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The German capital of Berlin was already known to be the host city for next year’s Candidates Tournament that will ultimately determine World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s next title challenger. But last week, in a further development, Agon/World Chess, the organizers of all events in the FIDE World Championship cycle, announced that the venue for the tournament, scheduled to run 9-28 March 2018, will be the Kühlhaus Berlin, located at the central location of Luckenwalder Strasse 3.

And as the name suggests, the eight-players battling over 14 rounds for a title shot will literally be playing in the cooler! “Kühlhaus” means means “cool house” in German, and the seven-storey building is a repurposed 19th-century storage facility to keep food fresh. In 1990, the building was redeveloped and regenerated, now used for art, concerts and exhibitions.

In a press release last week announcing the venue, World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon said: “Kühlhaus Berlin is an amazing place for chess. A multi-floor venue, it gives us an opportunity to watch and broadcast games from both ground-level and upper-level cameras. From cinematography point of view, the broadcasting will be phenomenal!”.

And there’s also growing speculation this week that a further announcement could be imminent from Agon/World Chess on the venue for the next World Championship Match – scheduled to take place in late 2018 – with various sources indicating that U.K. capital of London is being touted as the favourite to host it.

So far, three players are already qualified into the Candidates. The first was Sergey Karjakin as the loser of the last title match, and last month Levon Aronian and Ding Liren qualified from the World Cup in Tbilisi. Five further names will be added over the coming months: two from the Grand Prix in November, two by rating in December, and one organiser’s wild-card nominee.

Currently, Karjakin has been in inspired form playing for favourites “Globus” in the ongoing 33rd European Club Cup Final in Antalya, Turkey. Also playing for top-seeds Globus is Vladimir Kramnik, who is in the hunt for one of the two rating spots into the Candidates – but his only appearance so far proved to be a draw and the loss of yet another rating point.

And this further setback, coupled with Kramnik’s recent disasters in the Isle of Man and the World Cup, looks likely to leave the Russian ex-world champion out in cold in the Candidates’, never mind playing in the cooler, as in the process, the US front-runners, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So, look to be unassailable as they further extend their lead in the year-long ratings race.

(Photo) Karjakin in top-form for Globus! | © David Lada (official site)

