It was tempting to label the game reproduced here as Game of the Week but that would be a gross understatement alongside our more modest examples from Broadstairs Chess Club. The FIDE Candidates Tournament is currently taking place in Berlin to decide who will play Magnus Carlsen later this year in London for the World Chess Championship. There has been some terrific chess played in the opening rounds and the following Round 3 game between Lev Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik has attracted most of the attention. Already christened the Berlin Immortal – it was a Berlin Defence played in Berlin – Kramnik claimed afterwards that he had been waiting to play this for two years but did not think he would get an opportunity in a Candidates Tournament, especially against Aronian who last opened with 1. e4 over a year ago in the Sharjah Grand Prix. The background to this surprise is that the opening move was made – as often happens in big tournaments – by a guest, the pianist Francesco Tristano who, without any apparent consultation with Aronian, played 1. e4 The players do not have to accept this as a legitimate move and Kramnik said later that he expected Aronian to move the pawn back to e2 and play 1. d4 but he didn’t. While it might be absurd as some amateur commentators have done online to suggest that 1. e4 was Aronian’s losing move, 7….Rg8 was certainly a surprise. Nigel Short went a little further, tweeting: “I love Kramnik’s 7…Rg8! It is like the sort of crap I play in blitz.” The result was a spectacular win for Kramnik and it would be interesting to know when was the last time Aronian was beaten in 27 moves playing White.
White: Levon Aronian (2794) Black: Vladimir Kramnik (2800)
FIDE Candidates Tournament 2018
After the game leading players were unstinting in their praise for Kramnik. Alexander Grischuk, one of his fellow competitors in the tournament, described it as “one of the best games I have ever seen,” while Short, having recovered from the shock of 7….Rg8, said “Simply brilliant chess by Vlad Kramnik! I take my hat off to him. Outstanding. Love it!” Soon after the game finished both players appeared at the press conference which is well worth a look.
Aronian was gracious in defeat but said little while Kramnik was modest: “Frankly the game was flashy, but it was not extremely difficult.” See if you agree!