Up Against the Berlin Wall

In Chess Informant 118 Garry Kasparov writes, “The sharp character of these games shows the Berlin is indeed a rich and subtle middlegame, and not an endgame. And if White pushes too hard, the absence of queens from the board does not offer him any safety.” (http://www.chess.com/article/view/kasparov-on-berlin-defense)

In a recent article on the Chessbase website, “Kasparov: The quality of the games was not so high,” Garry wrote, “On a personal note, I find it ironic that 14 years after I was criticized for not beating Vladimir Kramnik’s Berlin Defense, when I lost my title in London, the Berlin has become an absolute standard at the highest level. Amateurs may find it boring, but it is really not an endgame at all, but a complex queenless middlegame that can be very sharp, as we saw in the final Carlsen-Anand game.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/kasparov-the-quality-of-the-games-was-not-so-high)

As an amateur, I concur with Garry. The Berlin, with its concomitant early Queen exchange, is boring. The elite players play a different game from that played by the hoi poi. The commentators know this and go overboard in trying to inject some “excitement” into the Berlin for the fans, or at least the ones still awake.

The Legendary Georgia Ironman has for decades told students that an early Queen trade usually, in general terms, favors Black. Understood is the fact that, sans Queen, Black will not be checkmated early in the game. It goes without saying that the Berlin, as Tim has been heard to say, “Fits my style.” Why then give Black what he wants by trading Queens?

There are many ways of battling the Berlin without trading Queens. The Great man, Emanuel Lasker, showed the way in an 1892 match played in the USA:

Emanuel Lasker vs Jackson Whipps Showalter

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Bc5 5. Bxc6 bxc6 6. Nxe5 O-O 7. c3 a5 8. d4 Ba6 9. Qf3 Re8 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Nd2 Rb8 12. b3 Qc8 13. c4 Bd8 14. O-O c5 15. Qh3 Re6 16. Nef3 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Rxe4 18. Bxd8 Qxd8 19. Qf5 Qe7 20. Rae1 Re6 21. d5 g6 22. Qf4 Qd6 23. Qxd6 Rxd6 24. Ng5 a4 25. Ne4 axb3 26. axb3 Rxb3 27. Nxd6 cxd6 28. Rc1 Rb4 29. Rb1 Bxc4 30. Rxb4 cxb4 31. Rd1 Ba2 32. Rd2 b3 33. Rb2 Kg7 34. f4 Kf6 35. Kf2 g5 36. Kf3 h6 37. Ke4 Kg6 38. f5+ Kf6 39. g4 Ke7 40. Kd4 Kf6 41. Ke4 Ke7 42. Kd3 Kf6 43. Kd4 Kg7 44. Kc3 h5 45. gxh5 Kh6 46. Re2 b2 47. Rxb2 Bxd5 48. Rd2 Be4 49. Rxd6+ Kxh5 50. f6 Bf5 51. Kd4 Be6 52. Ke5 g4 53. Rd3 Kg6 54. Rd2 Kg5 55. Rf2 Kg6 56. Kd6 Kg5 57. Ke7 Kh5 58. Re2 Kg6 59. Re5 Bb3 60. Rb5 Be6 61. Rb6 Bc4 62. Rb8 Be6 63. Rh8 Kg5 64. Rh7 d5 65. Rxf7 Bxf7 66. Kxf7 d4 67. Kg7 d3 68. f7 1-0

4 Qe2 versus the Berlin should be called the “Lasker variation” against the Berlin. Here is another game with the Lasker variation in which a player well-known for playing Qe2 against the French tried it versus the Berlin:

