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.
I was also able to speak with GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Wesley So after their sensational game.
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.”
That it is exactly what he focused on as he is already tied for first place with GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Shakriyar Mamadeyarov.
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.