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Levon Aronian vs Vladimir Kramnik
Kramnik - Aronian (2012), Zuerich SUI, rd 2, Apr-22
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation Berlin Wall Defense (C67)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: I played the Berlin a couple of times around 1975, when I was rated 1600 or something. If you know what you're doing (I certainly didn't), it's a rock-solid opening. If I'd studied it, I wouldn't mind playing it against higher-rated players.
Apr-22-12  goldenbear: 15.O-O would have left Black much better...
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <goldenbear> 15...0-0 is illegal. Black has moved his king twice.
Apr-22-12  goldenbear: <FSR> True, so if Kramnik wanted to try the old castle trick, I guess he would have had to touch the rook first to keep Rg8 as a bail-out option. Maybe it was worth a shot. Black would be better after O-O.
Apr-23-12  Robyn Hode: This game was drawn on move 4. Lev knew Kramnik would play a Berlin and neither really played for anything but a safe position. Kramnik has become Peter Leko.
Apr-23-12  offramp: It is amazing that the Berlin has been si indestructible for so long. There have been some minor hiccoughs but it seems to be as solid as ever.

Perhaps Aronian will have to change to the left-hand side of the board.

Apr-23-12  twinlark: Didn't Shirov's work put a dent in it?
Apr-23-12  goldenbear: I've never understood why 8.Qe2 is not played. I think that seems more promising.
Apr-23-12  lentil: Every move was theory. When will they play "chess"?
Apr-23-12  parmetd: I love playing the Berlin - it is one of the richest positions in chess in my opinion. Aronian has always said he plays the Marshall when he wants to draw and the Berlin when he wants to win.

As to the dubious move of 8. Qe2?! Nd4 9. Nxd4 Qxd4 10. Rd1 Bg4 11. Rxd4 Bxe2 12. Nc3 Bh5 leaves black with a superior position though draw is the most likely result.

Apr-23-12  goldenbear: <parmetd> 10.Rd1?! is not forced though... h3!? is possible.
Apr-23-12  MrQuinn: Given that 5. Re1 essentially kills any life in the position, it seems a stretch to call the Berlin a "rich" position. If one doubts this then look at Nakamura vs Kramnik. Not a hint of life to be found and no potential anywhere. (Which served the American's purpose at the time) The Berlin is a stalwart defense, more "subtle" than "rich." But, fact is, white can have the draw any time he wants it.
Apr-23-12  King Death: < MrQuinn: seems a stretch to call the Berlin a "rich" position...>

Yup, this sounds about right. I'd play the Exchange French for White before I'd go for the Berlin main lines and I never played 1.e4 too much.

Apr-23-12  haydn20: Per Opening Explorer, 13 Nf3 might inject a little more life into this opening. Anyway, after move 18 the BOC and symm pawns leave a position deader 'n great granny's love life.
Apr-23-12  messachess: I don't like the usual line of the Berlin because it virtually forces the trade of queens for what?--no presumptive advantage for white. The doubled black pawns are no clear advantage for white relinquishing the queen off the board. So I do something other than BxN after 5..Nd6.
Apr-23-12  parmetd: If the Berlin is not a rich position, then there is no such thing as a rich position. What you mean to say is, "The Berlin is not my preferred my choice" or "I do not like queenless endgames" or "I prefer tactical swashbuckles"

As to 10. h3 It's just a game but white cannot be preferred in any way. Black has a range of very nice choices. White should not desire this position! Be6 Bf5 and Qh4 are all quite pleasant.

Apr-23-12  MrQuinn: Parmetd, just because the Berlin is your idea of a rich position does not mean it is. It's a professional level drawing tool, kindred soul to the Petrov. Calling it rich is akin to calling oatmeal with cream and sugar a gourmet meal. Solid, drawish, dependable, sometimes subtle, but certainly not rich. You'll note that its leading exponent, Kramnik, didn't play it against Anand when it was crunch time. He chose a Sicilian because the Berlin isn't sufficiently "rich" to fight for a win; it's a pro drawing tool. My goodness, where have you been, even Kramnik knows that! Sorry, the Berlin is not the stuff of "richness," but of "drawness."
Apr-23-12  Timeline: Even though I don't find Berlin too exciting myself, I remember Aronian mentioning Berlin is his attempt to fight for a win in some tournament.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <goldenbear> White scores badly after 8.Qe2 Nd4 (+4 =14 -9). Opening Explorer Fischer once played it as White in his youth, achieving a 16-move draw against the mighty Oleg Neikirch. Fischer vs O Neikirch, 1958 White has scored 25% with your suggestion 10.h3 (+0 =2 -2). Opening Explorer
Apr-24-12  parmetd: MrQuinn, I understand you personally don't like the Berlin. However, you are forcing your personal distaste of the opening to cover the truth of the opening. If you ever learn to play the Berlin. You will understand most GMs play the Berlin when they are trying to win. It may not be exciting but it is a very very rich endgame. It is not a professional level drawing tool - that is the Marshall - but of course every single opening has a line that is quite drawish even the Najdorf.

Please feel free to read Aronian's many thoughts on this opening:

Apr-24-12  King Death: <FSR> In three times as many games from this source the stats after your variation are pretty grim too,

I'll bet that part of these numbers is White being the weaker player and going for this to avoid the ending. A lot like the old form of the Exchange French (3.ed cd 4.Bd3) though that's guess work by me for sure.

Apr-24-12  parmetd: I doubt it. By playing Qe2, White has given free of charge Black's number 1 objective: trade the knights - and black did not even have to give up castling rights to achieve this goal! Compare it versus the endgame and you will realize why no one plays Qe2.
Apr-24-12  goldenbear: <parmetd> <FSR> You guys may be right. I don't play e4 very often, but I did prepare 8.Qe2 and 10.h3 for a game against someone I knew played the Berlin. I won the game but as I recall I stood worse at some point. How to avoid the Berlin?
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <goldenbear: ... How to avoid the Berlin?>

Well, apart from choosing some opening other than the Ruy Lopez, there's always 4.d3 or 4.Qe2. Or 4.Nc3 with a Four Knights.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Wow, Aronian loves the Berlin so much that he even <lives> in Berlin.
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