Mikhail Chigorin vs Siegbert Tarrasch
Budapest 1896

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d3 7. cxd3 dxe5 8.
Nxe5 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 O-O 10. Bxc6 Bxd2+ 11. Nxd2 bxc6 12. Nxc6 Qd6 13. Ne7+ Kh8 14.
Nxc8 Raxc8 15. O-O Rfd8 16. Ne4 Qxd3 17. Qxd3 Rxd3 18. Nxf6 gxf6 19. Rfd1 Rcd8
20. Rxd3 Rxd3 21. g3 Rd2 22. Rc1 Rxb2 23. Rxc7 Rxa2 24. Rxf7 Ra6 25. Kg2 Kg8
26. Rb7 Ra2 27. h4 a6 28. Kf3 h5 29. Rc7 Ra5 30. Kf4 Kf8 31. f3 Kg8 32. Ra7 Kf8
33. g4 hxg4 34. fxg4 Ra1 35. Kf5 Rf1+ 36. Kg6 Rf4 37. g5 fxg5 38. hxg5 Ra4 39.
Ra8+ Ke7 40. Kh6 a5 41. g6 Ra1 42. g7 Rh1+ 43. Kg6 Rg1+ 44. Kh7 Rh1+ 45. Kg8
Ra1 46. Ra7+ Ke8 47. Ra6 Rh1 48. Rxa5 Re1 49. Rh5 Rg1 50. Re5+ Kd7 51. Kh7 1-0

A few more games in chronological order:

Mikhail Tal vs Viktor Korchnoi
Candidates SF, Moscow, 1968

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 a6 5. Ba4 Be7 6. O-O b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 b4 9. d3 d6 10. Nbd2 Bg4 11. Qe3 Na5 12. Ba2 c5 13. Nc4 Nc6 14. h3 Bd7 15. Qe2 Rb8 16. Bb3 Ne8 17. Ne3 Na5 18. Bd5 Nc7 19. Bd2 Nxd5 20. Nxd5 Be6 21. Nxe7+ Qxe7 22. Ng5 f6 23. Nxe6 Qxe6 24. f4 Nc6 25. Be3 Nd4 26. Bxd4 cxd4 27. b3 Rbc8 28. Rad1 Rc5 29. Rd2 Rfc8 30. Rf2 a5 31. Qf3 exf4 32. Qxf4 Re5 33. Rfe2 Qe7 34. Qf2 Qa7 35. Kh1 Rce8 36. Kg1 Qc5 37. Qf3 R8e7 38. Kh1 h6 39. Kg1 Re8 40. Kh1 R8e7 41. Kg1 Kf8 42. Rd1 d5 43. Rde1 Kf7 44. h4 dxe4 45. Rxe4 h5 46. Qf4 Rxe4 1/2-1/2

Anatoly Karpov vs Art Bisguier
Caracas 1970

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. c3 d6 6. d4 Nd7 7. O-O O-O 8. Nbd2 Bf6 9. d5 Ne7 10. Bd3 c6 11. c4 a5 12. b3 g6 13. Ba3 c5 14. Bb2 Bg7 15. g3 Kh8 16. Rae1 Nf6 17. Nh4 Nfg8 18. Ng2 a4 19. f4 f6 20. Ne3 Nh6 21. Bc3 axb3 22. axb3 Bh3 23. Rf2 Bd7 24. Qf1 Nf7 25. f5 g5 26. Be2 Ng8 27. h4 gxh4 28. gxh4 Bh6 29. Bh5 Qe7 30. Kh1 Bf4 31. Qh3 b5 32. cxb5 Bxb5 33. Ndc4 Bxe3 34. Nxe3 Ra3 35. Bd1 Ngh6 36. Bb2 Ra2 37. Bh5 Rg8 38. Nd1 Raa8 39. Nc3 Bd7 40. Bc1 Rab8 41. Bd1 Ra8 42. Ne2 Ra2 43. Rg1 Rxg1+ 44. Kxg1 Bb5 45. Nc3 Rxf2 46. Kxf2 Ba6 47. Nb1 Qb7 48. Qc3 Ng8 49. Bh5 Ngh6 50. Nd2 Ng8 51. Ke1 Ngh6 52. Kd1 Bb5 53. Nf3 Qa6 54. Ng5 Be8 55. Be2 Bb5 56. Bh5 Be8 57. Nf3 Bb5 58. Ne1 Qa2 59. Qb2 Qa5 60. Bd2 Qa7 61. Qc3 Qa2 62. Nc2 c4 63. bxc4 Bxc4 64. Qa3 Qb1+ 65. Qc1 Qb3 66. Bxh6 Qd3+ 67. Bd2 Qxe4 68. Qa3 Bxd5 69. Ne3 Qxh4 70. Bxf7 Bxf7 71. Qxd6 Qa4+ 72. Ke1 Qh4+ 73. Kd1 Qa4+ 74. Kc1 Qa1+ 75. Kc2 Qa4+ 76. Kd3 Qb5+ 77. Ke4 Qb7+ 78. Nd5 Qb1+ 79. Ke3 Qg1+ 80. Kd3 Bxd5 81. Qxf6+ Qg7 82. Qd8+ Qg8 83. Qe7 Qg3+ 84. Be3 h5 1/2-1/2

