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Vassily Ivanchuk vs Hikaru Nakamura
Reggio Emilia (2012), Reggio Emilia ITA, rd 10, Jan-06
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation Berlin Wall Defense (C67)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jan-06-12  solskytz: First!! (Never happened before)
Jan-06-12  Namawiz: A comforting win for chucky.
Jan-06-12  checkmateyourmove: chucky and naka are on same wavelength. naka dominates first half of tourney then goes on 3 game fall. chucky has 3 game slide too and also plays some good games. wild ride for both players before corus
Jan-06-12  fetonzio: nice to see a thematic white win with the kingside majority versus the Berlin
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: A late win by Ivanchuk is just what Giri needed. Nakamura just needed 1/2 point to secure at least first. Didn't happen in this game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: Ivanchuk gets the better of the Berlin wall after making use of a move suggested by Lasker, the move Bg5 which offers an exchange of dark squared boahips.

22...Be6? parts with Black's bishop and with it his main compensation for the doubled pawn. Instead of this 22...Nc6 attacks a White weakness, the e5 pawn.

After this Ivanchuk then displays grandmasterly technique to make count his extra pawn on the king side.

53 b3! offers the b3 pawn but Black cannot take it either with his rook or with his knight. On 53...Nxb3 54 Nd7+ compels Black's King to obstruct the rook's defence of the N. On 53...Rxb3 54 Rxb3 Nxb3 55 Ne7+ Kd7 56 Nf5 Ke6 57 Ke4 Kf7 58 Kd5 looks like a win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: I must say that I don't understand the popularity of this line for Black. It looks like a Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation where White achieves his strategic goals of doubling up Black's c-pawns and exchanging queens. And, as a plus, manages to exchange a rook and a bishop early on, thus eliminating the 2-bishop counterplay that Black normally gets in the Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation. White practically has a won game by move 19 although, of course, that's easy for me to say. But the winning procedure is straightforward if lengthy, and Black has absolutely no winning chances. Kind of like Fisher's remark against the Sicilian Dragon; "pry open the KR file, sac, sac ... mate!"
Jan-06-12  dumbgai: <AylerKupp: I must say that I don't understand the popularity of this line for Black.> The Berlin Wall has been popular with GMs ever since Kramnik used it successfully to frustrate Kasparov in their WCh match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <dumbgai> Oh, I know, I just say that I don't understand its appeal. I looked at all 4 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense games in the 2000 Kasparov v. Kramnik match (one Ruy Lopez was a standard Morphy defense) and this is what I saw, or thought I saw:

1. Kasparov vs Kramnik, 2000. Relatively short 25-move draw with (I think) a lot of play left in the position when the draw was agreed. Kasparov might have been surprised by Kramnik's choice of the Berlin defense and maybe didn't feel like putting up a fight.

3. Kasparov vs Kramnik, 2000. A long (53-move), hard fought game. I thought that White had much the better position after 27.Rxf4 with bishop vs. knight, a k-side pawn majority, and the better pawn structure. Houdini 1.5a disagrees, evaluating the position as slightly better for Black ([-0.04], d=27) but I disagree with it. I think that 28.Rd2 was better than Kasparov's 28.Bc3 since it prevents the Black's rook entry into the 2nd rank and after 29.Kf2, 30.a3 White doesn't have to worry about any Black k-side or center counterplay and can start moving those k-side pawns. Houdini again disagrees, evaluating the position as even, d=28, after 28...Nb4 29.a3 Nc6 which just seems like a waste of time to me.

9. Kasparov vs Kramnik, 2000. Black got some q-side and center counterplay and at the end the position looked pretty even to me, with Black holding the B vs. N advantage and Black's q-side pawns about to be undoubled.

13. Kasparov vs Kramnik, 2000. Short 14-move draw with no attempt by Kasparov to win an advantage.

So, on the basis of these 4 games I still don't see the reason for the Berlin defense's appeal. And in this game Ivanchuk sure made it look easy, or at least straightforward, against Nakamura. Did Kramnik play that much better than Nakamura or did Kasparov not play as well as Ivanchuk?

Of course, it's impossible to draw a meaningful conclusion from 5 games unless one of has a technical novelty that refutes a standard line. So I then looked at's opening database and after the 2000 Kasparov v. Kramnik match there are 1,073 games with the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d5 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8. White won 294 games (27.4%), Black won 212 games (19.8%) and there were 567 draws (52.8%). So, if as Black you want to play for a draw against 1.e4 this seems like a good way to try to go about it. But I still much prefer White's chances. Then again, what do I know?

Jan-06-12  weepingwarrior: I don't like the open variation in any of the Ruy Lopez games. White has really come to terms with the open variations.
Jan-06-12  King Death: <AylerKupp> By the numbers you give, White's edge is 7.6% (much less than he gets overall). In swisses against weaker players, I can't really see playing this for Black but at this level it's useful to come up with something "fireproof".
Jan-06-12  Blunderdome: Reminds me of Bazna, where Chucky lost several games but won in the last round.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: <AylerKupp> Anand said that the Berlin wall was one of the toughest defences for White to overcome and that White might gain a win once every ten games.

It is conceivable that Black is able to create tiny little difficulties ( such as eg queen side counter-attacking threats or perhaps rook and pawn endings) as a result of which White can't quite manage to extract a win from his extra pawn on the king side.

