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Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Veselin Topalov
Sinquefield Cup (2015), St Louis, MO USA, rd 6, Aug-29
Spanish Game: Berlin Defense. l'Hermet Variation Berlin Wall Defense (C67)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-29-15  coolconundrum: This game deserves more love.
Aug-29-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gregor Samsa Mendel: I understand that Kramink devised the Berlin Wall as a way to drive Kasparov crazy in their match. Why anyone else, least of all Topalov, would play this voluntarily nowadays is beyond me.
Aug-30-15  Mr. V: So, what's the point of 9... h6?
Aug-30-15  Olsonist: Especially with the queens off the board and only one minor piece developed, h3 looks pointless. Prophylaxis against what? Is he going to kick the knight? The knight is on its way to a new position anyways.
Aug-30-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: 9...h6 is fairly well represented in the database, but Black desperately needs an improvement on 10.Rd1 and 12.Nd4 as played here. This game is not that improvement.
Aug-30-15  fgh: <Gregor Samsa Mendel: I understand that Kramink devised the Berlin Wall as a way to drive Kasparov crazy in their match. Why anyone else, least of all Topalov, would play this voluntarily nowadays is beyond me.>

The only reason why you "understand" that is that you are a clueless patzer with no interest in <learning>.

<Mr. V: So, what's the point of 9... h6?>

<Olsonist: Especially with the queens off the board and only one minor piece developed, h3 looks pointless. Prophylaxis against what? Is he going to kick the knight? The knight is on its way to a new position anyways.>

White's main asset in the Berlin Endgame is his kingside pawn majority. h3 prepares g4, f4, f5, etc. On the other hand, h6, g5, Ng6, Bg7 is good for black because it puts pressure on white's kingside, so that white will weaken his king if he pushes his kingside pawns. With correct play, you may see both h3-g4 and h6-g5 on the board, as in Carlsen vs Anand, 2014.

Here are two examples of how easily black can equalise if white pushes his kingside pawns too soon:

Caruana vs Kramnik, 2013

Caruana vs Carlsen, 2015

Aug-30-15  Ulhumbrus: 18 e6 opens lines in a position where White is ahead in development. One of the commentators - it may have been GM Ashley - compared this thrust to the thrust 16 e6 in the game Kasparov vs Kramnik, 2001

GM Ashley indicated ( amongst other things) that 18...Bxe6 presented a target for Nc5 after which Nxe6 removes the defender of the square d7 enabling the invasion Rd7 while 18...fxe6 would have obstructed the bishop's cover of the d7 square, allowing the invasion Rd7.

The thrust e6 also clears the long diagonal a1-h8 for White's bishop in the event of Bd4

The threat of Rd7 proves stronger than the execution and to avoid it Topalov makes concessions elsewhere, allowing eg Nxb7 and Nd6+

22 Rxd5!! improves Black's pawn structure but keeps the option of Nc5 and removes Black's rook on d5 defending the square d4 while gaining a tempo for Rd4

The final phase looks like a technical win worthy of Spassky or Korchnoi

Aug-30-15  Marmot PFL: I also don't see why Topalov picked this defense. He has several losses with it (Svidler, Anand, Polgar, to some of them multiple times) and it doesn't seem like his style. Any resonable Sicilian line would probably have been a better choice.
Aug-30-15  fisayo123: Bad opening choice by Topalov. He never seemed comfortable in this game. I can understand trying to "stabilize" and/or avoid playing the Najdorf vs a Najdorf expert, but he will be regretting not going for anyone of the very many lines in the mainline Ruy.
Aug-30-15  jindraz: 9. h3 is the strongest move. The point is that you want to have the sequence g4 Nsomewhere Kg2 h5 Kg3 at your disposal and for it you need to have h3 in place.
Aug-30-15  jindraz: The game is nice enough, but Nostradamus said something to the effect that when people of Topalov's style start playing Berlin defense, it will be the end of chess as we know it.
Sep-01-15  Mr. V: thanks, <fgh>!

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