Robert Byrne vs Vassily Smyslov
Alekhine Memorial, Moscow 1971

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 a6 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nc3 Bd6 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4 O-O 9. Bd2 Bb4 10. Nf3 Qe7 11. O-O-O Bxc3 12. Bxc3 Qxe4 13. Rhe1 Qxe2 14. Rxe2 Nd5 15. Be5 b5 16. Nd4 Bd7 17. Nb3 Rfe8 18. Rde1 f6 19. Bg3 Rxe2 20. Rxe2 Kf7 21. a3 g5 22. Nc5 Bf5 23. f3 a5 24. h3 h5 25. Re1 Rg8 26. Re2 Bc8 27. Nb3 a4 28. Nc5 Bf5 29. Na6 Rc8 30. Re1 h4 31. Bh2 Be6 32. Nc5 Re8 33. Na6 Re7 34. b3 f5 35. Kd2 f4 36. Bg1 Bf5 37. Rxe7+ Kxe7 38. Nb4 Nxb4 39. Bc5+ Ke6 40. Bxb4 1/2-1/2

Kenneth Rogoff vs William Martz
Lone Pine 1976

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. d5 Nb8 7. Bd3 g6 8. c4 c5 9. Nc3 Na6 10. h3 Nc7 11. a3 h5 12. O-O Bh6 13. Bxh6 Rxh6 14. Qe3 Ng8 15. b4 b6 16. Rab1 f6 17. Rb2 Rh7 18. bxc5 bxc5 19. Nh4 Rg7 20. f4 Rb8 21. Rxb8 Qxb8 22. fxe5 fxe5 23. Qg5 Qb2 24. Nxg6 Rf7 25. Nxe5 Rxf1+ 26. Bxf1 dxe5 27. Qxg8+ Ke7 28. Qg5+ 1-0

Kevin Spraggett vs Robert South
Canada Championship 1978

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. d5 Nb8 7. Bd3 g6 8. c4 Na6 9. Nc3 Nc5 10. Bc2 a5 11. h3 Bg7 12. Bg5 h6 13. Be3 Nh5 14. g3 Qc8 15. Nh4 Bf6 16. Nf5 Bg5 17. Bxc5 dxc5 18. h4 Bd8 19. Ba4 Nf6 20. Bxd7+ Qxd7 21. Ne3 Kf8 22. O-O-O Ne8 23. f4 Bf6 24. Ng4 Qe7 25. Rhf1 Kg7 26. d6 cxd6 27. Nd5 Qe6 28. f5 gxf5 29. Ngxf6 Nxf6 30. Nc7 Qd7 31. Nxa8 Rxa8 32. Rxf5 1-0

It always hurts to see the South go down…

Viswanathan Anand vs Susan Polgar
Amber-rapid, Monte Carlo 1994

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. Nxe5 Re8 8. d3 Bc5 9. Nf3 Bg4 10. Be3 Bd6 11. Nbd2 b5 12. h3 Bh5 13. a4 a6 14. Rfe1 c5 15. axb5 axb5 16. Qf1 c4 17. dxc4 bxc4 18. Qxc4 Bxf3 19. Nxf3 Rxe4 20. Qd3 Re8 21. Bd4 Rxa1 22. Rxa1 Nd5 23. Re1 Nf4 24. Qd2 Rxe1+ 25. Qxe1 h6 26. Qe4 Ne6 27. Be3 Qb8 28. b3 Qb5 29. g3 Qe2 30. Nd2 Be7 31. Qa8+ Kh7 32. Qf3 Qe1+ 33. Kg2 Kg8 34. Qa8+ Kh7 35. Nf3 Qc3 36. Qe4+ Kg8 37. Nd4 Nxd4 38. Bxd4 Qb4 39. c3 Qd6 40. b4 Qd7 41. b5 f5 42. Qb7 Bd6 43. c4 Kh7 44. Qd5 Qc8 45. c5 Bf8 46. c6 Kh8 47. Qd7 Qa8 48. Qxf5 Qe8 49. Be5 Qd8 50. Bxc7 1-0