However we may have not heard the last word as yet. Perhaps White will gain winning chances if he can manage to play like Lasker.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Ulhumbrus> Far be it for me to disagree with Anand. I looked at the ChessTempo opening database (more comprehensive than's) for the same opening position and restricted the games to those played after the 2000 Kasparov v. Kramnik match and where both players were rated 2200 or above. The results were quite similar; out of 1,818 games White won 491 (27.0%), Black won 370 (20.4%), and 957 were drawn (52.6%).

So while Anand was somewhat pessimistic about White's winning chances in this line by almost a factor of 3, the difference between White's and Black's winning chances (about 7%) are somewhat better for Black than what White normally achieves (about 10%). And the drawing percentage is much better, about 52.5% vs. the average 35.5%. So, if Black is satisfied with a draw, this is a good line for Black. At least until White learns to play like Lasker. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: <AylerKupp> A thought has occurred to me. Did anyone ask Bobby Fischer what Bobby Fischer's opinion of the Berlin wall was?
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Ulhumbrus> I meant to, but I forgot to do so the last time I met him. ;-)

Seriously, I was only able to find 3 games where Fischer faced the Berlin defense:

1. Fischer vs O Neikirch, 1958 , Portoroz Interzonal, 1958, -, round 1, 16 moves. Fischer had an inferior position but Neikirch offered a draw. When the journalists asked Neikirch why he had offered a draw, his response was: "It was somehow embarassing to win against the lad, on my return home to Bulgaria they would laugh at me." I suspect that they would not still be laughing a few years later!

2. Fischer vs Bisguier, 1962 , USA Championships, 1962, 1-0, round 4, 37 moves. Fischer dispatches Bisguier without too much difficulty.

3. Fischer vs J Fuller, 1963 , Bay City, 1963, 1-0, round 1, 19 moves. Fischer quickly destroys Fuller.

Given that Fischer's record against the Berlin defense was 2 - I can only presume that he liked it for White!

Jan-10-12  King Death: <AylerKupp> The game with Bisguier wasn't that clear. Black had a decent position but wrecked it with a one mover.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: <AylerKupp> The game <Fischer vs J Fuller, 1963> features an interesting innovation from Fischer, 6 Bg5 at once instead of 6 Nxc6
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  OneArmedScissor: To be honest, Bobby would just analyze and examine pretty much every line in the Berlin to a won endgame for White because he's nuts like that.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Ulhumbrus: <AylerKupp> The game <Fischer vs J Fuller, 1963> features an interesting innovation from Fischer, 6 Bg5 at once instead of 6 Nxc6>

If only there was some sort of Opening Explorer on this site.

Pillsbury vs Lasker, 1895

Probably not the first time 6.Bg5 was played, either.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <King Death> You're quite right. I went through the game more carefully since the first time through I just played the moves quickly and I didn't notice the problem with 23...Bd8 that allowed White to get his knight to d6. Per <Resignation Trap> Bisguier himself admitted it and said that 23...Kd7 left Black with the better chances after 24.f4 g5. I'm not sure if I would go that far since I think that 24.Nf3 is better (trying to exchange one or both pairs of rooks) but certainly not worse than equal. Houdini 1.5a technically agrees with Bisguier's assessment since it evaluates the position at [-0.16], d=32 after 23...a5 (and [-0.05] after 23...Kd7) but that's effectively equal as far as I'm concerned.

And I didn't like Fischer's 12.Nxd5 since it straightens out Black's q-side pawns. There may not be a better alternative since allowing 12...Bxf3 damages White's k-side pawn structure (and after 13.gxf3 Nd4 looks like it wins at least a pawn) but it certainly isn't in the spirit of the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation to undouble Black's pawns, even if it means denying Black the 2 bishops. But maybe 12.Ne1-d3 was worth trying.

Bisguier would presumably have been satisfied with a draw since this game was played in the last round and a draw would have tied him with Fischer for the championship. So maybe this influenced his choice of the Berlin Defense since at that time it was also considered drawish. But if a draw is what he wanted maybe he should have tried a Marshall Attack which at least provides more counterplay. He tried it only once as far as I could find out, with the desired draw result: Browne vs Bisguier, 1975.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <keypusher> That Pillsbury vs. Lasker, 1895 was the earliest game that I was able to find where 6.Bg5 was played. So maybe that was the first time that it was played, at least at the master level.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Albertan: According to the Chessbase online database, Nakamura's 12th move of the game is a theoretical novelty.

Ivanchuk vs Nakamura, 2012 53.b3 Kd7 [53...Nxb3?? 54.Ne7+ wins the knight.; 53...Rxb3? 54.Rxb3 Nxb3 55.Nf8 Nd4 (Else 56.Ne6) 56.Kf4 and Black is in zugzwang - not that White needs zugzwang to win here. 56...Kb7 57.e6 Nc6 58.Kg5 Ne7 59.Ng6 Ng8 60.e7 Nf6 61.Ne5 Kc8 62.Kg6 Ne8 63.Kf7 Nd6+ 64.Kxg7 (64.Kf8 ) ]

Oct-19-12  notyetagm: Ivanchuk vs Nakamura, 2012

<Ulhumbrus: ... 53 b3! offers the b3 pawn but Black cannot take it either with his rook or with his knight. <<<On 53...Nxb3 54 Nd7+ compels Black's King to obstruct the rook's defence of the N.>>>>


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