The Berlin Wall at the London Classic

The Berlin Wall at the London Classic

18 | Opening Theory

by GM Magesh and GM Arun


The London Chess Classic tournament has ended with Carlsen retaining his crown for the second year. Though he needed some luck to have that miraculous save against Kramnik from a totally lost position in the penultimate round, it was a well deserved victory. His risky playing style is costing him a few games, particularly with the black pieces, but that is also helping him win many. McShane, Anand and Kramnik all looked like they were running for the championship at different points, but in the end it was the young G-Star Raw model who came out on top.

Today we would like to discuss the games from the very first round. It was an entertaining day with three decisive results out of the four games that were played. Last year's champion, Magnus Carlsen started off with a disastrous start to his campaign this year suffering a loss against Luke Mcshane. Vladimir Kramnik coasted to a very fine victory with the black pieces against Nigel Short and the young English Grandmaster David Howell was destroyed by his fellow countryman Michael Adams. World Champion Viswanathan Anand came very close to making it an all-decisive day in the London Classic, but had to share the point with Hikaru Nakamura in the end.


Even though there was plenty to discuss about the decisive games, what attracted me the most was the one drawn game. Anand played a very instructive game against Nakamura only to find himself facing a deadly fortress by the American Grandmaster. Let us take a look at the game now.




This is the most common position arising out of the Berlin Wall. Black has lost his ability to castle, but he can still find a good shelter for his king on either side of the board with a few accurate moves. Black also has a bad pawn structure since there is no way he can create a passed pawn on the queen side, while white by all means can create one on the king side. This also implies that as more pieces get traded, white's advantage will keep growing as his pawn majority on the king side will start making a real impact. For all this, black has one and only one real compensation, that is his pair of bishops. You can never underestimate a bishop pair though.




Anand has played to his strengths very well and created very good winning chances. He has successfully created a passed pawn on the 'f' while black will not be able to create one on the queen side. Now the real question is how to proceed? He can trade off his rooks or his bishops, what would be best for him? Of course trading both would lead to an easy win with his outside passed pawn. In the game Anand chose to trade off his rooks and that turned out to be not so successful. But an interesting continuation that is worth considering would be to trade off the bishop by sacrificing a pawn. I would strongly suggest our readers try and analyze the possible rook and pawn ending in depth.




Nakamura's resilience paid off well by rewarding him with half a point. From a seemingly difficult situation he held on to pull off a draw from being two pawns down.

There was one more game in the final round with the same variation in the same tournament. Adams made short work of Howell in the same line and let us take a look at that now.


An effective, defensive opening for black, but the bad pawn structure leads to several bad endgames which black has to pay careful attention to. Also, remember to analyze the possible rook and pawn endgame from the Anand-Nakamura game.

More from GM thamizhan
Deterring Scholastic Chess Cheating

Deterring Scholastic Chess Cheating

How to Improve your Calculation

How to Improve your Calculation