Judit Polgar vs Boris Spassky
Veterans-Women 1994

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. O-O Bd7 6. c3 g6 7. d4 Qe7 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. a4 Bg7 10. b3 Nh5 11. g3 Qf6 12. Bg5 Qe6 13. Nbd2 Qg4 14. Kh1 O-O 15. Be3 Nf6 16. Rad1 Rad8 17. Ng1 Qxe2 18. Bxe2 b6 19. f3 Nh5 20. b4 f5 21. a5 f4 22. Bf2 fxg3 23. hxg3 g5 24. Nc4 g4 25. Ne3 Nf6 26. Kg2 gxf3+ 27. Bxf3 bxa5 28. b5 Ne7 29. c4 c6 30. bxc6 Nxc6 31. Nd5 Rf7 32. Ne2 Ng4 33. Bg1 h5 34. Rb1 Be6 35. Nec3 Nd4 36. Bd1 Rxf1 37. Kxf1 Bf8 38. Rb7 Rd7 39. Rb8 Kg7 40. Kg2 Rf7 41. Nf4 Bd7 42. Rb7 Nf6 43. Rb1 Bb4 44. Ncd5 Nxe4 45. Bxh5 Rf8 46. Ng6 Rf5 47. Nxe5 Nc2 48. Nxd7 Rxh5 49. g4 Ne1+ 50. Rxe1 Rxd5 51. Rxe4 Rxd7 52. c5 Rd2+ 53. Kf3 Rc2 54. Re7+ Kg6 55. Bd4 Rc4 56. Rg7+ Kh6 57. g5+ Kh5 58. Be3 Bxc5 59. Rh7+ Kg6 60. Rh6+ Kg7 61. Rc6 Bxe3 62. Rxc4 Bxg5 1/2-1/2

Alexandra Kosteniuk vs Elena Zayac
8th EU-Cup (women) 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Bd6 5. c3 O-O 6. d3 Re8 7. Bg5 a6 8. Ba4 Bf8 9. Nbd2 d6 10. Nf1 h6 11. Bh4 g6 12. Ne3 Bg7 13. O-O Bd7 14. Bb3 Qc8 15. Nd2 Nh5 16. g3 Bh3 17. Ng2 Na5 18. Bd1 Nf6 19. f4 Bg4 20. Qf2 Be6 21. fxe5 Nh7 22. Bf6 dxe5 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. b4 Nc6 25. d4 exd4 26. cxd4 Ng5 27. Qf6+ Kg8 28. d5 Qd8 29. Qc3 Bxd5 30. exd5 Qxd5 31. h4 Ne6 32. Rf2 Qd4 33. Qxd4 Nexd4 34. Nb3 Nf5 35. g4 Nd6 36. a3 Ne5 37. Nd2 Kg7 38. Be2 f5 39. gxf5 Nxf5 40. Nc4 Rad8 41. Nxe5 Rxe5 42. Bg4 Ne3 43. Nxe3 Rxe3 44. Raf1 Re7 45. h5 Rd4 46. Rg2 g5 47. Bf5 Rc4 48. Rg3 c5 49. bxc5 Rxc5 50. Bg6 Rce5 51. Rgf3 Re1 52. Rf7+ Rxf7 53. Rxe1 Rc7 54. Re6 Rc3 55. a4 Rc4 56. a5 Rc5 57. Be4 Rxa5 58. Rg6+ Kf7 59. Rxh6 Re5 60. Bg6+ Kf6 61. Bd3+ Kg7 62. Rh7+ Kf6 63. Rxb7 Re7 64. Rb8 Kg7 65. Rb6 Re8 66. h6+ Kh8 67. Rxa6 Rd8 68. Bg6 Rb8 69. Kg2 Rd8 70. Kg3 Rb8 71. Kg4 Rb4+ 72. Kh5 Rb8 73. Ra7 g4 74. Rh7+ Kg8 75. Rg7+ Kh8 76. Be4 Rb5+ 77. Kg6 Rg5+ 78. Kxg5 1-0

