 Qc4 67. Qa5+ Kc6 68. Qa1 Kb5 69. Qb2 Kb4 70. Kd2 Qf4+ 71.
Ke1 Qh4+ 0-1

Aside from writing these articles, I am also here shooting a documentary called Berlin 2018. My wife, Gloria Iseli, is a director and writer in the Hollywood scene and she has a fantastic vision of how we can show all of the beautiful elements of humanity through the Candidates Tournament and our great game of chess. We hope to produce a work that delves deep into why the Candidates and all of their fans keep playing and watching chess. Plus, our cameraman Brian C Glover is a retired director of photography, and will make it look fantastic.

Look for more from Dylan later in the event and also look for reports from GM Ian Rogers' midway through. 

Also see Vanessa West and Ian Rogers previews.  

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