The Death Of The Berlin Defense

The Death Of The Berlin Defense

| 43 | Opening Theory

"You might not be able to fight like a samurai, but you can at least die like a samurai." -- Kill Bill, Vol. 1. 

The Berlin Defense in the Ruy Lopez is a very peculiar opening.

Spectators hate it, most chess players hate it (count how many Berlins you'll see in the next tournament you are going to play!) and yet it remains the weapon of choice of the super elite.

Moreover, one of those GMs stated in an interview that the Berlin effectively neutralizes the 1.e4 move!  

I think the explanation of this statement is simple: the shock of the Kasparov-Kramnik match is too fresh in everybody's memory! Otherwise I cannot explain this public madness of going straight into this endgame that requires a lot of theoretical knowledge in order to get a speck of an advantage.

I wrote this article exactly seven years ago and I'm still ready to reiterate what I said there: if Kasparov couldn't win one single game out of four in the world championship match (that implies a thorough preparation of his whole team with a computer's help), the chances are you won't win it either!

In that article I mentioned one of the ways to fight the Berlin. It looks like some of the top grandmasters decided to give it a try:

I understand that the game I recommended to follow was played in the 1957 Russian championship, which is almost 60 years ago, and some people might want to follow more recent games and more contemporary lines. In this case, here is a game for you!
I know what you are probably thinking: It is a remarkable game where Tal was demolished in the true "Tal style," it is exciting and everything, is NOT the Berlin! Well, that's true. But compare it to the next game from the last Candidates' tournament. It is as Berlin as it can be!
Now when you know how to fight the Berlin, try to finish the next game in style, like the Chinese mega-talent who in my opinion will be the biggest threat to World Champion Carlsen in four to five years:
It looks to me that just as the epigraph of this article states, if the Berlin cannot fight as a samurai at least it will die like a samurai!
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