Magnus Carlsen vs Can Arduman
19th EU-Cup 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. O-O d6 6. d4 Bd7 7. Bxc6 Bxc6 8.
Nc3 exd4 9. Nxd4 Bd7 10. f4 O-O 11. Kh1 Re8 12. e5 dxe5 13. fxe5 Bd6 14. Bf4
Bg4 15. Qb5 Bd7 16. Qxb7 Bxe5 17. Bxe5 Rxe5 18. Rad1 Qc8 19. Qf3 c5 20. Nb3 Bc6
21. Qg3 Qg4 22. Qxg4 Nxg4 23. Na5 Be8 24. Nc4 Re6 25. h3 Nf6 26. Rf5 Rc8 27.
Nd6 Rc6 28. Nb7 g6 29. Rxc5 Rb6 30. Nd8 Red6 31. Rxd6 Rxd6 32. Rc8 Rd2 33. Nc6
Rxc2 34. Nxa7 Rxb2 35. Ne4 Kg7 36. Nxf6 Ba4 37. Ne8+ Kh6 38. Nd6 f5 39. a3 Rb3
40. Nf7+ Kh5 41. Rh8 g5 42. Ne5 g4 43. Rxh7+ Kg5 44. hxg4 fxg4 45. Rg7+ Kf6 46.
Rxg4 Rxa3 47. Nac6 1-0

Magnus Carlsen vs Davide Isonzo
Claude Pecaut Memorial 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. O-O d6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8.
Bxc6 bxc6 9. Rd1 O-O 10. e5 dxe5 11. Nxc6 Qe8 12. Nxe7+ Qxe7 13. Bg5 Bc6 14.
Qc4 Qe6 15. Qxe6 fxe6 16. Nd2 Rab8 17. b3 Nd5 18. Nc4 Rf5 19. Be3 Nf4 20. Bxf4
exf4 21. Re1 Rg5 22. g3 Bd5 23. Ne5 Rf8 24. c4 Bb7 25. Nd7 Rf7 26. Re5 Rgf5 27.
g4 Rxe5 28. Nxe5 Rf8 29. Rd1 h5 30. Ng6 Re8 31. Nxf4 hxg4 32. Rd7 Bf3 33. Nh5
Rf8 34. Rxg7+ Kh8 35. Rd7 Rf5 36. Ng3 Re5 37. Kf1 Ra5 38. a4 Ra6 39. Ke1 Rb6
40. Rd3 e5 41. Kd2 a5 42. h4 Kh7 43. Re3 Re6 44. Ne4 Kg6 45. Ng5 Rd6+ 46. Kc3
e4 47. Nxe4 Rd1 48. Ng3 Rc1+ 49. Kd2 Ra1 50. h5+ Kf6 51. Re8 Ra2+ 52. Ke3 Rb2
53. h6 Kg6 54. Re6+ Kh7 55. Kf4 Rxb3 56. Nf5 Rb6 57. Re7+ Kh8 58. Kg5 Rc6 59.
Nd4 Rxc4 60. Re8+ Kh7 61. Ne6 Re4 62. Re7+ Kh8 63. Kg6 1-0

I leave you with this game, played by a young boy from the Great State of Florida, who was one of the highly-touted junior players that left chess. I used a quote on this blog some time ago about an Emory student who told his frat brothers he was, at one time, a junior chess champion. I confirmed this before being told that AJ said he quit chess because “It has become a game for children.” Who am I to argue with AJ’s astute insight?

AJ Steigman (2242) vs Alex Sherzer (2494)
Philadelphia NCC 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Bc5 5. O-O O-O 6. d3 d6 7. h3 Bd7 8. Nc3
a6 9. Ba4 Ba7 10. Bb3 Re8 11. Nd5 h6 12. c3 Be6 13. Be3 Bxd5 14. Bxd5 Nxd5 15.
exd5 Ne7 16. Bxa7 Rxa7 17. c4 Ng6 18. g3 f5 19. Nh2 c5 20. Rab1 a5 21. Rfe1 b6
22. f4 Qf6 23. fxe5 Rxe5 24. Qf2 f4 25. g4 Rae7 26. Rxe5 Nxe5 27. Rd1 f3 28. b3
Rf7 29. d4 cxd4 30. Rxd4 Qg6 31. Rd1 h5 32. Rd4 Qb1+ 33. Nf1 hxg4 34. hxg4 Nd3
35. Qe3 f2+ 36. Kg2 Ne1+ 37. Kh2 Qh7+ 38. Kg3 Qh1 39. Qe8+ Rf8 40. Qe6+ Kh8 41.
Rf4 Qg1+ 42. Kh3 Qxf1+ 43. Kh4 Qh1+ 44. Kg5 Qh6+ 0-1

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