GM Sergey Karjakin – GM Markus Ragger
33rd European Club Cup, (3)
Ruy Lopez
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.d3 The solid ‘Martinez Variation’ has been seen numerous times at the highest level of play, having been regularly employed by not only by Karjakin, but also Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Fabiano Caruana, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler and many other super-grandmasters. The reason for its growth in popularity is that it simply sidesteps all of the big mainlines, such as the Marshall Attack, Zaitsev, Chigorin and the Breyer etc., that’s been holding up well after the standard 6.Re1. 6…b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a3 0-0 9.Nc3 Nb8 Both players are adopting a ‘slow build-up’, so there’s no real loss of tempo. Black’s retreat, much like the Breyer, is to redeploy the knight on d7 and the bishop on b7 to press for …d5. 10.Re1 Nbd7 11.Ba2 Bb7 12.Ne2 d5 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Ng3 Nf4 15.d4 Ng6 16.dxe5 Ndxe5 17.Nxe5 Qxd1 18.Rxd1 Nxe5 19.Bf4 In all seriousness, there’s nothing much really in this position, and you would normally expect both players to make a few more moves and then shake hands. But Karjakin has two very minor things going in his favour in this symmetrical position, and that’s a little weakness with Black’s c-pawn and his rook already on the open d-file – and with just this to work with, he manages to expertly squeeze as much as he can out of the position. 19…Bd6 20.Kf1! Karjakin not only avoids the cheap trick with …Nf3+, but in doing so, he begins to move his king closer to the centre for the endgame, giving him yet another little plus – and they all soon add up. 20…Nc4 21.Bxd6 Nxd6 22.Ne2 Rfd8 23.Nf4 Kf8 24.Rd3! The rook either makes way for doubling on the d-file or even Rc3 hitting the c-pawn. 24…Be4 25.Rc3 Ne8 Ragger’s gets himself into a pickle trying not to further weaken his position to defend the c-pawn and, obviously, he didn’t fancy what he should have played, namely 25…Rac8 26.f3 Bb7 27.Rd1 Rd7 where, yes, White does retain a little edge with the easier position to play and no weaknesses – but this looked preferable than the awkward-looking 25…Ne8. 26.f3 Bb7 27.Re1 The rook cuts the Black king from moving over to the queenside (where it is needed) – and if Black doesn’t do something to unravel his position soon, then White will have ideas such as Re5-f5 and a dangerous attack. 27…Rd4 28.Nd3 Bd5 This was Ragger’s plan when he opted for …Ne8, looking to exchange off Karjakin’s active bishop – but in doing so, the ending isn’t as easy as he perhaps thought, as all his queenside pawns are awkward to defend. 29.Bxd5 Rxd5 30.a4! Karjakin continues to chip away at his opponent’s queenside pawn difficulties. Now, if 30…bxa4 31.Re4! is good for White, as he’ll easily recapture the a-pawn, thus leaving Black’s pawns on a6 and c7 chronically weakened. 30…Rd4 31.axb5 axb5 32.Rc5 Rb8 33.b3 Karjakin is giving a masterclass now on how to squeeze something from nothing with simple and very logical moves – and just look how his rooks are active, his knight is strategically well-placed both defending and attacking, and he has no pawn weaknesses. 33…Rd6 34.Nb4 f6 35.Nd5 Rb7 36.Ra1 c6 37.Nb4 The c-pawn has become a millstone round Ragger’s neck; and with it, Karjakin now systematically goes about winning it, and then going on to skilfully win the ending and the game. 37…Rc7 38.Ra6 Re7 39.Nd3 The c-pawn isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Black can never successfully defend it – so there’s no need to be hasty with 39.Raxc6 as it will allow Black to get back in the game after 39…Rd1+ 40.Kf2 Rd2+ 41.Kf1 Ree2! where the doubled rooks on the seventh will save the game. 39…Rc7 40.Ke2 Ke7?! The gut instinct is to get the king over to help shore up the defence of the c-pawn – but perhaps a better and more logical plan was 40…g6 41.Kd2 Ng7!? with the idea of …Ne5, …Ke7 and …c5? 41.Nb4 Kd7 42.Ra8! This is the drawback to Black’s plan – if the knight moves from e8, then Karjakin’s rook infiltrates his position from behind, weakening the kingside pawns and giving Black another endgame headache to worry about. 42…Re6+ 43.Kf2 Ke7 44.h4 g6 45.g4 Rd6 46.Rc3! Ng7 The only way to defend against the winning threat of Re3+, as there’s no time for 46…c5 as 47.Na6! Rcc6 48.Ra7+ Kf8 49.Nxc5 as this is easily winning for White. 47.Na6 Rcd7 48.Nc5 Rc7 49.Na6 Karjakin is not in the least interested in a draw by repetition – this is simply just an old Russian training trick of prolonging the agony for your opponent by repeating the position twice, as you take the time to double-check your winning line. 49…Rcd7 50.Rc8 h5 51.Nb8! [see diagram] The first instinct for many would probably have been to quickly grab the pawn with 51.R3xc6 Rxc6 52.Rxc6 – but after 52…Rd2+ 53.Kg3 Ne6 the ending is far from being a clinical win. However, with Karjakin’s smart choice, he keeps his pieces on the board for now, as his knight emerges better-placed, allowing him to dictate the best moment to exchange off the pieces. 51…Rd2+ 52.Ke3 R7d5 53.Nxc6+ Ke6 54.Rc7! Rd7 Forced, otherwise Black loses the knight. 55.Rxd7 Rxd7 56.Nd4+ Kd5 57.Nxb5 Karjakin has very skilfully exchanged down to the better ending; winning two pawns to boot! The rest of the game now becomes a formality for the Russian. 57…Re7+ 58.Kf2 hxg4 59.fxg4 f5 60.Rc4 Ke5 61.Nd4 Rf7 62.Nf3+ Kd5 63.Rd4+ Kc5 64.Rc4+ Kd5 65.Rd4+ Kc5 66.Ra4 Rf8 67.Ke2 Ne6 68.gxf5 gxf5 69.Ng5 Nc7 70.h5 Rg8 71.Rc4+ Kb6 72.Nh3 Nd5 73.h6 1-0

 

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